Why We’re Not West Ham Anymore
As a West Ham fan, you expect failure. Success is a bonus, really. The club isn’t about winning, never has been. This is the message in a YouTube video by life-long fans Rob Williams and Jonny Madderson, which I’ve linked to below.
And they are 100% correct.
I can still remember the 13th May 2006. A gut wrenching defeat in the FA Cup Final and yet as Liverpool and Steven Gerrard lifted the trophy, the West Ham end was still full. You could hear loud and clear chants of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” and “West Ham United, we’re proud of you”. Because we were. The team had lost but they’d given a colossal effort and done themselves and everyone associated with the club proud.
That’s all West Ham fans ever ask for. It doesn’t matter if you win, draw or lose. What matters is you put on the shirt and for 90 minutes, you never give up. In the 2014–15 season we lost at home to both Arsenal and Chelsea and in both games deep in stoppage time, the old chant of “West Ham United, we’re proud of you” came up. The team had matched two of the best sides in the country for 90 minutes and were unlucky in both fixtures, it didn’t matter that we’d lost.
There’s another key ingredient as well — identity. This is an inclusive family club linked deeply to the local East End of London and over the decades, Essex as well. The Boleyn Ground was a place where generations of a family would spend a Saturday afternoon, surrounded by tens of thousands of friends watching the team they love. Current captain Mark Noble described it perfectly, every West Ham fan is like “family” to him. The surroundings around Green Street were important too. The local burger vans, pubs, the pie n’ mash and fish n’ chip shops where father and son, mother and daughter, just normal friends would go to bond as part of their ritual. Me, my dad and my brother had kick-abouts at Brampton Park, by the way.
No matter what happened at the game, you felt like you were at home. A place where you fitted in and that’s why the ground meant so much to so many people.
Yet, it’s being demolished and will be replaced by a block of flats. The local businesses that relied on matchday revenue will inevitably struggle and some may even be forced to close down, they’ve shamefully been left behind by the move to the Olympic Stadium.
The Champions Statue of Moore, Hurst, Peters and Ray Wilson lifting the World Cup for England has been removed too. Once the demolition is complete, all trace that the ground was there would be gone. 112 years of history, gone.
The move the Olympic Stadium has changed the club.
Arsenal fans sang “You’re Not West Ham Anymore” and they were right.
The club is turning into brand. The badge change shows that. The new club badge makes a point of highlighting the fact the club in London.
Underneath the clubstore is a coffee shop and we sell popcorn inside the ground.
The board does not care about the fans. Decent, honest, hard working people who just want to watch their team. They’d much prefer people who come over for the day, spend £50 on a ticket, spend another £100 or so in the shop or on food inside the ground. It’s hard for supporters to get tickets for certain games due to demand, but you can buy one as part of a holiday package from Thomas Cook. Here’s the link if you don’t believe me.
Inside the ground, supporters are ostracised and made to feel unwelcome. I was there at the Reservation Centre booking my season ticket for the 2016–17 season, we were told the migration would be handled in a way to allow the unofficial standing areas that had been present at the Boleyn to continue, yet fans have been kicked out for standing.
Yet here’s a picture of vice-chairman Karren Brady herself standing.
Fans have protested against Brady, naturally. And been kicked out of the ground.
Ironically, fans were forced to stand while ejections took place due to the movement around them, not allowing them to watch the match.
Fans have been treated with utter contempt at the new stadium. All fans are checked by staff before entering the stadium, even young children. The club has effectively cut corners with security putting fans in danger of harm. The segregation in the early part of the season was non-existent, leading to scuffles between home and away supporters. Only after a high profile cup victory over Chelsea, in which a Chelsea fan tried to break the segregation between supporters causing objects to be thrown back and forth, did the club take things seriously, even then they forcibly relocated 200 supporters to other parts of the ground.
The well circulated video above shows stewards just watching a fan getting beat up, some have even suggest they deliberately set it up.
Many fans have already vowed not to come back or renew their season tickets. Even I myself am having doubts, and anyone who knows me knows it would take something really extraordinary for that to happen. I love the club, always have, always will, but do we even exist anymore? Am I welcome at this new ground?
The board talk about moving to the next level with this move, but that’s not what this club is about, it doesn’t matter. In addition, the club’s awful summer recruitment means that this opportunity to actually do so wasn’t taken. A lot of people feel cheated.
They didn’t have to do it though, we just want a team that plays with pride and puts effort in and plays good football. If we win matches and trophies along the way, that’s a nice bonus, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t. As the song goes “Fortune’s Always Hiding”. We wanted the club to represent the same community it’s done for over a century but it isn’t. The locals in Stratford don’t want us there, we can’t use Westfield on matchdays. Crate Brewery, a bar in the Olympic Park has banned West Ham supporters on matchdays.
The board have quite simply shot themselves in the foot. Genuine supporters would’ve kept coming no matter what, but they’ve been alienated. This new gentrified supporter base (more consumers than supporters really as Williams and Madderson note in the video) won’t carry on coming when results don’t go the clubs’ way. Those that would, won’t feel welcome because it’s not our club anymore.
That’s why this move upsets so many people. We’re simply not the club many of us fell in love with anymore. We are becoming a brand, rather than the family club we were for so many years. People who worked at the Boleyn have lost their jobs with the move, businesses will go under. That’s not what the club of Moore, Bonds, Greenwood and Lyall should ever be about.
For many, the bubbles have finally faded and died.