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West Ham shock as Englishmen buy Premier League club!
Londoners David Sullivan and David Gold have bucked a growing trend in England’s Premier League by taking control of 50 percent of West Ham United.
It returned a club steeped in the tradition of the English game to home ownership after an ill-fated three years of foreign control that has left the club deep in debt.
While West Ham are still half-owned by Icelandic bank Straumur, Sullivan and Gold are confident they can attract local investors to help the club back on its feet and in the words of Sullivan “return it to the fans”.
It will be music to the ears of detractors, who have watched half of the Premier League’s clubs sold to overseas owners — a state of affairs that has been criticised by UEFA President Michel Platini.
One only has to look at the mess at Portsmouth and the debts carried by American-owned Manchester United and Liverpool to see that Platini has a point.
Sullivan and Gold, who ran a reasonably tight ship at Birmingham City for 16 years, re-building the club before selling to Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung last year, face a huge challenge at West Ham.
But far from promising instant miracles and fancy signings, they are determined to stabilise the club on and off the field and then eventually move to London’s 2012 Olympic Stadium which they believe would allow them to offer tickets that local fans can actually afford.
“I said at Birmingham that it should be somebody born ane bred in Birmingham who owns the club but nobody was interested at the time,” Sullivan said. “I think it is nice when local people own or part own the local club.
“I’m not the king of Saudi Arabia or Roman Abramovich and it’s going to take two years to start turning this club around. Two and a half years ago I said that West Ham would come to me in five years to solve their problems.”
All eyes will be on Sullivan and Gold to see if they can actually deliver on what they call a seven-year plan to get West Ham into the Champions League without incurring huge debts.
But even if they just return some common-sense business practises to an industry that Sullivan says has gone “potty”, it could mark an important sea change in the way football clubs are run.
Fans of debt-crippled Portsmouth will probably be casting an envious eye on East London, hoping that they too can find a couple of successful local businessman to bring another famous old English club back from the brink.
PHOTO: Businessman David Sullivan after announcing his joint takeover of West Ham United at Upton Park football ground in east London January 19, 2010. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett