Filed: Monday, 9th April 2012
By: Terry Land
An ex-colleague for whom I have the highest regard is a strongly active member of the Labour Party and I read her Tweets with great interest. Not so much for details of her personal life – as amusing as they often are – but for the clinical precision with which she will dissect the latest idiocy coming from either Parliamentary or grassroots members.
I empathise with her undoubted frustration at believing in a cause so strongly yet being hampered at every turn by disunity, arrogance or stupidity. As trite as it may appear her travails as a political animal mirror mine as a football follower. You see, the truth is I often struggle not to despise people who would no doubt call themselves fellow West Ham supporters.
According to a longitudinal study by the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research at the University of Leicester West Ham season ticket holders are some of the wealthiest around (probably a function of the smallish ground and high demand which has led to relatively expensive ticket prices) yet at the same time among the poorest educated with a low proportion having attended tertiary education compared to other clubs.
As many other fans observe, Hammers are a bit “chavvy” – or to put it another way, working class-made-good. Living as I do in Suffolk the obvious comparison to make is with Ipswich whose supporters tend to be polite, respectful and a lot less raucous. Few self-respecting Irons would be seen dead wearing facepaint or many other symbols of the Sky corporate definition of what it is to follow “footy” even if replica shirts now abound. Town fans are much more volatile in their support – full of bravado when they win the same people disappear upon defeat. Most of all I don’t notice any shared sense of what it is to be a Tractor Boy.
To be West Ham is to be loud, proud and obnoxious. It’s no coincidence one of the most enduring chants over the years has been, “Same old West Ham, taking the piss” Throughout the 70s and 80s the feared ICF (Inter City Firm) came to define the support. Although a mate of mine who ran with them denies any tactical command, “We weren’t organised, we just set our clocks early” there is little doubt the proud boast “30 years undefeated” has some substance.
Contemporary football hooliganism has been all but eradicated but that legacy survives. Unfortunately with a median age over 50 it’s clear the same season ticket holders are still attending with a lost generation of 25-40 year-olds having missed out. Equally regrettably the previous aggression and sense of pride has been turned inwards into a sulky blanket disapproval of easy targets, principally the players and coaching staff. Meaningful protest has been forgotten as fans starved of considered media comment fail to make any connection between events on and off the pitch.
I strongly maintain the best thing about supporting a team, my team, are the people I meet and interact with – they’re the reason I keep going. But when it comes to doing the right thing for the club West Ham supporters seem to invariably choose the wrong option.
Former manager Harry Redknapp was adored by fans despite tactical illiteracy and a hold over then Chairman Terence Brown that allowed him to purchase and sell players not in the best interests of the club but for the betterment of his own bank balance. Admittedly protests were held against Brown – not least during several stormy AGMs. Far more damaging to the club however, were the subsequent Icelandic owners who all but propelled the club into liquidation but were saved any serious disquiet by canny PR. There’s a current revisionist platform that hails Alan Pardew’s reign as manager – particularly as under his stewardship Newcastle are having a good season – but the truth is he was disliked for most of his time at the club too despite taking us to our first domestic final in 25 years.
Although from the same background as the club’s support current co-Chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold are treated with at best mistrust and worst outright hostility despite being the first owners in the club’s 117 year history to put significant sums of their own money into the club (unfortunately the Icelanders investment turned out to be underwritten by Monopoly money). Current manager Sam Allardyce has the best win record of any manager but appears to be engaging an all-out PR war with his own support.
So it is with unease I view current plans among fan groups to demand a ballot on any proposed move from the Boleyn Ground to the Olympic Stadium in a mirror of the current fashion for TV viewers to "have their say" in regard to reality shows.
Leaving aside arguments over why non-shareholders might believe themselves worthy of representation only the most blinkered could possibly argue against a move on financial grounds. Club revenue will rise and ticket prices drop – hence Orient Chairman Barry Hearn’s antipathy to the move. Players would be more attracted to join the club and the sponsorship profile would rise. For spectators journey times to and from games would be slashed and pre and post-match comfort much improved from the dingy and derelict pubs surrounding Upton Park. Most importantly the increased capacity would enable the club to welcome back the lost fans I speak of.
Objections to the move are ostensibly based on the potential distance from stands to pitch with fans fearful of a diminution of atmosphere. Frankly this is hogwash, the current ground bears no relation to the dark, hostile and intimidating arena I first watched a game from in 1969. I’d suggest the real legitimation – and I’d have a lot more sympathy with this view – is the quite natural fear of change.
Sadly boys and girls, I believe our time is gone and a new generation of support is long overdue. If the club are to maintain traditions perhaps it’s time to ditch ours.
*Terry Land hosts a blog at moxycoxy.wordpress.com. He may also be found on Twitter at twitter.com/#!/AMoCS.
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.
02:58PM 20th Apr 2012
''"Objections to the move are ostensibly based on the potential distance from stands to pitch with fans fearful of a diminution of atmosphere. Frankly this is hogwash, the current ground bears no relation to the dark, hostile and intimidating arena I first watched a game from in 1969."
Nobody is comparing Upton Park circa-1969 with the Olympic Stadium. We are comparing it with an athletics stadium with the closest seat on the half way line equivalent to being sat on Priory Road behind the East Stand. Just because the Boleyn has less of the much hailed historical atmosphere (much to do with the pitch move in readiness for the halted east stand redevelopment and the all-seater requirements), doesn't mean we should throw away any hope of a decent atmosphere.
I am open-minded about the until we see the plans, but they need to be good to cover the track and have a roof that contains the noise on match day.''
by Rick Osborn
11:17AM 18th Apr 2012
''I understand the comments from supporters who regularly attend the BG since I have a lot of nostalgia for it though I have not been there since 1968 when I moved to the north. Since then I have only watched West Ham play on TV or when they played at Hillsborough or Bramall Lane.
In spite of my avidly following my boyhood club's progress for the last half century perhaps my absence from the BG for 40 years disqualifies my having a view on the proposed move to Stratford. Yet here I must admit to a vested interest. Since I have retired to East Anglia, I could get a train straight to Stratford and if the bigger stadium meant season tickets were easier to get, then I could become an attending fan again.
Maybe when you talk of consulting fans (presumably you mean season ticket holders) perhaps you should include potential holders as well as current ones. Mind you I agree with Chrissieboy when he says, "sod the Olympics, the government and Leyton Orient". That's surely something we can all agree on!''
by Claret&Blu, Thru
03:05PM 16th Apr 2012
''Terry, please sign me up for your campaign to move us to a "dark, hostile and intimidating arena". I'm all for that; you can't beat it and much better that than a plastic athletics stadium.''
09:01AM 13th Apr 2012
''I believe the board are doing an excellent job in terms of player recruitment and supporting the club with getting straight back to the Premier League; however, their stance on the Olympic Stadium needs addressing. Of course, West Ham fans should be consulted and allowed a vote on whether we move to Stratford or not. We are the mugs who pay week-in-week-out to keep this club going. If they want us to continue supporting the club in such great numbers, they must allow a vote. To be brutally honest, the board are being increasingly reluctant to share information with us on the proposed move. Brady and Sullivan in particular worry me and until I see a clear blueprint of what will happen around the move, I will not support it.
Our ticket prices are among the most expensive in English football still and that doesn't look like changing. Yes, we regularly get 33,000+ but against Reading a friend of mine turned up on the door and still paid £43 for a ticket. Even in a 60,000 seater stadium (which we will not fill) are you seriously saying that ticket prices will become more affordable? If attendances stay the same then I can assure you they will not.
Your last sentence irritates me a little; I am a young West Ham supporter and I love our history and traditions as do a lot of my friends. ''
by Johnny Foriegner
08:21AM 12th Apr 2012
''Your apparent need to despise people that don't share your point of view perhaps explains why you have swallowed hook, line and sinker the Gold, Sullivan and Brady instant business success plan without question.
I thought as fans we were the shareholders? We invest our cash every year, often more than we can afford, as well as investing a great deal of our time and emotion. The move is a huge issue which personally I understand but it is irreversible - we will be losing a home that we own for one that will be reviewed I believe annually. Maybe we could fill it in time, will it be with people that actually care who stay the distance? That will continue to turn up for the dross that we have mostly been served up this year?
You go ahead and trust without question the people who sacked a person that kept us up and appointed a person that took another club down - and did nothing until it was too late - and we can rattle in the Olympic Stadium or be outnumbered by away fans. I will be at the games for as long as I can afford wherever they are, but I would prefer a full to capacity Upton Park than an empty stadium watching through binoculars any day of the week.''
02:29PM 11th Apr 2012
''I'm very surprised by this article. It's negative towards the fans, the club and pretty much everything else. What's more surprising is the hypocrisy. I completely agree with Doc H Ball's comments above, should there only be a vote if you say it's ok? You can't berate fans' opinions and then deliver one of your own, expecting it to be well received.
I understand the benefits and drawbacks of the move, from a business perspective and from a fans perspective. But I know there's not enough information available, yet, to build a conclusive view. Just because you disagree with others certainly doesn't make you right, or an authority on the subject.
You almost want to say that if you're not over 50 then you're not a real fan? How ridiculous. And if you dont think that having a running track around the stadium will be problematic just ask Juventus, or a host of other European teams that have committed to huge debts to get new stadiums. Not for the fun of it, but to get away from the athletic tracks that kill their atmosphere, views and enjoyment. Thats a fact, not opinion.
I love West Ham and support my club unconditionally, so I won't be spoken to like I'm some small-minded idiot that doesn't know what he's talking about. How disrespectful to all the fans around the world that don't meet your criteria. I'm surprised this has even been published! It's a poor reflection on you and on this great site.''
02:09PM 11th Apr 2012
''Sadly the Boleyn has changed, but can you blame football fans of a club that is at times in the top flight for not wanting to be the only team there that plays in an athletics stadium rather than a proper football stadium?
Sod the Olympics, the Government and Leyton Orient. The only way West Ham should move to the site is if they can rebuild the stadium and sod athletics. Arsenal did all the things you stated we could do by moving to a purpose built football stadium. Why should we help out the Government with their poorly planned white elephant? You damn West Ham fans for not protesting about important things and then question their right to make demands about where we play football?''
by Nigel Kahn
08:32PM 10th Apr 2012
''I doubt you have even spoken to any one from that campaign group you decry. You use the word non-shareholders instead of SUPPORTERS, because that's what we are, people that have stood by the club through thin and thin. Being dragged to somewhere that is not a football stadium, you spin the club's tales as if they are gospel yet if they turn out to be false will perhaps jeopardise the future of this club more so than remaining at the Boleyn.''
by Doc H Ball
10:40PM 9th Apr 2012
''So you are 'uneasy' that fans are pressurising the club to hold a ballot because, in your opinion, 'only the most blinkered' are against a move.
There should only be a vote if people agree with you eh? Having spoken to approx 500 fans outside the ground today, I can assure you that there is a range of sophisticated opinion. What is startlingly obvious is that there has been no consultation, no proper fan representation and that this is far more than a 'reality show'.
Liberals make the worst reactionaries. ''
by Eamon Quinn
07:41PM 9th Apr 2012
''A poor piece in my view and massively out of step with most fans that are regular matchday attendees. Having been inside the Olympic Stadium the viewing distances are a huge increase compared with what we have now and are a legitimate reason to object to a move - far from hogwash.
As for your comment about non-shareholders believing themselves worthy of their views being taken on board, well, frankly your naivity is breathtaking .I assume you fully approve of MK Dpns playing in Milton Keynes: what if the shareholders decided to relocate us to Devon? Billy Bragg may approve but few others will.
Your other conclusion that it is the fear of change that lies at the heart of the massive opposition to relocating shows a deeply patronising view of our supporters. Many of us engage in change on a daily basis, and accept it if the benefits of changing have been explained. Sadly, despite your confidence in the club's revenue rising, coupled with lower ticket prices has yet to be confirmed in any meaningful way.
You don't even know what next season's ticket prices are, yet you are happy to accept some vague promise that the OS will herald a new dawn in low priced tickets.
I wish I sold insurance in your street...''
by Mutley 1071
03:21PM 9th Apr 2012
''A couple of points.
The Icelandic takeover was unfortunate, nobody knew a recession would be a disaster. Especially the way it would affect West Ham.
I never thought of Pardew as particularly unpopular, correct me if I'm wrong but didn't we used to sing "Alan Pardew's claret and blue army"? No manager has been graced such an honour since as far as I can recall.
As far as the OS goes I don't really know, my heart is torn and will be upset Iif we leave our home, but not neccesarilly regret it. I do trust our owners and believe they are the right men for the job.''
03:07PM 9th Apr 2012
''Terry, great article! agree with all you say.''
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