It's the 22nd Of March, 2013 and I am sat in work; the decision for the main tenant of The Olympic Stadium is to be announced (I know we have it, everyone in the bloody world knows we have it). I receive an email from ‘The Devil With Tits’ (Benni McCarthy did little to nothing in his time with West Ham, but that little nickname he created for Karren Brady was a particular highlight) which tells me that ‘The Mayor Of London, Boris Johnson will be making a historic announcement confirming that the Club has reached an agreement with the LLDC granting us the right to become the anchor concessionaire at the iconic Olympic Stadium’ I read the email over a couple of times before replying to it simply stating “You’re killing my West Ham”.
I opened up Twitter and my timeline was a mix of emotions, some fans overjoyed we had finally been awarded the stadium, some who were stating there and then they would not step foot into the ground. I also had numerous fans and also folk who couldn’t give a toss about football saying they were not happy that the tax payer’s money was going to convert the stadium. Personally I don’t want to go, I haven’t ever wanted to go and I still don’t believe that this move is in the best interest of the fans even after listening to some of the statements from the owners and also other fans that are for the move.
There is many sides of the Olympic Stadium debate, too many for one posting. I will talk about my own personal concerns and gripes. I am interested in hearing others people's perspectives on this so if you don’t agree feel free to comment - that’s the great thing about football: at the end of the day, everyone can have an opinion. However, I am finding there seems to be a split amongst West Ham fans and one that is a bit fierce. I have put some comments out on Twitter, and have got some fairly controversial replies from our own fans. Mainly when I question a comment from David Gold it has to be said, more of that later. I even had a fan saying “You’re obviously not a real fan, we could be the next Chelsea” I don’t think I could think of anything worse than becoming like our friends from the West.
Originally when the Porn Brothers took control over West Ham (50% of shares), I was quietly pleased. As most chairmen do when they take over a club, they said the right things. Sullivan especially made sure it was known that he would try and convince the LLDC that West Ham were natural tenants for The Olympic Stadium once it lay empty. He also made comments in regards to the debt that the previous regime had left; he and Gold were going to “spell out the books”. Now whilst the debt has lowered, there really isn’t a true figure of what our debt stands at, at the minute. Sullivan, Gold and Brady have all come out with contradicting figures which is a slight concern. Sullivan advised that neither he or Gold would have gone in for West Ham if they were not fans of the club, and they are both quick to tell the world and its wife how much money they have ploughed into West Ham; however it is usually left out that they do have interest gathering on that money that has been loaned to the club. However I don’t blame them for doing that - they at the end of the day are businessmen and in the grand scheme of things they have been very good for the club to this point.
That first press conference they gave after taking control of the club, they claimed that the club needed stability and Zola would stay in charge to take West Ham to the next level in their ‘Seven Year Plan’ in which they wanted West Ham to qualify for the Champions League. Since then we have got rid of Zola, been relegated under Avram Grant and then employed Sam Allardyce (Mr Stability, although don’t shout it too loudly as some West Ham fans would have you hung for any praise of the Fat Northerner) who got us back in The Premiership at the first time of asking. So with only four seasons (incidentally ties in with us moving to the Olympic Stadium) left to complete the seven year plan, I think it is fairly unlikely we will be playing amongst Europe’s elite. Football is a funny game though and anything could happen in these next few years, Sam might even lose his long ball label…
I have found Gold to be an open individual; he is often answering (certain) questions on twitter and tries to create a good rapport with fans. Brady and Sullivan on the other hand work more behind the scenes, all we hear from the lovely Karren is her Saturday column in the Sun which usually turns into a ‘who dunnit’ as she exposes another chairmen who has a 20 year old something on the side. Sullivan however is very quiet, although it is believed he sometimes uses his son’s twitter to put out messages to the fans (we have recently had such gems as “I am very sorry about this news Chamakh has sign a 6 month loan deal! not my pick!” I am very pleased a twelve year old boy who probably plays too much Football Manager is not allowed his pick). I mean how undermining is that to Allardyce when your employer’s son is condemning your ‘picks’ on a social networking site.
Personally I am yet to be convinced about the apparent positives of moving to The Olympic Stadium. David Gold recently put on twitter “I don’t keep saying tickets at the OS will be cheaper. I say there will be affordable seating at our new stadium”, now the way that he says that opens up so many avenues of questioning. What does he class as affordable? Where will this affordable seating be situated? How many affordable tickets will there be per match (this question in particular is one I would like to be answered due to the fact West Ham have stated 100,000 free tickets which works out at just over 5000 tickets per home game will be given to deprived children in the country throughout the season)? He has also said he wouldn’t lower the price of tickets unless clubs across the Premiership do the same as it would give them an advantage if West Ham did it in isolation.
There is also the issue that fans haven’t had any poll to see the true figure of numbers on who want to move, we have been told for months that there is one in the pipeline but the wait goes on. If the owners are sure that the majority want the move then why not give us a vote to prove that exact theory? The club stated that development of the East Stand or Chicken Run as it is fondly known as is not viable. The club stated that the most important reason for this was because they couldn’t have achieved a capacity anything like the scale of the Olympic Stadium. Do the owners really believe we will fill it on a regular basis? This current season I have received numerous emails, texts and even two telephone calls to tell me “Tickets Running Out Fast”, not to mention the adverts taken out in papers and on national radio. Yes the likes of Man United/City, London top flight clubs and Liverpool will probably be sell outs, the rest? Wigan or Stoke on a Monday night? I very much doubt it.
Gold also stated that transport links to The Olympic Stadium are miles better than the options at Upton Park; this might be the case but can you dump your car on a random side street near Stratford and not have to pay for the privilege? Unfortunately not, I imagine a nice big car park will be placed somewhere, where the club can make a few extra pounds. We were told that the new stadium will create hundreds of job prospects, well what about the jobs that will be lost from the local businesses from around the Upton Park area? The Boleyn pub just at the end of Green Street is already up for sale and it is almost certain that other pubs and local cafes will go to the wall. Richard Nathan who runs ‘Nathan’s Pie & Mash’ has already said that they won’t be able to survive without West Ham playing nearby. We have been told that the sight lines will be better than Wembley and also that “No seat will be further away than Wembley”; well, that’s not a great yard stick when we don’t play at Wembley. Gold has already confirmed that they will sell the naming rights of the ground, and I would imagine they are counting on a lot of the tickets to go to those in the corporate domain. This is to be expected, if they want the club to be a force they have to be more business minded like the Manchester Uniteds (who have just sold the rights of their training ground, yes you read that right TRAINING GROUND for a staggering £160,000,000) of this world.
So after I have got that all off my chest and believe me it has been niggling at me since that fateful day last month, I have begun to think about what I will do when we move to Olympic Stadium. I really don’t think I can go, I just think the average fan (and that’s exactly what I am) will fall away from West Ham. I will no doubt be replaced by Mummy, Daddy and Tarquin (no disrespect to the Tarquins out there) and that will be that. Gold recently said that West Ham can create a new history and I am sure that it will attract a new breed of fan, well dependant on success of course. My own personal belief is that they do want a new investor and one who has bag loads of money and that will be that. The fan who I mentioned previously will get his wish, we will become the next Chelsea. There has been a few mumblings of a new club forming, much like FC United (a great story in itself) and if something did take off I think it would get a lot of backing. However with the main focus being on the Olympic Stadium, this being West Ham something is bound to go wrong and I envisage the start of the 2016/2017 season with an away game to Mansfield in League 2.
Previously football was the working man’s game but week after week it is slipping away, and I think personally with the move to the Olymic Stadium it will just about be the final nail in the coffin for me.