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The man with the Gold-en touch?

David Sullivan and David Gold pose for the cameras following their takeover of West Ham
David Sullivan and David Gold are lifelong West Ham fans

By BBC Radio 5 live's Brian Alexander

When David Gold and his West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan rescued West Ham from financial oblivion last month, they did so with a no-nonsense business plan: to keep the squad of players together, to cut costs - and secure the Olympic Stadium as their new home post 2012.

The former Birmingham City owners do not take no for an answer. They do their homework, do their sums and allow the negotiating process to take its course. And usually they get their way.

So they stopped the bank forcing a fire sale of players, put in place settlements for former manager Alan Curbishley and injury-stricken striker Dean Ashton, pruned some staff and uncovered a few unexpected surprises about the wage bill.

I would gamble that the Olympic Stadium will become a decaying white elephant soon after the Games

David Gold

They have every intention of running West Ham "as if we were Manchester United".

Saturday's comfortable win over Hull lifted the London club to 13th in the Premier League table and their cash projections and ambitions are taking their natural course.

And now Gold has turned up the heat on the London 2012 organisers to let their beloved Hammers take over the Olympic Stadium by setting out equally no-nonsense reasons.

Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, Olympic mastermind Lord Coe and any number of administrators and civil servants responded promptly and forcibly when the new owners of the club first mentioned their plans a month ago.

In short, they were not very welcoming.

But in a wide-ranging interview for BBC Radio 5 live, Gold stated: "I would gamble that the Olympic Stadium will become a decaying white elephant soon after the Games.

"There are examples across the world where stadiums have fallen apart because the people running them have been intransigent."

Sitting in his sitting room overlooking his helicopter and the 55 acres of his extraordinary Surrey home, Gold laid out his dream for West Ham, the club that generations of his family have supported.

The Olympic Stadium
The Olympic Stadium has been linked with rugby union, rugby league and football once London 2012 is over

The Olympic Stadium is central to their vision for the future.

"We believe there is a serious possibility to strike a deal," he said. "As a fan, I'd be saying I want to stay at my Upton Park where all my family has been to support the club.

"But, equally, I'm a realist, I want the best and I want to challenge at the very top. To do that we need to bite the bullet, grasp the nettle and move into the Olympic Stadium."

Gold revealed he is "sensing an easing of the stance about it being a legacy for athletics", especially in the current economic climate.

"Do we want a stadium like we did at Crystal Palace that rotted away because it wasn't sustainable?" he questioned.

"I've seen examples around the world where wonderful arenas have fallen apart because the finances didn't stack up after the Olympics.

"Manchester City have done a great job converting the Commonwealth Games stadium into a fantastic football facility.

"West Ham is in the London Borough of Newham, the Olympic Stadium is in Newham. It makes total sense."

But what about a football stadium with a running track round it? Can that work? Gold's response will no doubt make the Olympic and athletic fraternity wince a little.

"It is not beyond the wit of man to transform the stadium into a football friendly one," he said. "Or you could abandon the athletics idea altogether and build a smaller athletics-only arena with a sensible capacity elsewhere."

In the final analysis, if the team, management and the fans realise they are in this together, then we can move forward

David Gold

Those running the Olympics have to play a careful game of sports politics.

Lord Coe told the International Olympic Committee meeting in Vancouver that the Olympic Park Legacy Company will take the ultimate decision on the future of the £450m stadium.

But he also insisted it was "non-negotiable that this is a track and field facility".

The Olympic Park Legacy Company, based incidentally in West Ham Lane in Stratford, issued a statement on Monday detailing its position.

"The company has been very focused to secure the best possible use for the Olympic Stadium after the Games," it read.

"We have been examining all options which will both secure the financial viability and significant public investment in the stadium, coupled with making sure that legacy promises are fulfilled.

"In the coming months, we will put in place a process which will allow appropriate uses for the stadium to be brought forward, which we will then evaluate against a set of criteria prior to the Board of OPLC making recommendations to the Mayor and Ministers.

"We aim to complete this process and reach a settled position by the end of this year."

Stadium aside, Gold believes all the other necessary elements for a revival at West Ham are in place but with a £100m debt, what happens if the club is relegated?

"It's almost unthinkable," he admitted. "We are putting a contingency plan in place in case we do but it will be tremendously painful.

"Our other aim is to bring in other investors to join the adventure. We have bought 50% and have full executive control of the club as if we have 100%."

And what about the previous Icelandic owners?

Gold says the Freddie Ljungberg deal was bad business for West ham
Gold says the Freddie Ljungberg deal was bad business for West Ham

"There's almost a book to write about them," said Gold. "They came in with the best of intentions but they gambled big and they lost.

"It was an extravagance that they believed would work. They were paying wages as if they were Manchester United.

"They were spending their own money to start with but the economic downturn arrived and they found themselves in a terrible situation."

An example of the profligacy was the deal to sign Freddie Ljungberg from Arsenal in the summer of 2007.

"He was purchased for about £3.5m on a four-year contract when they could have got him for nothing if they had waited for a few weeks," commented Gold.

"They paid him £80,000 a week when he could have been got for half that."

So what about the 25% pay cuts across the board?

"You can't ask a player to take a cut like that but we want to reduce the whole wage bill of the business by that figure," added Gold.

"If a player retires or moves to another club who is on £60,000 a week, we will replace him with someone on £30,000 or £40,000. But we have to balance that by maintaining a quality squad that will take us forward.

"In the final analysis, if the team, management and the fans realise they are in this together then we can move forward."



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see also
West Ham 3-0 Hull
20 Feb 10 |  Premier League
West Ham settle Curbishley claim
17 Feb 10 |  West Ham
Stadium move setback for West Ham
17 Feb 10 |  West Ham
Hammers pay price for Ashton deal
16 Feb 10 |  West Ham
Sullivan plea badly timed - Zola
09 Feb 10 |  West Ham
West Ham revive Olympic stadium hopes
03 Feb 10 |  West Ham
Gold & Sullivan take over Hammers
19 Jan 10 |  West Ham


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London Evening Standard Gold still hopeful Hammers can take over Olympic Stadium - 11 hrs ago


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