‘If they can’t talk the talk, how can we expect them to walk the walk?’

PAI Capital has gone public over it's takeover bid but are they losing the battle with fans?

West Ham co-owners David Sullivan (top) and David Gold (face shield) at the EPL match West Ham United v Burnley, at the London Stadium, London, UK on 16th January, 2021. English Premier League matches are still being played behind closed doors because of the current COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, and government social distancing/lockdown restrictions.

It’s fair to say a large chunk of fans have been waiting for this moment for some time. 

Given the series of events over the last decade — the stadium move, crest change, lack of investment, reckless investment, failed transfers, public controversies, car crash radio interviews, etc — it’s no real surprise that Hammers fans are desperate for the current owners of the club to finally sell up. 

But while the hope has always been there, nothing has really materialised beyond loose rumours and the odd newspaper report. Until now.

PAI Capital have made a very public admission that they are interested in buying West Ham United after David Sullivan admitted in an interview that an approach had been made by an unnamed consortium that was ‘derisory’ and that ‘didn’t provide proof of funds’.

PAI Capital decided to go public in an attempt to deny such claims, instead insisting that they had made a very formal offer of £400m, that proof of funds were given and that they were actually handed access to the club’s data room for two months. That sounds like a pretty formal offer, doesn’t it? 

At this stage, such tit-for-tat between the current owners and the prospective buyers means absolutely nothing. We are no nearer to knowing the real truth. It’s the club’s word against PAI Capital’s.

PAI, though, have continued to stay public with their communication with West Ham fans, claiming to have the likes of Rio and Anton Ferdinand behind them, both of whom were swiftly followed by legend Tony Cottee, who went on to give his first interview since that announcement to the podcast I co-founded. More on that shortly.

Despite all that, the big questions amongst West Ham fans at the moment is pretty simple: how much money are they prepared to pump into the club and what is their vision for the club’s future? What are their plans? How do they plan to take the club forward? What are they going to do about the stadium?

Well, they’ve already addressed the stadium issue, revealing they’ve reached an agreement with the owners of the stadium that they will take full control of it should they be successful in buying West Ham. 

For myself and many other fans, that’s a big tick. But it’s not the most essential thing. It’s important, but it’s not absolutely essential.

The rest? Well, it’s all behind a Non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and as a result, it’s all very hush hush. That’s what appears to have led fans to becoming quite sceptical of PAI’s ability to truly lead our great club forward.

Not me, though. An NDA is an NDA and it’s not uncommon for these things to be put in place, especially when a company is handed the keys to another company’s data room. 

What has got me sceptical about the whole thing is the consistently poor standard of comms and PR coming out of PAI. 

One of their first statements referred to the club as ‘West Ham FC’. The very same statement loosely hinted that the club’s fanbase just isn’t big enough to regularly fill a 60,000 seater stadium. 

It was actually this very statement that said it wanted to improve communication between the club and the fans, but was first published behind a West Ham podcast’s paywall, limiting its initial communication to just a minute percentage of the club’s entire global fanbase 

I have absolutely nothing against said podcast, but the decision will always baffle me.

They’ve also banged the ‘Olympic Legacy’ drum which, quite frankly, has absolutely nothing to do with West Ham UNITED. 

They’ve raved about the fact Rio Ferdinand supports their bid, thinking fans would care for what he thinks and seemingly unaware that he’s now a Man United legend, has spent the best part of a decade publicly telling people he’s a Man United fan and spent much of the summer tweeting about how much he’d love Declan Rice to sign for Man United. They may as well have got Paul Ince involved as well. 

Moving on, every single statement they’ve released so far has been poorly written, riddled with typos and have all shown a real lack of understanding of the fanbase. And this is probably my biggest gripe about the whole thing.

If you can’t apply a certain level of attention to detail to something so simple such as proofing your comms, how can you expect fans to trust you to apply the required level of detail when it comes to actually running the football club. It’s sloppy, blaze, unprofessional and downright unacceptable.

While winning West Ham fans over in an attempt to take over from David Gold and David Sullivan was probably the easiest battle they faced when attempting to buy the club, they’ve done pretty much everything they can to lose them at the first hurdle. 

Quite frankly, fans just don’t care for the Olympic Legacy, Rio Ferdinand or anything else that has no effect on the club’s ability to compete consistently in the top half of the Premier League table and, hopefully, European competition. 

Now, one good thing they’ve done is win the backing of club legend Tony Cottee. Cottee is a West Ham fan, he’s one of us, and it’s extremely unlikely that he would put his name to something if he didn’t truly believe PAI has the money and ability to take the club beyond where it is now under the current ownership. 

Cottee told our podcast, We Are West Ham: ‘I spent the whole day with them and I really, really liked what I heard and what I saw. This is a group of extremely talented people looking to buy a football club and make the football club better.

‘They made contact with me, they’ve asked me to come on board. I’m coming from a fan’s point of view, you know I’m a fan. I want to ask the questions that the fans want to ask and that’s really important to me. So, I wouldn’t have backed it without the knowledge that I think it’s the right thing for the football club.’

They’re encouraging words from a legend and a fan, so we should take some comfort that someone like Cottee has been brought on board and is trying to reassure the fans that this is going to benefit the club if it does happen. 

But scepticism remains purely because we fans are still massively left in the dark. We don’t know who the main backers are behind PAI Capital’s name. 

It’s not like the projected Newcastle United takeover, which is being led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is headed up by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At least Newcastle fans knew what they were potentially getting. 

With us, despite former QPR chief Philip Beard fronting the public statements, it just isn’t clear whose money is involved, how much they’ve got and how much they’re intending to pump into the club moving forward. 

We do know that PAI Capital has about €14.7B worth of assets, but obviously that’s not all going to go towards the club, which is a bit of a bummer.

Of course, with an NDA in place, it’s unlikely we’re going to get much more information that we want to know until either a bid is accepted or someone opts to break said NDA. 

There also seems to be a general underwhelming feeling amongst the fanbase that this takeover attempt isn’t a Prince of Saudi Arabia and is instead a Paris-based private investment company. 

When we moved into London Stadium, the hope was that eventually it would make us an attractive option for a disgustingly wealthy individual to rock up to Stratford and choose West Ham as their next hobby. But this just isn’t it, is it?

Now, for me, that’s not entirely important. Of course, it would be great if we had a wealthy owner on the same level as Man City’s Sheikh Mansour or Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich, but it’s not the most important thing for me. 

What is the most important thing for me is the future of the football club and it operating as a football club should, performing well both on and off the pitch. Leicester City is the prime example of a club that’s doing just that and they’re proving that with some time, investment in the right areas and a bit of integrity, you can take a football club pretty far. 

That’s all I want for West Ham United and I’m certain I’m not alone, but at the moment PAI have given fans absolutely no reason at all to believe they’re the right people to come in to do what’s right for the club. It has simply been one PR disaster after another, much like the current ownership.

Fans have become tired of the club’s affairs being made so public by the likes of Sullivan and Gold, so it’s little wonder they’ve already begun to lose patience with PAI. 

No amount of talkSPORT interviews, poorly written statements, factually incorrect claims about the fanbase or ex-players who aren’t even legends will get fans on board. Sod the Olympic Legacy as well. No one cares!

What will get them on board is a proper, well thought out vision for the club with the right level of investment both on and off the pitch to ensure long-term sustainability and success. Preferably in complete silence. 

Tony Cottee is telling us that he thinks they’re the right people to deliver that and while that’s pretty reassuring, it’s still not enough to win me over just yet. 

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