Talking Point

The hypocrisy of Spurs over State aid

In 2011 Spurs led by Chairman Daniel Levy initiated a wave of legal challenges to seek a Judicial review of Newham’s Council’s £40m loan as part of a West Ham bid for the former Olympic Stadium with the aim of derailing the Hammers occupancy of the London Stadium which he had lost out on.

As each legal challenge was rejected by the courts they started a new one challenging the loan in a different way until finally, they were permitted a hearing in August 2011. Spurs later offered to withdraw their legal challenge if West Ham agreed to drop allegations of criminal conduct against them over phone hacking of Karren Brady but the Hammers refused.

In December 2013: Three investigators pleaded guilty of illegally obtaining Karren Brady’s phone records during the initial battle for the stadium. The lead investigator worked for accountants PKF, who were engaged by Spurs. The company and Spurs both denied any knowledge of illegal activities.

At a high court hearing in 2011 lawyers for Karren Brady and West Ham won an order requiring accountants PKF, hired by Spurs to conduct “due diligence” on the first bidding process for the Olympic Stadium, to hand over “unlawfully obtained” copies of Brady’s itemised phone bills.

In 2013 Richard Forrest pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to obtaining personal data contrary to the Data Protection Act 1998 was fined £10,000. Lee Stewart was fined £13,250 after admitting the same charge. Howard Hill employed Spurs accountants was given a £100,000 fine.

Spurs finally agreed to withdraw their legal challenges after the initial tender process collapsed after a complaint by Architect Steve Lawrence to the European commission over potential state aid. The legal challenges were seen by many as attempts to get more political leverage to get planning and funding to redevelop White Hart Lane.

In September 2011 the then London mayor Boris Johnson frustrated at Spurs legal threats and game playing threatened to withdraw an offer of £17 million of public support to Tottenham’s new stadium development if Spurs did not commit to their stadium project in the next three weeks.

In February 2012 Spurs were permitted to go back on an obligation of £16m of funding for the community as part of its new stadium project.

The section 106 money was to be used by Haringey council for social housing, school places and other road and transport links but the club said the commitment was not viable and were allowed remove it. The new section 106 agreement doesn’t specify a set amount but instead makes promises of things including free match tickets and free shuttle buses.

At the time of the first removal of section 106 money Richard Wilson, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, said the council was so “desperate” to get the club’s investment it had not stood up for residents and council taxpayers. He said “not a single affordable home” will now be built and yet there are 3,000 people on council waiting lists.

In 2012 Haringey Council also agreed to fund Spurs with £5m towards a podium outside the stadium and a further £2.5m for what they called heritage improvements.

Fast forward four years and in February 2016 the then London Mayor Boris Johnson agreed on a £18m investment in infrastructure around the Stadium project from a £28m fund for the Tottenham area. £8.5m on improvements to High road adjacent to the new stadium and £3.5m to improve Tottenham Hale Station to allow for increased footfall. Haringey Council also offered an additional £9m to help improve Tottenham Hale station.

Source: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-approves-spurs-stadium-plans

UPDATE

Tottenham Hotspur says the claims by a blog written by ‘Haringey Defend Council Housing’ over the weekend are factually incorrect and outdated.

They claim the presentation in question is from 5 years ago and the proposal for an additional £30.5m to fund the podium area outside their Stadium was later withdrawn.

Original claims from Blog: https://haringeydefendcouncilhousingblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/haringey-council-to-give-30-5-million-housing-funding-to-spurs-for-its-new-stadium/

2012 Presentation: https://haringeydefendcouncilhousingblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/audit-presentation-19th-april-2017-jw.pdf

Harrrigey Council released a press statement over the weekend denying the existence of the £30m of funding.

Haringey Press Statement: http://www.haringey.gov.uk/news/response-stories-funding-given-tottenham-hotspur-football-club

Post note:

Subtracting the claimed £30.5m from the equation by my calculation Spurs will benefit by £45m of committed public funding for infrastructure around the stadium.

I still believe questions need to be asked about this tax payer funding. I understand that Arsenal paid £60m in section 106 when they built the Emirates Stadium but documents publicly show Spurs have made some community promises including Free match tickets and shuttle buses.

The section 106 documents can be found at http://www.haringey.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning/major-projects-and-regeneration/tottenham-hotspur-football-club-stadium-development

Architect Steve Lawrence who scuppered the first West Ham bid for the London Stadium over a complaint over state aid to the European Commission as said in relation to Spurs “I’ve raised this issue with the Commission, the Mayor’s office & others – it’s essential that the same rules apply to all clubs, across Europe, State aid rules will continue to apply after Brexit & clubs which accept subsidies must ensure they meet the rules of fairness ??”

Adding that: “Each user of publicly subsidised infrastructure must pay a market rate”


Talking Point

The men and women involved in the £1 billion London Stadium financial fiasco

This week London Stadium owners London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) revealed that liabilities for what they now call ‘Onerous’ loss making contracts with West Ham and UK Athletics will cost them an estimated £200m in future losses which will be ultimately be paid by the taxpayer.

Draft financial accounts for E20 Stadium LLP and LLDC reveal is that revenue for the London Stadium for the year up to 31 March 2017 is recorded as £6.588m against the cost of sales of £10.614m The operating loss is listed at an incredible £205.206m with a total comprehensive loss recorded as an eye-watering £268.245m.

They explain that £200m of the losses relate to liabilities for onerous contract provisions that have with West Ham United and UK Athletics with a further provision of a £62.3m loss relating to impairment which is the reducing value of an asset you own, namely the Stadium with the valuation of Nil.

Newham Legacy Investments (NLI) which owns the remaining forty percent of the London Stadium also published their draft financial accounts this month. They reveal they lost another £2.5m in the financial year up to April 2017 on the Stadium. The latest loss for Newham is on top of a reported £41.6m loss recorded last year for the company setup by Newham Council. NLI now have net liabilities totalling £44.4m primarily due to the £40m loan from Newham Council of which no repayments have been made to date. Many doubt whether Newham Council will ever see any repayments of this loan.

These losses come on top of the total cost of building and rebuilding the former Olympic stadium which already stands at £753m.

With existing operating losses to date, the total cost to the Tax payer could now easily reach the £1 billion mark.

The current London Mayor ordered an investigation into the decisions which led to the financial disaster and its future financial sustainability which will be published later this year by Moore Stephens.

In this article, I delve into the men and women involved in those decisions or challenges which inevitably led to the financial mess we are in today. I place no personal accusations or blame of their involvement but collectively they got us to where we are today and each must take some responsibility for their involvement in my personal view.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Sports Minister Tessa Jowell Lord Sebastian Coe & Lord Moynihan

Former sports minister Richard Caborn claims he was voted down by then London 2012 chairman, Lord Coe, the then Olympics minister, Tessa Jowell, the then mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and the British Olympic Association’s chairman, Lord Moynihan over his proposal in February 2007 for an Olympics stadium designed and built for Athletics and football from the start.

Former West Ham Chairman Terry Brown had met with Sports Minister Richard Caborn in October 2006 about the club’s interest and Caborn was said to be supportive.

In 2007 after the Icelandic takeover Eggert Magnusson criticised the Government openly saying: “I don’t understand why we are not able to go to the Olympic Stadium. We offered money, we sent letters and we described how we saw things happening. We had a meeting at the House of Commons with [Olympics minister] Tessa Jowell and [Mayor of London] Ken Livingstone and it was not possible. As a businessman it makes no sense to me [to] build a new stadium and then take it down to 25,000.”

Magnusson later admitted he had offered the Olympic Delivery Authority £100m to take over the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, but says their proposal was eventually turned down. I spoke to Magnusson earlier this year and he says he stands by the quotes at the time and says the articles were an accurate reflection of what happened.

Current LLDC CEO, David Goldstone recently defended his predecessor’s decisions not to build a stadium suitable for football in 2007 claiming no football club was willing to commit at that time to his knowledge. Giving evidence to the London Assembly Budget Monitoring Sub Committee in December last year Goldstone said: “With hindsight would you have made that decision in 2007 to build a multi use stadium rather than the one that was built for the games which was demountable to a 25,000 seater bowl. I would say the information available I believe at the time was there wasn’t a football club who would commit then so it would have been slightly speculative, it would have risked it being a white elephant."

London 2012 Forum Chair Richard Sumray admitted in written evidence that West Ham had in fact been interested in taking over the Stadium when he discussed it with the club himself in 2001. He later said he regretted the countered proposals which aimed to put athletics “in the mix” which in his view “made the whole process of finalising the ownership and uses of the stadium much more difficult. Early on a decision should have been made to use the main stadium for football, converting the warm up track to an athletics stadium. This would have been a more sustainable and appropriate use of that part of the park.” he stated.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson was not only the London Mayor also took over the Chair of the London Legacy Development Corporation for a period of time. London Assembly member Andrew Dismore, once told Johnson “You wanted to cover up the fact West Ham had put one over on you and taken you to the cleaners.”

While still Mayor, Boris said that the LLDC was left with no choice but to undertake the expensive conversion scheme in an attempt to clean up the “mess” left by the previous Labour government. He also laid the blame squarely at Ken Livingstone, Tessa Jowell and Lord Coe doorsteps. However, his insistence on hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup at the London Stadium and what impact that had on the stadium transition programme and in particular retractable seating is expected to come under scrunity and criticism in the Mayor’s £140,000 investigation report due out later this year.

Dennis Hone served as the Chief Executive of Olympic Delivery Authority and London Legacy Development Corporation from February 2011 until 2014. From 2006 to 2011 he was director of Finance and corporate services for the ODA. Mr Hone was appointed as chief executive of the authority in February 2011, replacing Sir David Higgins, who joined Network Rail. Hone was paid £233,000 in salary, a bonus of £153,000 and received £36,000 in pension contributions. He also spent two days a week as interim chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, the body overseeing the legacy of the Olympic Park. He was paid £90,000 for this. The two jobs brought his total pay package to £512,000 per year. In addition, he was given an £80,000 exit package, including a “terminal bonus” and redundancy pay. The authority also paid an extra £373,000 into his pension pot. This meant that in total, he was paid £965,000 in one year. He was entitled to the pay-off because Jeremy Hunt, the former culture secretary put him on a permanent contract when he appointed him. Mr Hone was later appointed the full-time chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, where his basic pay is £195,000 a year. On leaving the LLDC in 2014 he joined one of the Stadium’s prime construction contractors Mace as their Group Finance Director.

LLDC Deputy Chairman Philip Lewis is still a board member of the London Legacy Development Corporation for the past three years and a chartered surveyor with 40 years experience in the property market. He is currently Chief Executive of the property division of the Kirsh Group. He is a former Chairman of Sport England, London and past President of the British Council of Shopping Centres. Lewis was part of a three man sub committee convened by Baroness Ford in 2011 to review bids for the London Stadium occupancy.

Keith Edelman was formerly the Managing Director of Arsenal Holdings plc and was instrumental in the development of the Emirates Stadium and the attendant regeneration of the surrounding area including the development of Highbury Square. He is still an LLDC board member. Edelmen was part of a three man sub committee convened by Baroness Ford in 2011 to review bids for the London Stadium occupancy.

Baroness Margaret Ford was the former Chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company On 7 April 2009 Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell announced Ford’s appointment to chair the newly created London Legacy Development Corporation, known officially as the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC). In 2011 she formed a sub-committee to consider bids for the former Olympic Stadium. She was replaced in 2012 by Daniel Moylan.

Daniel Moylan was the Chairman of the LLDC for just three months in 2012 before he was replaced by Boris Johnson who had appointed him.
At the time of the appointment, Mayor Johnson said: “I am sure there is no better man than Daniel Moylan to ensure every possible ounce of benefit for Londoners is squeezed out of our Olympic legacy.”

At the time London Assembly Members had criticised the Mayor for ignoring the recommendation of a London Assembly confirmation hearing which said Mayor should not appoint Mr Moylan to the LLDC because he “did not consider that he had demonstrated sufficient knowledge and experience in the area of regeneration which was crucial to this role”.

Andrew Altman is the former CEO of the Olympic Park Legacy Company and London Legacy Development Corporation from 2009 until 2012 when the American stepped down unexpectedly. He was also a member of Baroness Ford’s sub committee which approved of West Ham’s initial bid for the Stadium in 2011.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2009) Eric Pickles

Secretary of State for the Department for Culture media and Sport (2009) Ben Bradshaw & Jeremy Hunt (2010-2012)

The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) was established in May 2009 by the Mayor of London and Government as the company responsible for the long-term planning, development, management and maintenance of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park .The OPLC was a public sector, not-for-profit company limited by guarantee with three founder members: the Mayor of London, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture media and Sport.

All the Secretary of States named above were involved in decisions relating to the former Olympic Stadium during the time the OPLC was in existence.

Former LLDC Chairman David Edmonds resigned in November last year shortly after a further over spend of £51m was revealed for the London Stadium transition. Edmonds, who has been an LLDC board member since its 2012 inception was appointed chairman in September 2015. He has been involved in the post-Olympic planning since 2009 when he became a director of the Olympic Legacy Committee. He will soon be replaced by Sir Peter Hendy who is also the Chairman of Network Rail since 2015.

Sir Robin Wales Current Mayor of Newham council was involved in both West Ham bids and a board member of the LLDC. Also, a self-confessed West Ham fan.

David Goldstone is the current CEO of the LLDC having joined from Transport for London in 2014 where he was Chief Finance Officer.
He was the Government’s finance director for London 2012 between 2007 and 2012, helping ensure that the Games were delivered within the £9.3 billion budget. In that capacity, he worked closely with the Olympic Delivery Authority on the design and delivery of the Olympic Park including the Stadium and on the planning for the future of the Park including the regeneration of east London. Goldstone is also a board member of Sport England.

Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy raised two Judicial review legal challenges in 2011 and 2013 to West Ham’s occupancy of the former Olympic Stadium. The first one was rejected by the high court and a second challenge was later withdrawn after agreeing to rebuild White Hart Lane with some help from the London Mayor. In December 2013: Three investigators found guilty of illegally obtaining Karren Brady’s phone records during the initial battle for the stadium. The lead investigator worked for accountants PKF, who were engaged by Spurs. The company and Spurs both denied any knowledge of illegal activities.

Leyton Orient Chairman Barry Hearn raised a Judicial review in 2013 over ground sharing at the former Olympic Stadium claiming he wanted Leyton Orient with West Ham and the LLDC hasn’t considered this. He also wrote to the Premier League asking them to ban West Ham’s move because of the distance from Leyton’s Orient’s stadium. His judicial review was rejected by the courts. He originally vowed to give up his legal fight if he lost the judicial review but instead said he would take his case to European Court of Justice. He later sold the club for £4m in 2014 and dropped his fight. This year he claimed he bitterly regretted the sale after Orient were served with a winding up order from HMRC.
The club was finally taken over by fan led consortium last month.

Architect Steve Lawrence is probably the least public figure involved in this sorry tale but possibly had the biggest impact when he challenged the LLDC by filing an anonymous complaint to the European Commission over illegal state aid. The public body cancelled West Ham’s winning bid as a result of this complaint and Boris Johnson ordered a new tender process in which the former Olympic Stadium would only be rented on a 99-year agreement.

When Lawrence’s anonymous complaint to the EU came to light at the High Court, the Olympic Park Legacy Company agreed to scrap the West Ham takeover of the stadium.

“If it had been shown subsequently to be illegal, and I am not saying that it was necessarily, then in those circumstances then West Ham would have had to repay the subsidy,” Lawrence told Sky Sports News at the time.

“If that had happened after they had moved out of Upton Park and that ground had been redeveloped then they would then have been in a position where they would have had to return the stadium to the authorities and they would have been homeless. So we would have lost one of our precious English football clubs.

“The EU would have required the UK authorities to recover the illegal state aid, which would have meant either West Ham would have had to pay the full price for it or a full rental for it – and we are talking about an asset worth £500?million – and they would not have been able to afford that. The only option would have been for West Ham to go somewhere else.”

Post note:

Going forward there is no simple solution, West Ham is unlikely to take over the London Stadium in the short term even if it was offered to them for free of charge, the government would need to pay the Hammers to take it off their hands. As they have forecast £200m of operating losses an up front fee of £100m might do the trick. Of course, there would be a political outcry and various complaints from jealous third parties to not make that feasible. In reality, the tax payer will need to fund the stadium for now and E20 Stadium LLP will need to honour their legal and proper contract with West Ham.

I understand that the Stadium is more likely to change hands into Newham Council ownership long term but only when the operating losses can be stemmed.


Financial

A financial update on West Ham United

Sorry I haven’t written for so long but a WHTID reader put in a special request for me to write an article on my specialist subject about West Ham finances so I was more than happy to oblige. With the talk of a summer transfer war chest of up to £70m and wages for one striker of £140,000 per week I thought I would re-visit the club finances in light of the move to the London Stadium and the new mega TV deal to give you all an update.

If you ask the West Ham board about the state of the finances of the club they will say the club is still over £100m in debt. While this is technically true, closer inspection will show that £60m of this debt is owed to the owners in shareholder loans and £41m owed to other clubs in staged transfer payments which the norm nowadays. A further £30m is a short term loan borrowed against future TV money to help with cash flow which is paid off and then refinanced each season almost like a bank draft.

The latest financial accounts published in March this year showed that the Hammers turnover increased by 17.7% to £142.1m and within that figure ticket sales for the last season at the Boleyn Ground rose to an impressive £26.9m. TV rights income two seasons ago grew to £86.7m for finishing seventh and commercial and sponsorship revenue was up by 31% to £19m while retail and merchandising sales grew by 29% to £9.3m.

The Boleyn Ground land was sold last year to developers for £38m with £15m going to pay off all external bank debts that were mortgaged against it and a further £15m going to stadium owners LLDC to contribute towards the £323m transition costs of the former Olympic Stadium. The remaining £8m was used for the WestHamification of the London Stadium including fitting out the club shop, the seats and the Claret and Blue branding so the Boleyn Ground stadium money has all been spent.

In my estimation, West Ham should publish a record turnover of around £197million when the financial accounts the year which finished on the 31st May this year are published early next year. The Hammers earned around £122m from the new 8 billion pound TV deal after finishing 11th in the Premier League last season. Each Premier League club received £85m but the Irons received £18m for having 15 games televised and a further £19m for finishing in 11th place.

On top of the TV money, ticket sales and match day activities at the London Stadium are expected to rise by £12m from the record £27m received from the last season at the Boleyn Ground to £39m at the London Stadium. Retail shop and commercial sponsorship income are also expected to increase by around 30% from £29m in 2015/2016 to £36m in 2016/2017 after the club megastore size doubled and more commercial sponsorship opportunities have arisen at the new stadium.

The sale of the Boleyn Ground Sale for £38m and outbound player sales of James Tomkins to Palace for £10m and Dimitri Payet to Marseille for £25m as considered capital sale of assets and therefore not factored in turnover figures.

So what does the financial future hold for the Hammers?

Probably the most controversial debt on the books are the shareholder loans. These are loans from Sullivan and Gold dating back to 2011 but they continue to attract accrued interest of between 6% and 7%. This debt grew to £61.5m up to May 2016 before the owners cashed out £4.2m. The remainder of the debt is not due to be paid back until 1st January 2020 but with compound interest, the remaining shareholder loans could reach around £71m in just under three years time meaning that around £75m could be paid back for £49m originally loaned to the club by the owners.

Board critics will point to previous statements that the owners said they would never draw a salary from the club and to be fair to them technically they haven’t. The owners would probably say themselves that they could earned far more than £26m in 9 years if they had invested their money in property and again they would probably be right about that too. The truth of the matter is, no bank would lend to us so they stepped in as a bank of last resort. Some people will have a problem with this but personally, I don’t.

In 2013 David Sullivan loaned the club £3.8m as he acted as a bank to refinance bank loans. Icelandic CH Holdings loaned the club £28.4m but a 12% hole in funding was plugged by Sullivan personally. Both loans were mortgaged against the Boleyn ground. This bank loans with 4% interest were paid back in instalments and were completely settled by July last year. Sullivan would have received around £450,000 in interest from his part of the bank loan.

Their next financial challenge for the club to self-finance their cash flow, for many years they have utilised payday loans from companies such as Vibrac, Mousehole and more recently JG Funding and Media Rights and Funding. This season the Premier League agreed to outlaw offshore lending by clubs. Media Rights and Funding is regulated by the FCA so doesn’t technically break the new rules even though it borrows the money from an offshore lender. Earlier this year it was reported that the funder of all these companies is West Ham fan, Michael Tabor but the days of this type of lending are probably numbered as loopholes are closed.

West Ham have been borrowing each year from these payday lenders since 2012. A total of £105.9m has been borrowed short-term over that period but with the last £30m due to be paid off by the club in direct payments from the Premier League of TV money by the end of this month. With an average of 7% interest, the club has paid out an estimated £7.5m in interest to these lenders over five years. (2012-2013 £12.8m 2013-2014 £15m 2014-2015 £18m 2015-2016 £30.1m 2016-2017 £30m)

Going forward I understand that the club hopes to use to extra revenue from TV and the London Stadium to rid themselves of these short-term loans with expensive interest in the near future to self-finance themselves and create a financially sustainable model of operation without the need of outside help or finance which seems very sensible.

So with an estimated turnover of £197m and the sale of assets worth £73m for last season up from £142m the previous season it could look like to casual eye that West Ham have an extra £128m to spend but I am afraid it doesn’t work like that. In reality, West Ham will have an extra £12m per year from ticket sales at the London Stadium and certainly have an extra £35m from TV money under the new deal. Retail and sponsorship should also grow by another £7m.

So what will they do with this extra £53m per year of income? Well up to £30m of it could well fund getting rid of the short term loan in just one year, the remaining £24m will most likely disappear quickly in transfer fees and wages is the honest but boring answer.

For example, if we signed Hernandez this summer on £140,000 per week he would take up £7.3m in wages on his own.

Well done if you have made it to the bottom of this article, I am happy to answer any finance related questions.

Sean COYI


Talking Point

Will West Ham close the gap on Spurs?

The owners have frequently talked about ambition for West Ham to become a top six side in the future and that starts with closing the gap on Spurs they claim.

In terms of financial power, West Ham lags behind their North London rivals. Tottenham published their accounts for 2016 last month showing an increase in turnover to just under £210m to compared to the Hammers £142m for the same period last season.

Spurs Premier League gate receipts were £22.2m. Like the Hammers White Hart Lane sold out for all Premier League home games but they claim to have a waiting list for season tickets of 63,200 compared to our 55,000 waiting list. They reached the round of 16 of the UEFA Europa League resulting in gate receipts and prize money of £18.7m. Revenue from the domestic cup competitions earned the Club £2.4m. Television and media revenues rose to £94.8m after they finished third in the Premier League.

In reality, their income will continue to outstrip West Ham’s as the Champions League mega money comes through this season and they look odds on favourite’s to qualify again this season and continue on that money trail.

Next season they will play at Wembley and could see regular attendances of over 80,000. In February this year, they had an attendance of 80,465 that watched Tottenham v Gent which is a new UEFA Europa League attendance record, beating the previous high set when Manchester United met Liverpool last season. They have applied to Brent Council to hold Premier League games at the full 90,000 capacity for the next two seasons.

Their new 61,000 capacity £800million stadium should be ready ahead of the 2018-19 season. Although they will need to fund it for many years, it has been purpose built for football, they own it and will, therefore, sell the naming rights for as much as £20m per year and they keep all the catering and pouring income.

Although technically West Ham will one day have the ability to claim a 66,000 capacity rented stadium, the when is less clear due to a requirement for planning permission for extra toilet and catering to cope with 9,000 additional match day fans. The stadium owners and the club are currently at a stalemate over money at the moment and any increase from 57,000 is debatable for next season as it stands. Spurs also plan to sign up an American football franchise for their new stadium.

On the pitch is probably the biggest gap. Despite Spurs being the sixth biggest turnover in the Premier League, they have outperformed their financial might on the pitch last season and again this season.

They have 71 points and are in second place just four points behind league leaders Chelsea while West Ham settles for 13th position on 37 points.

Their chairman rarely talks to the media, is not on twitter and never makes promises or statements he can not realistically deliver. We may not like Levy but it hard not to admire his business acumen and transfer dealings.

They have invested wisely and bought and developed youngsters. Eastender Harry Kane was a youth product of their academy and they signed a young Delli Alli for £5m from MK Dons in 2015 to name just a few.

Pochettino is a well-respected manager. He has a squad of players that routinely outclass their opposition in terms of distance covered on the pitch. With training sessions allegedly higher in intensity than matches and a rigorous preseason training regime, Pochettino ensures that even if his team lose, it would not be due to a lack of effort.His team rarely lose, especially at home. They have an impeccable defence and has conceded the fewest goals in the league.

The core of the Spurs side is refreshingly young with Harry Kane at 23, Dele Alli at 21 and Christian Eriksen at 24, among others. The Argentinian manager seems comfortable to integrate a steady inflow of talent from the youth academy, there is no other manager who would be quite as prepared to risk his reputation for giving youth a chance.

On the flip side, it is true that we have the largest TV screen in Europe at the London Stadium but this is the only thing we could claim to have the upper hand over them over the foreseeable future. It pains me to write all of this and embarrassing that our club boasts the largest TV screen in Europe as a positive.

However, we have closed the gap on the physical distance between the two clubs, West Ham is only 4.5 miles away from White Hart Lane compared to 6.4 miles away from the Boleyn ground. By road, the shortest route is 5.8 miles along the A10 while it would be 10.5 miles by road from the Boleyn ground.

In reality beyond TV screens and physical distance, we will not be catching Spurs anytime soon and not be joining the top six anytime soon either. It is time we just accept that and move on.


Talking Point

The price of reaching the Champions League

The Daily Express ran a claimed Exclusive on Monday night claiming there was a renewed attempt by Sullivan and Gold to actively look for people with the wealth to take the club to the next stage. The report said that the two Hammers supremos have been looking to bring other investors into the club for over a year but plans had been put on hold this season while Slaven Bilic’s team dropped towards the Premier League relegation zone. They stated that Sullivan and Gold want to recoup some of their investment in the club, but both will want to keep their places on the board in the future if any deal is done. Last summer the duo rejected a reported £650million takeover bid for the club from energy drinks giants, Red Bull, although a bid was later denied by the firm. A valuation of the club last year put a price on West Ham of around £200m, although Sullivan believed the move to the London Stadium meant the club was worth nearer £400m.

For me this report was old news, Sullivan and Gold have been openly looking for wealthy West Ham fans to invest in the club since 2010 while retaining the majority of shares in the Hammers. Terry Brown and the Harris Family invested £4m in return for 3.8% of the shares in 2010 but there has been no serious interest since to share the financial burden of investing in the club.

What did surprise me what the knee jerk reaction on the official website yesterday disclaiming the ‘fake news’

Speaking to the official website Sullivan said: “It is no secret that both David Gold and I see our long-term futures as custodians of West Ham United.

“We have never once viewed West Ham United as a short term project and plan to be here for many, many years, bringing further progress to the Club on and off the pitch, and success to our loyal supporters. It disappoints me to see an article published that is so utterly false.”

The Statement got me to look back what was previously said by the owners on the subject:

In January 2010 Sullivan set out his stall on the day of takeover by saying “We have a seven-year plan to get them into the Champions League and turn them into a big club and over the seven-year period we do plan to spend a lot of money, The short-term plan is all about survival and getting behind the team. It is also about getting behind the manager.”

Gold told in the Daily Mirror in 2012: "You have to be a billionaire to make a major difference and there aren’t many of them about. Of course, I’d welcome a Father Christmas. But then you look and discover that it might not be the real Father Christmas. And you know why? Because there isn’t a real Father Christmas. He doesn’t exist.

“In an ideal world, though, if you ask what I’d like to see happen, I would like a very wealthy person to come and join us.David and myself are wealthy by normal standards, but not by football standards.We would be reluctant to sell the whole football club because we feel part of it. It’s taken us a lifetime to earn enough money to return to our roots and we won’t give that up lightly. We’re doing our best but it would be that much easier if there were three of us.”

Gold added: “We’re not going to be a top-four club straightaway. But one day it’s possible, if there is a super-wealthy West Ham fan who wants to come and join the club, that could change things for us. Now we have to do the best we can within the areas of our ability.To grow the club, fingers crossed to get to the Olympic Stadium would change our whole image, would help us attract better players. But it all boils down to income and we have to generate more income.”

In December 2014 Sullivan said: “I’d love someone to come in and buy 20 percent & the money would not go to us, it would go to the club.”

In 2015 Sullivan told the Sunday Times “Long-term, there’s no reason we can’t be one of England’s leading six clubs, pushing for the Champions League. You have to dream. Otherwise what’s the point of being an owner or supporter? And we are both owners and supporters. We have no desire to sell West Ham. We hope to pass it to our kids and grandkids. While the deal is confidential if we sell before 10 years most of the money would go to the government. We’re not here for a quick buck.”

At the end of last year, the message from Sullivan was: “I want to reiterate that we, the current owners, have no desire to sell the club unless it is to somebody like the King of Saudi Arabia who can take it to a level we cannot ourselves hope to reach.”

In the Sunday Times Rich List of 2016 David Sullivan was valued at a net worth of £1 billion of which £200m was his share of West Ham. Most of his wealth is tied up in properties but he owns the Sunday Sport, race horses and retains businesses involved in publishing, sex shops, material aids and phone lines. David Gold is claimed to be worth £300m. His 35% of West Ham is valued around £140m while the remainder of his net worth is related to Gold International Group which owns Ann Summers and Knickerbox but also owns Gold Aviation and various property investments. It has a turnover £112m but the profit under £1m per annum.

Karren Brady has a net worth £85m but is not listed as a current share owner of West Ham despite her claiming in interviews she has some shares.

Terry Brown made £33.4m when he sold his West Ham shares but has probably increased his net worth since selling out to the Icelandic’s.

The Harris family are thought to be worth around £150m after their sale of the Alba electronics firm.

The chances of a Middle East billionaire buying the Hammers seem remote despite rumours of the Qatar Investment Authority wanting a premier League outfit.

Here is my suggestion for what it is worth, Gold and Sullivan could sell 35.2% of their shares for £140m valuing the club at £400m. The Icelandic’s could also sell their remaining 10% for £40m. Gold and Sullivan could use £40m to repay the majority of the shareholder then re-invest £100m into the club. The new wealthy investor could invest £96m in cash with Brown/Harris Family throwing in another £4m.

West Ham would be debt free with £200m war chest and Gold and Sullivan would retain overall control with 51% of the shares.

The challenge comes finding a wealthy individual prepared to part with £276m in cash!


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