MARTIN SAMUEL: The bidders for West Ham are true fans? Do me a favour

MARTIN SAMUEL: So, the bidders for West Ham are true supporters? Do me a favour… Recruiting the Ferdinand brothers was ill advised and any takeover is destined to be played out in public, with fans manipulated as muscle in attempt to drive price down

  • Nasib Nizami Oglu Piriyev of PAI Capital turns out to be a West Ham supporter
  • The Ferdinand brothers, Anton and Rio, have been recruited to help his cause 
  • PAI’s interest was rebuffed so this is destined to play out in the public domain
  • It will result in supporters being artfully manipulated as muscle in any takeover
  • They want to make it difficult for the current owners and force the price down 
  • Find out the latest Tokyo Olympic news including schedule, medal table and results right here

Nasib Nizami Oglu Piriyev of PAI Capital turns out to be a West Ham fan. Of course he does. It was the only thing missing from the takeover package, the punter on the board. No doubt Muhammad bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud often walks the streets of Jeddah shouting ‘Toon Army’.

Funny, mind, that such a loyal Hammer did not realise the Ferdinand brothers, Rio and Anton, were not the most populist figures to recruit to his cause.

You would think as a ‘passionate supporter of West Ham since 1986’, Piriyev would know who the heroes were out east. Maybe he’ll give Paul Ince a call next. 

Nasib Nizami Oglu Piriyev of PAI Capital claims to be a lifelong supporter of West Ham. Pictured, Hammers fans cheering on their side during a friendly at Brentford in July

Having Philip Beard, who helped steer Queens Park Rangers into the Championship, as frontman does not seem a natural move for a keen follower of West Ham’s fortunes, either.

Certainly not when Beard’s first statement hyped up the Olympic legacy, because we all know how much the London Stadium’s regulars care for that.

Maybe Piriyev just likes Dmitri Payet, given that reports in France suggested he tried and failed to buy Marseille last year.

It was claimed the PNN Group, chaired by his father Nizami Nasib Oglu Piriyev, had involved a Chinese bank in the proposed takeover.

‘I do not deny the willingness of some investors to acquire Olympique De Marseille,’ said its owner Frank McCourt. ‘I deny that an Azeri banker forwarded an offer earlier this week.’

So far, so familiar.

Actually, it’s bizarre that PAI Capital think it helps having a fan on the board. David Sullivan and David Gold are undoubtedly West Ham men and a sizable element in the ground hate them. At least they are present, though. 

The Ferdinand brothers, Anton (left) and Rio (right), have been recruited to help PAI’s cause

If Piriyev is the central figure in any consortium, this is an Azerbaijani venture capitalist takeover — through an investor whose primary business interests are centred in that country, plus Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Russia.

Meaning if they don’t like the mood in the stadium, they barely have to be on the same continent. Sullivan’s main residence is 13 miles from the London Stadium. Baroness Brady is about eight miles away.

PAI Capital’s interest has been rebuffed, so this is another takeover destined to play out in the public domain, with the supporters artfully manipulated as muscle.

To this end, PAI acquiesced to an interview with Hammers News last week. Not directly, of course, because in a conversation there might be follow-up questions, requests for greater clarity, specifics, a debate around actual numbers and intentions and whether the club was merely being developed for resale.

PAI Capital said they were too busy to answer queries in person. They would, however, respond to email. Here’s an example of the level of detail revealed.

Hammers News: Under Sullivan and Gold, fans have been frustrated by the lack of consistent ambition in the transfer market. Philip Beard stated the manager of the club would have more money to spend under PAI. 

Can you give an insight into the scope of that ambition? Would PAI invest significantly more in the squad than Sullivan and Gold, to enable the club to become a more consistent challenger in the top six?

PAI Capital: PAI Capital’s plan is to develop the club within a viable business model that guarantees long term to compete at the top level of English football. In case our takeover is successful, there will be a budget allocated to strengthen the squad. 

The scale of the follow-up investment directly depends on the price we pay for the purchase of the club.

Hammers current co-owners David Gold (left) and David Sullivan (right) are being urged to sell

Well, that’s clear then. They have a budget to create a viable business model. One imagines Gold and Sullivan would say the same. So would Norwich. So would the bloke who ran Bury into the ground. It’s just words.

All that is of interest is the attempt to get the fans to make it difficult for the current owners, thereby forcing the price down. 

But why would West Ham be better off under management who appear to be at their limit just making the purchase? Oh, that’s right. They’re fans. 

Premier League is world’s best 

Brentford play Arsenal on Friday night to open the Premier League season. Who is your money on?

Conflicted? That’s the reason the Premier League is the best in the world. Brentford are in their first season in the modern top division; Arsenal had recent pretensions to form a Super League with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

But care to call the game? Many would fancy Brentford. A strong philosophy, an innovative coach, good technical players. Arsenal remain a work in progress under Mikel Arteta. 

Arsenal remain a work in progress under Mikel Arteta ahead of the new campaign

They have bought expensively but not convincingly. The promised clear-out to finance a wider restructuring has not materialised. Few want the players who could not get Arsenal into Europe.

So this is a tight game in a way Real Madrid versus newly promoted Rayo Vallecano probably wouldn’t be; or at least if Vallecano won it would be a shock.

If Brentford take three points, few will be greatly surprised.

Now that’s a competition.

If Spurs hang on to Kane now, he could be theirs for life

There is curious gossip swirling around Harry Kane. It suggests Tottenham have less than three weeks to hold out — and then he will be theirs for life.

It would appear it is now or never. Kane makes his big move this summer or not at all. This moment, he is the only cab on the rank. If Manchester City do not buy him, it is hard to imagine where else they can go. That is not true a year from now. Erling Haaland is likely to be available. Kylian Mbappe could be a free transfer.

Kane might be the third best option, given his age. Will Barcelona’s financial position have improved? Will the budget issues have eased at Real Madrid? It is unlikely. Chelsea have done their business now. Manchester United and Manchester City may pursue younger options.

It would appear it is now or never for Harry Kane as Man City prepare to make a bid for him

Kane will be 29 going into next season. His transfer fee will still be a write-off, even if Tottenham relent on their demand for £150million.

That is why he is so anxious to force a move here and now. He knows it is the best time, perhaps the only time it will be feasible. And if not? Here’s the interesting part. 

There are rumours that Kane will sign a new contract; a final contract; the one that makes him a Tottenham player for life. It sounds implausible after all the speculation this summer. Then again, who had Lionel Messi starting this season in France?

Let women’s rugby walk before it can run

Plans are being made for a women’s equivalent of the British and Irish Lions tour. Maggie Alphonsi went as far as greeting the news with a potential starting XV. There was something of the shoehorn about it. Women’s rugby is at a very different development stage to men’s. Many contenders are not professional.

In 2021, Scotland played a three-team group with England and Italy and ended with a points differential of -63. Wales shipped 98 points to France and Ireland, and scored nil. A women’s Lions team could show a dispiriting bent towards one, at best two, countries. 

Alphonsi’s team included Ireland’s Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, a sevens player with two Test appearances. She preferred Christine Belisle of Scotland to England’s 60-cap Vickii Cornborough at prop. Alphonsi worked very hard to make her Lions inclusive, but a coach would only be motivated by winning. It would be hard to avoid a team top-heavy with English pros.

This could be a mighty turn-off, certainly if the hope is to harness travelling support.

Would it not be sensible to allow the women’s game to walk before trying to make it run?

Is Sky still the home of cricket?

With respect to the excellent football team, the best of Sky Sports has always been the cricket; in particular Test cricket.

The panel’s knowledge, the blend of insight and humour, is pitch perfect. The coverage has evolved, too, new names with old yet sitting like best friends. David Lloyd is as comfortable beside Ebony Rainford-Brent as he is with Michael Holding.

Yet if Sky miss out on the Ashes tour to BT Sport again, what does that say about their priorities? Nasser Hussain, one of the sharpest analysts, missed the first Test against India because Sky placed him with the Hundred.  

If Sky miss out on the Ashes tour to BT Sport again, what does that say about their priorities?

Cricket is desperate to make the new format work, but what form of the game requires the greater insight, what has the complexity and layers?

‘The Hundred and Sky take cricket to a new dimension with augmented reality avatars,’ announced the ECB breathlessly on Thursday. No, me neither. But it does seem that any broadcaster claiming to be the Home of Cricket has the Ashes.

Crawley’s potential costs him

Zak Crawley’s potential appears to have cost him, as much as his run of low scores. It is precisely because he looked such a fine Test batsman during one outstanding knock against Pakistan that he can be taken out of the team and ordered to go away and gather his game to come again.

Little about Dom Sibley is Test standard. If he is dropped, there does not seem to be a pathway back. Crawley cannot complain given the numbers, but it still seems a strange way to do business. 

Some golds weigh more than others

At Heathrow, the clamour for a piece of the returning Tom Daley will have served as a salutary lesson to his Team GB colleagues. All gold medallists are equal — but some are more equal than others.

Daley, with his knitting and heroic, emotional, backstory is superstar material; so are husband and wife phenomena Jason and Laura Kenny. They are the ones the chatshows, the publishers, the FTSE 100 companies want. 

When success arrives in such a golden downpour it is easier to forget those on the undercard. Name both gold medallists in the modern pentathlon? The men’s 49er class sailors? The omnium cyclist? For most of Britain’s Olympians, even the very best, it will be back to a life of denial, graft and obscurity, even with a gold medal around their necks. 

Tom Daley, with his knitting and heroic, emotional, backstory is superstar material

Why netball may miss out on Brisbane 2032

Netball is pushing to be included in the Olympics, with Brisbane in 2032 the target. Australia is a strong netball nation and the sport has been recognised by the International Olympic Committee since 1995.

Yet there are problems, perhaps insurmountable. Only 76 countries play netball. The International Netball Federation boasts just 11 full members in Europe: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland, Gibraltar, Israel, Malta, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates.

It seems a motley crew, not least because, for Olympic purposes, five would compete as one country, Great Britain. Then there is the fact netball is played almost exclusively by women. A sport that excludes half the planet would hardly fit the Olympics mantra of inclusivity.

This is a pity. Netball is a significant participation sport, but does not have the range of basketball or volleyball. If it is part of the programme in Brisbane it may be a one-off event, like karate in Tokyo.

Anyway, nothing should be in ahead of squash, which has been wilfully excluded for too long.

Paying customers given the short straw with VAR again 

The slightest contact in the penalty area will no longer be penalised, and benefit of the doubt in marginal offside calls will go to the attacking player in reforms to VAR guidelines.

Yet why have the Premier League shied away from live audio broadcasts of the discussions between officials, as happens in rugby, cricket and other sports. Why are the paying customers still the least informed? 

They are the ones who will have to endure the inconveniences of football’s post-pandemic reality; they are the ones whose goodwill is tested time and again. They don’t have the benefit of replays or a refereeing expert to pick through the process. Why should they be the last to know what is going on — again?

New VAR rules have been briefed to Premier League stars, with offsides set for a revamp

Worrying times for Scottish football

It is not just Rangers’ 4-2 aggregate defeat by Malmo in the Champions League that should raise alarms about the strength of Scottish football. 

Midtjylland, the Danish team who eliminated Celtic in the second qualifying round, went on to play PSV Eindhoven. Aggregate score, a 4-0 defeat, beaten home and away. The form lines, not just the results, disturb. 

FIFA president Gianni Infantino met Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince on Tuesday. Almost certainly that means the idea of a World Cup every two years has not gone away, despite the havoc it would wreak with the global calendar and player welfare. They never stop, these guys. 

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