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So we can stay at the Boleyn

Filed: Monday, 16th January 2012
By: Paul Walker

So now we know. If our owners do not go for the Olympic Stadium option, we won’t leave the Boleyn and will aim to redevelop our 108-year-old home.

Vice chairman Karen Brady’s appearance on Sky threw up some very interesting pointers to how our future will develop. And I'm not sure I've ever heard of the one that says we stay at a redeveloped Boleyn.

I’ve been a supporter of the proposed move to Stratford, not because I want to leave a ground that has been my family’s second home since the 1920s, but because I accept the need for a bigger stadium and the revenue that produces as the only way to see the Hammers progress.

You only have to look at the state Liverpool have got themselves in trying to compete with Manchester United using a stadium that holds 30,000 less that Old Trafford. And how Everton have hit a glass ceiling because they cannot move from their ageing Goodison Park.

You see why Fulham want to expand Craven Cottage and how desperate Spurs and Chelsea are for stadiums that will allow them to progress to a higher level.

Small stadiums mean a club just cannot compete with the major clubs. So, reluctantly I accepted the financial reasoning for a move to Stratford, despite the running track.

I felt that we created a pretty a good atmosphere at the old Wembley in ’64, ’65, ‘75 and ‘80 to win major trophies at a stadium with a track around the pitch to believe that problem could be overcome in time.

But the Boleyn is our home. We love the place. Even our owners admit to that. But when the Olympic stadium debate was at it’s height, staying at the Boleyn was never an option. Our owners made that pretty clear.

They claimed that the local police would not sanction an expanded Boleyn because of the increased parking and transport problems around Upton Park. They claimed that the local council would not be interested in granting planning permission for a bigger stadium.

In effect to develop the Chicken Run side of the ground in the way it was always intended when the new West stand was built and the pitch shifted away from the East stand patrons. Gone at a stroke was the intimidating atmosphere the Chicken Run crowd was famous for, where visiting fans were reduced to panic and fear with our fans breathing down their necks.

A few home players could also be frightened into better performances after some advice from the Chicken Run crowd. My dad told me how Stan Foxall was hounded into better displays back in the '30s, and I recall Harry Redknapp responded to verbal encouragement, for want of a better term!

But while Ms Brady was telling Sky that there was still an ‘if’ about whether we went to Stratford, she also said that we would not leave the Boleyn and that the stadium would be developed if the Olympic move fell through.

The goal posts, of course, have been moved. It is now a lease we will be trying to get in Stratford not the purchase of the stadium that so frightened Spurs, who knew very well how dangerous we would be as neighbours if we could pull 60,000 crowds while White Hart Lane was stuck in the 30,000s.

It meant they went to every means possible, some very dodgy indeed, to scupper the original plans to sell the Olympic Stadium to ourselves, the preferred bidders. They, along with Orient, achieved that and made no friends at all in government and political circles. And the Police are showing an interest now in some of the skulduggery that went on. Spurs never wanted Stratford, they just wanted to stop us getting it.

But the world has changed. We have to make a decision soon on whether we tender again this time as tenants, and with the prospect of sharing with all sorts of other sports. One of which cannot be rugby because new rules, I understand, from the Premier League will stop such new arrangements (Swansea’s agreement with Ospreys I would assume will be allowed because it is already in existence, much the same as Wigan‘s with the Warriors).

But now Ms Brady has intimated that there are still ’ifs’ and that the Boleyn could be developed, my view - and I’m sure many others - will change.

The theory was that our owners wanted to get rid of the debts by selling the Boleyn, get us back into the top flight and then expand into a 60,000 ground. Then, presumably, they could sell the club to big money foreign buyers.

They were also looking to turn a profit, and I have no problems with that. But if they are going to consider developing the Boleyn - a new East stand could take our capacity to close on 50,000 - then they are obviously here for the long haul.

I heard all the arguments about an expanded stadium being too much for the infrastructure around a ground when Manchester United wanted to rebuild Old Trafford. In those days the stadium held 55,000 tops. Now it has got close to 80,000, and the local community has coped over the years.

Staying at Upton Park would clearly benefit the local business community. The pubs, restaurants, shops, chippies, the local East Ham working men’s club I use prior to games, would all give a collective sigh of relief.

Coping with 15,000 extra fans would be a problem. But don’t forget that the transport links being upgraded around east London for the Olympics would still be of benefit to us in the future. Being forced to walk to Stratford at times over the past couple of seasons because of line closures has not been too much of a hardship, has it?

Walking to Canning Town has also be an experience as well, but not impossible. So we, and the community, would cope.

So let the government run the Olympic stadium the way they want. Let Orient use it, I‘m sure they’d love 3,000 fans scattered around the place. And frankly, as long as we got a 50,000 capacity stadium at the Boleyn, Spurs can have Stratford too. Call their bluff.

It would be no difference to the closeness they now have with Arsenal, but just in a different direction.

But surely if we can stay where we are, and have a bigger stadium, that is all that would matter. Our revenue would be boosted by a return to the top flight, so it‘s down the Big Sam now to finish the job.

We‘ve got 20 games left now and need another 40 points, if the manager‘s calculations are correct. A couple of signings this month - a striker is a must - and no selling of our best assets and we'll be back in the big times. Easy, isn’t it?

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by WHU hammerhead
04:33PM 9th Feb 2012
''The Olympic Stadium would have an awful atmosphere. We would struggle to attract 60,000 even in the 'big' games against the Man Uniteds etc. These would not be hardcore fans, take the example of the awful atmosphere at the Emirates - and that doesn't even have a running track around the pitch.

The argument that the Boleyn Ground is too old is untrue. This is only true in a corporate sense, where Gold and Sullivan want to utilise the facilities at Stratford for commercial ends. Three of the four stands have been rebuilt in the last 20 years and a redeveloped East Stand, bringing the capacity to around the 45,000 mark would be a more plausible target that could realistically be reached.

This is possible now that the bus depot behind is out of use. Atmosphere, history and identity of the club would be retained.''

by Pedro
09:49AM 19th Jan 2012
''Got to stop living in the past. Upton Park has a great history but thats all it is - history. Time to move on and try to push our club forward to bigger and better things. Using the tube is a nightmare and even with upgrades (and how long would we be waitiong for those from TFL), we're not talking about a new line, just increased capicity.

The car remains the transport choice for many who don't live nearby and it means wasting a considrable amount of your saturday sat in the horrendous traffic jams or trying to find a place to park. The area surrounding the stadium is the pits, every week me and the bro have a sweepstake on how many cars we'll see that have been broken into on the way home.

The OS (with retractable seating) is the future for WHU with great transport links and new facilties. Without it, the clubs around us grow bigger and better, whilst we are left behind as a little club forever deluding ourselves about the "West Ham Way", which in my 30 years of support seems to translate as "chronic under-achievement". Sign that lease Mrs Brady. ''

by Djoe
10:37AM 18th Jan 2012
''Redevelop the East Stand would be normal if we don't move to the Olympic Stadium.
But maybe there is another solution for attracting bigger crowds in the Boleyn like it is now.

Why not create standing places (safe standing areas or whatever it's called). It works in Germany (Dortmund comes in my mind) and other countries. In Scotland they are changing the rules so why not?

Would be mutch better for the atmosphere.''

by Tell it how it is Charlie!
10:42AM 17th Jan 2012
''The organ grinder & the monkey spring to mind reading this article. The West Ham PR dept play the tune (mind control) and the monkey just dances. Obviously you know the state of the clubs finances, just how does West Ham PLC afford this new stand?

Big gates of 45,000+ are no guarantee of success. Sheff Weds has a stadium capacity of 39,000 but this doesn´t stop them from being stuck in the bowels of the Football League. Believe nothing, question everything, there may be little truth even with the likes of the Telegraph and Independent, they all have their own agendas.

I dare say UK unemployment figures are probably double official figures. Given the UK household debt ratios just how much longer can football clubs keep selling ludicrously over priced tickets? I think this football mania which has gone on since '96 is just a giant financial bubble that´s waiting to explode. It´s a Bernie Mandoff, Ponzi scheme.

The top six clubs in every European country may be financed by the Mafias but sooner or later the rest will have to live in the financial land of reality. By the look of the accounts yesterday, West Ham´s financial position is no better that Portsmouth. Look at Real Madrid's finances, some dodgy stuff there.

With Tottenham, the finance of their new stadium is pretty secretive, it all involves off-shore accounts. Do the maths add up for Tottenham´s new stadium? Is the Spurs board department really serious or are they playing mind games with their fans with being on par with Arsenal? It´s all about Champions League football each year, if they don´t get there every year, Arsenal´s and Liverpool´s accounts may start to look like West Ham´s!

Arsenal look as though they have been infiltrated by the Russian Mafia. Football is so corrupt, it always has been but none (games have always been rigged) so more than today.''

by Hook Hammer
12:56AM 17th Jan 2012
''Totally agree mate - if we can stay at the Boleyn and increase capacity to 50,000 (and I don't think we're ever gonna attract many more than that, apart from a final/semi/play-off) then the OS with running track and no atmosphere is a non-starter.

Re-develop the Chicken Run. End of.''

by Orange Hammer
08:54PM 16th Jan 2012
''I thought when plans were drawn up it would take the capacity up to 40,500. I could see 44 but never 50. Unless they can expand into Priory Road, which now the bus garage has gone may be possible. It would be nice though.''

by David
08:32PM 16th Jan 2012
''There are two things that concern me with staying in Upton Park:

1 - when a player comes to the ground for the first time will he think "wow, this is a big club - I want to play here". For me it's all about perception. Approaching the Olympic Stadium from the A102 will be a very different experience than driving down Green Street.

2 - with the Olympic Stadium WHUFC are also buying into a new transport infrastructure.''

by ben Fay
05:09PM 16th Jan 2012

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