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A legacy for West Ham

Filed: Wednesday, 5th December 2012
By: Graeme Howlett

This is a momentous day in the history of West Ham United Football Club.

The prospect of moving two miles across the London borough of Newham to Stratford, part of the original London parish of West Ham, could potentially grant this famous old club the opportunity to rub shoulders with the giants of the English game.

Yet that possibility is anathema to some of the club’s supporters who remain vehemently opposed to uprooting from the Boleyn Ground, our home for the last 107 years.

The most recent poll on KUMB.com, conducted shortly after the conclusion of the hugely-successful 2012 Olympic Games resulted in 64 per cent of supporters voting IN FAVOUR of moving to the Olympic Stadium. However the poll prior to that – conducted just eight months earlier – saw 61 per cent of fans vote AGAINST the move.

The arguments from the antis are many and varied. The Boleyn Ground is our home, they say – and a stadium that is more than sufficient for a club of West Ham’s stature. Others believe that the club has little chance of filling 60,000 seats on a regular basis; just where will the additional 25,000 fans come from?

Others are suspicious of the co-owners’ motives; is this simply just one final pay-day for the septuagenarian David Gold and his long-term business partner David Sullivan - a vanity project? Why would they sell a ground the club owns to take a tenancy elsewhere? And why, despite repeated promises, have the supporters never been fully consulted about the move? Surely disaster that way lurks.

Yet those in favour of the move argue that this is a golden opportunity for West Ham United that simply can’t be overlooked; a once-in-a-lifetime chance to place a club forged on the dockside of the East End shipyards by philanthropist Arnold Hills during the latter years of the 19th century in the upper echelons of English – and potentially European - football.

The fantastic transport links mean that supporters from all over Western Europe will be no more than a few hours away from London. More seats mean that the club could afford to offer cheaper tickets too, enticing back many long-term supporters for whom Premier League football is simply too expensive presently.

The prospect of playing in an internationally-renowned arena, in the globe’s most prestigious league would attract some of the world’s best players – players who would be affordable as a result of the added income from lucrative sponsorship, commercial and marketing deals. Retractable seating will bring the supporters as close to the pitch as they are at the Boleyn. It’s a no-brainer.

As in most scenarios, the truth probably lies somewhere between the two. For those of us who once stood on the old north or south banks with our fathers and grandfathers, leaving Upton Park will be a huge wrench – as it will have been for those former Highbury, Roker Park and Baseball Ground stalwarts.

But perhaps, as author John Niven wrote, “It is the brave and great man who ... resists inertia and smashes on through to the far side.” Or as Del Boy Trotter would have put it, “he who dares wins, Rodders”.

Regardless of the supporters’ views, It is abundantly clear that West Ham United at the Olympic Stadium is a prospect that has other London teams seriously worried.

Daniel Levy of Tottenham Hotspur and Barry Hearn of Leyton Orient have gone to considerable lengths to scupper West Ham’s bid – whilst former Hammers chairman Terry Brown revealed some time ago how David Dein, the ex vice-chair of Arsenal, admitted that the prospect of West Ham moving to the Olympic Stadium “frightened him to death”.

Whatever form the move to Stratford will eventually take, it will certainly mean the end of West Ham United as we know it. A team that was once cited as “everyone’s second favourite club”, a team the great Bill Shankly described as “nice football, nice family club – two points” will be transformed beyond recognition.

Much has been spoken about legacy since the closing ceremony of the Olympic games. Following Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier today, all we as long-suffering West Ham United supporters can do is place our trust in the current owners to deliver their own legacy worthy of this great club.

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 Del
02:54AM 14th Dec 2012
''It's not the current generation of supporters we have to win over, it's the future ones. The best way to do that is to get those kids that will be living in the new neighbourhoods that will be springing up all over the Olympic Park, they are almost a captive market.
And if we are going to win them over, we need to be where they will notice us, if West Ham are in that stadium they will not fail to.

If we don't move, why will they head to the Boleyn, as opposed to the Lane or the Emirates? Or worse, they'll stay at home and watch it all on TV and support Manchester United and Chelsea and we will lose the biggest opportunity an English club has ever had.''

by Tell it how it is Charlie!
06:05PM 5th Dec 2012
''I think the only thing that scares most supporters is the distance from the pitch. But from a financial point of view it´s a no brainer. 80m GBP In debt but the turnover over the new stadium will be 80m which will allow the debt to be written down. You can see why G&S are so desperate to move.

West Ham now become one of the main challengers to the dominance oligopoly of London football (Chelsea & Arsenal). However, from history the club must learn from its mistakes and be run in a financially prudent way.

I think as soon as the date becomes nearer to the move most fans will be enthusiastic. But the onus now must be on the club to reduce seat prices. The way to get the community involved is to give unprivileged kids and families the chance to attend. Whether that´s in G&S's financial plans, who knows. ''

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