Saturday, March 23The Voice of London

The London Stadium: West Ham’s home a disaster from the starting blocks

A legacy, a dream, a promise. The three words that were endlessly spouted by Mayor and owners when West Ham successfully bid to become the new tenants of the then named Olympic Stadium. Six years on, the legacy is in tatters, the dream is all but dead and the promises unfulfilled.

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This discontent that has raged surrounding the London Stadium has been fuelled by what is a complete mismanagement from organisations and hierarchy’s ever since the end of the Olympics.

The squabbles between both West Ham and London Legacy Development Corporation have affected both taxpayer and fans in what has been seen as one of the most expensive flops in a generation, and has killed the identity of club.

When you think of an away day to The Hammers images of Green Street start swarming the mind. Hostility, passion, atmosphere was the embodiment of the East London club, it was a tough place to go for both fan and player with little rest bite from home supporters baying for blood.

Now though according to Irons fan Alex Keeble, 20, some of the core values of the club have been lost: “Home games aren’t as fun as what they used to be. The Boleyn ground epitomised everything about the club. A tight hostile venomous atmosphere that intimidated away fans and players alike.

“The new stadium just lacks any soul. We are just another commercialised football club.”

He is not far off the mark with that statement. West Ham have become more a profitable club with a record turnover of £183.3 million made in the 2016-2017 season, £40 million up on the previous year.

But according to Karen Brady this would have been the case anyway because of a more lucrative TV deal, but fellow Hammer, Jack Scott, 23, says this is way off the mark: “We moved because we wanted to attract players to get in the big European leagues, so we were told, but it was all about getting more “fans” through the door and lining the pockets of David Sullivan and Gold.”

On the surface, this move appeared to have worked with attendances rising from 35,000 to nearly 57,000. But again, this was grossly misleading as that figure is number tickets sold rather than actual attendance. The real figure was closer to 43,000 a 22% difference.

Alex commented about the stat: “It isn’t a surprise, they are always empty seats, only for the big games do we get a full ground and most of those are happy clapping tourists who come to see a different United.

“Those games at the Boleyn would have taken the roof off the place, now we just cheer the goals and happy clap, it’s pathetic.”

And it was evident to see against Cardiff, the Hammers were 3-0 up, an you could hear a pin drop.

On his first ever visit to the London Stadium Cardiff fan Tom O’Donnell, 21, commented: “It just isn’t a football stadium. The distance from the pitch is ludicrous, you feel disconnected from the game. Not to mention the 50-yard gap between the two sections of away supporters. No wonder it’s a library.”

Jack Scott believes this is because the owners haven’t considered the fans: “We know we can’t go back but they need to give us more consideration, after all there is no club without fans.”

Jack Scott and family at the last ever game at the Boleyn Ground. Credit Jack Scott

He isn’t the only Irons fan took think like this. You only have to go back to last season to see the discontent, with the pitch invasion whilst playing Burnley and the attack aimed at the director’s box.

“Instead of being hostile to away fans we are turning on our own. We as fans need clarity and transparency from those at the top. We see in the papers that a club is a mess and you can see that filtered in the way the boys play.” Jack says.

“Champions League you’re having a laugh.” He mockingly sings.

A banner raised during the Burnley game read “Sold a dream given a nightmare” could not ring truer. Not just West Ham as a club but the stadium itself has left a bitter legacy for everyone associated with it.

 

Words: Lee Pearson I Subbing: Kristiyan Stefanov

 

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