As the latest chapter in the life of West Ham United at the London Stadium begins to evolve, West Ham fans could be forgiven for asking themselves when this nightmare will end. The dream promised after the “most successful football stadium migration in history” did not take long to fade and die, as the bubbles of optimism blown by Karren Brady burst.
Following the release of detailed plans of a reconfiguration of the Lower Tiers behind the goals at the London Stadium, 65% of fans affected voted in a survey for those plans to be shelved until consultation had taken place. However, it would seem the club will press ahead, ignoring the wishes of the supporters who are supposedly at the heart of this reconfiguration.
In October 2016, Brady spoke about the move at The Leaders in Sport Conference, justifying it’s necessity as part of re-branding the club. Brady explained this was required as the club:
‘had no, what I would call, culture’.
Many supporters now argue that the distinct culture that had existed at the club throughout their lifetime, is being eroded.
Approximately 12,000 supporters responded to the ‘London Stadium Survey’ in March 2020, with only 15% agreeing that the move away from the Boleyn Ground was “a good idea”.
Far from being the greatest football stadium migration ever, fours years on and 75% of fans voting had not been convinced. The results were damning. Only 22% felt the atmosphere was good or excellent, with 1% of supporters responding feeling that the board were doing an ‘excellent’ job.
A club statement and further information released to Season Ticket holders seems to have only added more fuel to the fire of discontent, over our rented home, which refuses to go out.
Brady had added, when she spoke in October 2016, that:
‘The stadium is not what makes a football club – it’s the people who support it’.
Now those people are left bitterly disappointed at the treatment they have received, once again.
Since publishing an appeal for information from fans following the announcement, it is unfortunate for Hammers United to have to report that our inbox has been awash with messages from concerned supporters.
Sadly, after the club making ‘every effort’ to move groups together, families and friends have been separated in the process of reconfiguring the Lower Tiers.
Children have been moved away from those who they attend the game with and friends who have sat together for the duration of their time as Season Ticket holders find themselves suddenly shunted apart.
No supporters have yet been in touch with us to confirm that this is the stadium improvement they requested and no minutes have been published of the work ‘with fans’ that led to this reconfiguration and seat migration. A Hammers United poll on Twitter appeared to confirm that appropriate consultation over these plans had not taken place.
There was also a surprisingly large number of supporters who have logged concerns over a significant move in their seat position. The club statement explained that “not every seating position would remain entirely like-for-like” but there are some considerable differences.
Seats have been moved in all directions with many supporters complaining of what they estimate to be at least 4m in sideways movement, as opposed to the 4m closer to the pitch some were expecting.
Having justified the reconfiguration on the grounds that most supporters would “move closer to the action”, an alarming number of fans are outraged that the opposite has happened. Many fans appear to have experienced a move away from the action and, with details not yet confirmed, it would seem that those moves from front to back may take fans up a price band.
All that said the club had offered, what supporters thought, was the option to change their proposed seat position.
In a move that leaves some supporters questioning the real rationale behind the reconfiguration, the club has informed those that have been in contact that they must renew to stand a chance of a seat move.
So, those who have been removed from families or friends, those who have very different prospective pitch views and those that have now moved even further away from the action must pay-up to see if they are in with a chance of rectifying the situation.
The quicker they do so, the further towards the front of the queue they will find themselves and the greater the chance they will have of a move.
Once again, West Ham fans are left feeling ill-treated whilst trying to bridge the gap between the public statements of those in charge and the actions they take with their own theories of what their motives might be.
Hammers United will be pressing the club for a response.