Word has escaped from the huddle over West Ham’s books that a deal to finalise the new ownership of the club could be close. Those old friends of the media, Sources Close, have hinted to The Guardian that the “due diligence” process, where the buyer is allowed to have a look at the seller’s current operating state, is almost complete, leading the newspaper to speculate that a formal offer might be forthcoming as early as this Friday.
What seems clear is that a rival consortium, said to be supported by an Icelandic bank, is not being given the same sort of access. With reference to West Ham’s cataclysmic nosedive in form in the first six weeks since the possible change of ownership came out in the open some believe that this is because the current owners want to finalise the situation one way or another as soon as possible to bring stability to the club. Others less charitably disposed suggest that there must be something especially beneficial in this particular deal to principal shareholders Terry Brown, Martin Cearns and Charles Warner.
On the other side of the ball the most pertinent motive for the involvement of property magnate Eli Papouchado alongside the more prominent Kia Joorabchian appears to have come in an interview about a month ago with the Ma’ariv newspaper where he was quoted as saying “I don’t know how many players there are in each club, but in these deals there is always a real-estate opportunity and that interests me.” It should also not be forgotten that next year Premiership television money pops through the stratosphere and into a low earth orbit, so even if, as David Conn recently suggested, the Olympic organisers will have nothing to do with handing their main stadium to a football club for next to nothing, they could still be on to a nice little earner should they choose to sell up in a year or two.
Chelsea’s one-off situation is such that staying in a 42,000 capacity stadium is not a problem. Arsenal, on the other hand, felt they couldn’t compete without finding seats for 20,000 more season ticket holders and business customers and Tottenham’s sporting director said recently that the club wants to expand White Hart Lane or move elsewhere. The Olympic Stadium would be temptingly large, but what if West Ham couldn't own it? The Arsenal board would confirm that building a new stadium in London is complex and expensive while Fulham, Charlton and Wimbledon fans would tell you that ground sharing tends to become a debilitating limbo. Simon Jordan felt so strongly about ground ownership he recently grabbed Selhurst Park back for Crystal Palace. Whatever the terms of the deal Hammers fans would do well to follow the fate of the Boleyn Ground as closely as the arrival of more big name signings.
Photo of West Ham fans waiting for a train at Barry station via World of Oddy's Flickr stream.