West Ham United co-owner David Gold said investors have been scared off by the team’s winless start in the English Premier League.
Gold and partner David Sullivan wanted to complete a 40-million pound ($61.6 million) share sale by May, the end of last season. They’ve so far raised 5 million pounds, and with the Hammers in last place in the 20-team league after three straight defeats, securing the remainder may take some time.
“We are a club that nobody’s sure about,” Gold said in an interview at West Ham’s training ground earlier this month. “We only escaped relegation last year, so ‘Are we going to be in a relegation fight this year?’ is going to be in the thoughts of investors. I will be saying to them have confidence in the new regime and we will not be fighting relegation by Christmas.”
Gold and Sullivan now own about 60 percent of the team after buying a 50 percent stake in a deal in January with Iceland’s Straumur-Burdaras Investment Bank hf. That accord valued West Ham, which escaped relegation by one place in May, at 105 million pounds.
The new ownership group has tried to trim costs to cut debts of 100 million pounds. They also fired last season’s coach Gianfranco Zola and replaced him with former Chelsea manager Avram Grant.
The club was able to keep midfielder Scott Parker, who was wanted by London rival Tottenham, and added Mexico’s World Cup midfielder Pablo Berrera and French striker Frederic Piquionne as part of pre-season spending of 8 million pounds.
Gold said although he could understand Parker’s “head being turned” by the lure of playing Champions League soccer with Tottenham, the player will sign a new contract “very shortly.”
Grant’s squad is good enough to pull itself off the bottom of the standings, Gold added.
“He should be happy with his squad,” he said. “Unfortunately I can’t go out there and score ten goals a season in my spare time. I believe this a better squad and I believe we will get out of the relegation zone by Christmas.”
Grant coached Portsmouth last season, leading it to the F.A. Cup final. Still, the team finished last and was relegated after getting a nine-point penalty for entering bankruptcy protection. The Sunday Mirror reported Grant has three games to save his job.
The manager will “probably be here for five or six years,” Gold said.
West Ham has been fighting financial problems since former owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson declared bankruptcy and the club was taken over by CB Holding, a subsidiary of Straumur-Burdaras, which was nationalized in March 2009 after Iceland’s banking sector collapsed.
In an interview in March, Gold said the club faced “Armageddon” if it was relegated to English soccer’s second tier last season. Financial restructuring and the introduction of clauses reducing players’ salaries if West Ham drops down a league means that’s no longer the case.
“If you are relegated you can’t take salaries into a lower division,” Gold said. “That is what makes a football club bust.”