When the porn brothers announced their intention to move from one of London’s most feared stadiums to an athletics and concert venue, I like most regular fans felt a certain degree of unease. Surely we didn’t need a 52,000 seat stadium especially one with a bloody great running track between the players and the old east side chicken run.
But then the spin began – 85% of supporters canvassed were in favour of the move, a new cantilever system would place seats where the running track would be, football would be once again affordable for the ordinary man (or woman) in the street, the transport links would be second to none, it will catapult us into the upper echelons of the premiership and challenging the traditional top four incumbents. Oh and by the way, we’re gonna pay sweet fanny adams for the privilege – how could you possibly say no.
The final season at the Boleyn was so very West Ham. For quite some time it looked like we could break into the top four and begin life at the Olympic Stadium with Real Madrid, Bayern, Barcelona and Juventus as regular visitors. But of course, just like our dreams we faded and very nearly died only to deal Man United a third crushing blow (having denied them 2 Premier League Championships) and consign them to a season of Thursday night football. Still 7th place was good enough to secure a place in the Europa League 3rd qualifying round and having re-configured the Man United team bus we said an emotional farewell to the old girl.
The summer approached and we got to see images of our new ‘home’ – oh and by the way, it’s now called the London Stadium. Yep that’s right and oh, did we forget to tell you, we’re going to have a bit of a re-brand and our new badge, which all three of you who we consulted just love, also encompasses the word London, coz that’s where we’re from see!
In the meantime, the club announced we’d miraculously found an extra 5,000 seats and sold the lot. But not to worry if you’ve not got a ticket, coz we’ve also found another 9,000 on top of that so now we’ve got London’s largest stadium and with a season ticket waiting list in excess of 50,000 we’ll have no trouble selling out every game. Sounds too good to be true? You bet.
You see, in The Duchesses excitement to do the deal of the century, she forgot some of the basics.
Now you’d think they would have tried to move/migrate like-minded fans to the same part of the ground. You know, the 9,000 or so supporters who stood behind both goals together with those who stood in certain corners of the ground. You know, the ones who got the singing going, gave the opposition players and fans untold grief – made Upton Park a cauldron of noise, overcame the sterilisation of all seated stadium and all that. But know, they mixed the whole bloody lot up.
Secondly, you’d think that the club would want control of the security and stewarding so the customer experience was under their auspices. But no, The Duchess got the deal of the century you see. So she insisted the stadium owners handled that. Which they sort of did by outsourcing these areas to the stadium operators who guess what – outsourced it to a French organisation who run the Stade de France.
Now you’d think they would look to re-hire all the stewards from the old ground. The ones who know how to control football and in particular West Ham supporters. But no – some went with but the majority have now resigned in protest at the atrocious methods being used. You see those wanting to stand and those wanting to sit aren’t able to co-exist. So what happens is the stewards wander around with clip boards, writing down seat numbers and those standing ticket holders receive warning letters and are told their tickets will be rescinded. The more vociferous of these ‘stewards’ go after small pockets of standers and actually remove them from the ground and take their season tickets away. As you can imagine, it doesn’t make for a very happy home.
And then we have the home/away supporter segregation. As has been reported, for the first few games, apart from a few seats, there was none. The stewards had no experience of football fans, being mainly involved in keeping Elton John fans under control on a balmy summer evenings. At The London stadium it’s not just Saturday nights that are all right for fighting! But surely the police sort these problems out I hear you say? Nope, in her haste to seal the deal of the millennium, The Duchess decided to overlook the fact that the police stated they were unable to operate inside the stadium as it was currently configured.
And that’s just inside the stadium. Outside and around the concourse there is absolutely no segregation and no plan for what to do at full time. It is, as the saying goes, just one great big cock up.
But I’m afraid that’s not all. To try and beef up the Elton John brigade, the outsourced, outsourced security have added a few night club bouncers – you can guess the rest!
On the other side of the away fans (think lower chicken run and upper east side at The Boleyn) we have the real hard core fans – that’s right 750 tickets sold via Thomas Cook to overseas ‘fans’ and anyone willing to also buy a night at a London Hotel. Just doesn’t bear thinking about when certain teams come to visit.
But what about the views and the cantilever seating I hear you say. A bloody joke I reply. Billic spends half the match screaming 30 yards behind him at his coaching staff. The pitch is ridiculously far from the pitch on all sides. In short, this is not a football ground and never will be. My heart truly aches for Upton Park and I feel the very soul of my club is being eroded.
And then, a couple of days ago, The Duchess appeared at ‘Leaders’ a football conference aimed at the good and the great of the game. Much was made of her comments surrounded the lack of culture at the club when she arrived, however I’m prepared to overlook that as she was really referring to the ‘business culture’. What didn’t get so widely reported, but was far more upsetting were her comments regarding the opportunity to ‘re-brand the club’ which is where the London nonsense comes from. You see, The Duchess doesn’t want the traditional support turning up at ‘The London Stadium’. She’s got a whole new plan in place, for pop corn munching, Coca Cola swilling ABC1’s to fill up all 66,000 seats and shout “Horrah, well done old chaps, jolly good play”.
So, Arsenal fans will have to wait until 3rd December to make their own minds up, unfortunately I won’t be there as I have decided to stay away until The Duchess decides to hang up her robe and get out of my club. I still love West Ham United, but you can stick West Ham United London up yer a…….
written by West Ham Bob