THE disconnect between West Ham United’s board and the club’s fans boiled over at the weekend, with protests, violence and symbolic gestures that made it crystal clear – the Hammers’ supporters are very unhappy.
The nature of the protest will bring West Ham trouble, but the fact there is an air of delusion about the club means that is will probably happen again.
A few days earlier, West Ham reported a profit of £48.5m for the year and vice-chairman Karren Brady said that the healthy profitability would still have been generated if the club had remained at Upton Park.
The Newham Recorder, who actually refer to the club as West Ham FC (surely, the fans cannot be happy with that?), said Brady attributed the financial results to the broadcasting deal and player sales.
Brady has described the controversial new ground as “one of the great arenas of world football”. Very few would agree with that description of a stadium that has been at the root cause of the angst among the club’s followers.
It’s a stadium that has a toxic atmosphere, so much so Hammers legend, Trevor Brooking, said in The Times that unhappy fans should stay away as their mood could end with West Ham being relegated.
Were West Ham fans ever going to be happy leaving their homely, but limited, home at the Boleyn? The Football Writers’ Podcast this week commented that the stadium experience is not particularly pleasant, from the walk to the ground from the railway station to the adjoining shopping centre.
The Evening Standard’s John Dillon said many people believe the old club has gone and cannot be replaced. He has a point, but West Ham are not going to be going anywhere fast, even though the relocation has, so far, been a disaster. The truth is, West Ham fans loved Upton Park, its atmosphere and the fact it was intimidating for opponents. Today, they have a huge, lifeless bowl where the action seems miles away. It was good for the Olympics six years ago, but not for football.
Dillon distances the trouble at the stadium from old-style hooliganism from the past. “Such scenes capture how profound the whole rotten, toxic mess at West Ham is rooted in the bewilderment of the fans over the lost heritage and the empty soulnessness of what has replaced it.”
Still, Brady has described the move from Upton Park as one of the most successful stadium migrations. At the end of February, SKY Sports reported the club has committed to a study with a view to making changes at the London Stadium. Brady would be advised to “fast track” the programme in order to heal the gaping wounds in Stratford. No surprise that season ticket prices have been frozen for 2018-19!