Following the start to the season and especially the two poor home games, there has been plenty of talk again about the London Stadium V Upton Park and the effect on performance.
At the time when the move was first mentioned I leant towards the move with a heavy heart.
It was an opportunity to take the club to the ‘Next Level’ I want to see West Ham win something. As a 11 year old I was at Wembley to see West Ham win the FA Cup in 1980. I didn’t think, 37 years later I would be waiting for another cup win.
So I did buy into the opportunity to see West Ham have a ‘World Class Team’ and Win something.
I also feel that the Tottenham interest also helped the pro-move feelings. I didn’t want Tottenham playing that close in East London with the potential of start taking away younger potential West Ham supporters.
The move took place and we are where we are.
Do I like the London Stadium – NO
Can the London Stadium ever be Upton Park – NO
Do I support West Ham any less because of the London Stadium – NO
Will it stop me going or supporting West Ham – NO
Is the London Stadium currently a football ground – NO
Should the London Stadium be used as an excuse for poor performance by the Players – NO
History – I probably speak for a lot of fans of my age, Upton Park is part of my entire life history and is not easy to just replace.
My first game was around 1974-75 as a 5-year-old, I remember sitting in the wooden seats of the old upper tier of the West Side. For the next few years I would go to the lower tier with my dad, initially standing on a handmade stool at the front of the terrace.
Its only in hindsight that I now know fully know how I felt about Upton Park.
Every time I went to Upton Park the hairs on the back of my neck would stand on end when I went through and saw the pitch. This happened every time I went from a kid to an adult.
The London Stadium does not do this for me, I have no feeling when I walk through to my seat. It is like going to a concert or outdoor event. It may just be because it doesn’t have any personal history for me. The matches with my Dad, taking my Son to his first game, the great players over the years, the great days and nights that stick in my memory.
The London Stadium may in time give young supporters the same feeling as I have for Upton Park when they build up their history with the stadium.
The Walk – There are so many things wrong about getting to and away from the ground that the Stadium owners are not bothered about and the West Ham owners can do nothing about but should have foreseen and not signed the contract until an agreement.
The first euro qualifier prior to the first season I travelled by car and parked in Westfields.
I came out from a side entrance with the Stadium in view and it was impressive, a bit like Wembley. But that feeling was short lived, after the game Stewards were directing people on a tour of Stratford with stop/start signs and having no idea of Football crowds.
I used that walk from Stratford a few times being sent the long way around new developments and not being allowed the easy routes through Westfields after, but I have now given up that route as it drives me mad.
I know some elements of stewarding have improved and I now walk by cutting through and using carpenters road which is more like the Upton Park feel but still there are so many idiot stewards with no common sense once you arrive at the stadium. At the Wolves game I came out and wanted to get to the Hammers Chat boats, was told I had to walk all the way around rather than the 50 yards from the first bridge, so I just pushed past and walked through.
The walk adds to the start of the day, it needs to feel like going to a football match.
Our owners say that its beyond their control but it shouldn’t have been, they should have agreed everything before the contract was signed and that should have included every element of the match day experience for the West Ham Fan.
I feel they agreed the contract before taking everything into account because it was the ‘deal of the century’ – Well not for fans. It should have been made to feel like Upton Park as much as possible with the old Street sellers on the walk which was/is so important in the first few seasons.
Atmosphere– We have been in the Stadium for two full seasons now and the amount of matches with a good atmosphere can be counted on one hand. Chelsea & Tottenham being the main two.
So why can’t a good atmosphere be produced with 55,000 fans?
Well it came out today that in fact there are only 42,000 fans in the ground. Upton Park was a sell out at around 35,000 with no real empty seats.
I understand that Upton Park was not always the best atmosphere but its wasn’t 3-4 good ones in 2 seasons. Yes, the performances add to this without doubt but I don’t agree just winning will bring a great atmosphere. There are examples of good teams playing in quiet stadiums.
The London Stadium has brought a different mix of fans. The 42,000 are not 35,000 from Upton Park plus 7,000.
I went to Wembley on Saturday for the England V Spain game and it had the same feeling as the London Stadium. It had people there that wasn’t particularly bothered whether they were there or not. It was an event, not just football fans. Whether that is families going as a whole or tourists, it was an event.
Now going back to the London Stadium, it’s the same. There are more families and football fans that are not necessarily West Ham fans.
Again we had families at Upton Park, some were in the family area and some spread around. But beyond that it was core West Ham fans with very few tourist fans.
I don’t know how many core fans no longer go to the matches, but I would guess it is a bigger number than we think.
Adding to this the fact that the pitch is so far away and the stands vast then the core fans are diluted within the stadium.
The lower price season tickets are a good thing but also brings with it fans that are not necessarily the traditional West Ham fan where the game, performance and result means everything. Upton Park restricted this through the cost and availability of tickets which is no longer an issue.
Fans leaving early was also brought up recently by the Manager, again i feel this is a consequence of the walk, tourist fans and families that have other priorities rather than just West Ham winning at that particular time.
Good or great atmospheres may only be by exception in the London Stadium and increasing the attendance further may not achieve any real difference.
Has Football and West Ham changed forever with bigger Stadiums?
It may have and we might just have to get used to it and enjoy games in a different way.