Filed: Thursday, 11th August 2016
By: Paul Walker
It wouldn’t be West Ham, would it, without an almighty row to herald the most important and historic season of our history.
And this one could have been avoidable. But who is to blame? Well the now defunct, infamous Reservation Centre stands fully in the firing line.
That is if they had not been fired already after completing the task of shunting thousands of fans from the lovely old Boleyn to the plastic and steel palace next to the river Lea, which I recall as a kid to be a poisonous, stagnant, unusable derelict wasteland between my dad’s old house off the Roman Road in Bow and Stratford.
We now find ourselves with darling Karren coming on all dominant telling us we cannot stand at our new home and our season tickets--you know, the ones that only arrived this week--will be confiscated before we have been able to read the welcome pack properly, one that included a nice, warm, lovable letter of welcome from Lady Highbury. Blimey, she changed her spots in less than 24 hours.
I started Wednesday running around waving my new season ticket above my head (of course I never doubted it would arrive, I only paid for it in April) and ended the day with a black mood and an whatsApp argument with a young mate who was all for standing up or chucking back his ticket.
But back to the reservation centre cowboys. Folk who are probably on short term contracts and have now disappeared into the ether, will say almost anything to acquire their bonuses…and telling people there would be designated standing areas at the Olympic, sorry London, Stadium was not worth the computer it was clicked on.
Those reservation folk have got a lot to answer for. Fans’ forums are flooded with complaints about lies being told to fans when they switched from the Boleyn . You would have thought Boris Johnson was running the show and was going to be Prime Minister. (He was? He didn’t?) Now come on, I‘ve been away a while for the summer, I’ll believe most things but as long as we are still in the EU and my Euros are still worth something. (We’re not! They aren’t! now stop it, be serious.)
It does not take a genius to know that under current safety regulations, local Council directives and Premier League rules, there is no such thing as designated standing areas at English Premier League grounds. That only happens in Scotland, who have different regulations and are governing themselves these days, anyway.
Do I believe the reservation centre lot told people this? Too right I do. It fits in with a load more porkies. A mate of mine’s friend(!) tells of how he once had a wonderful front row seat in the Bobby Moore Upper and upgraded to the West Stand because he was frightened of being too far away from the action. He was told he would be four rows from the front and now finds himself seven rows behind the media area. Not really the right sort of company, and I know that for sure.
There are too many stories of downright lies being told to our ’founders’ from the Boleyn for these things to be invented, or isolated incidents. Take the folk who paid big bucks to sit behind the dug-outs, only to find themselves 40 yards from the action. The stories go on and on.
But we are stuck with it, and my feelings at the Domzale game was that everyone really wanted to make this work, really go for it to bring the Boleyn atmosphere to Stratford. The first-ever rendition of Bubbles that night had tears in my eyes.
And when I finally get to my real seat in the Bobby Moore Lower, I’ll let you know whether I need binoculars. Ticketmaster told me the stadium was almost sold out and I couldn’t buy my own seat for the first Europa League match, so I had to have one in the top tier at the other end. I now know the problem was over a new safety certificate.
By the way, the Ticketmaster girl asked me whether West Ham and West Ham United were the same thing because it was too confusing for her looking at her screen! God help us.
The folk I have watched with for years now all stand up, but you could see this problem coming, because this is not our ground anymore, it is owned and run by a French company who have their own set of ground regulations. West Ham used to have theirs at the Boleyn, and delicately chose not to enforce them. But those were the old days.
We now have a prestige, shiny new stadium, a new brand and a worldwide name to uphold. Loads of dodgy geezers standing up, arguing and generally making the place look untidy were not part of the script.
For once I felt a bit sorry for our very own Baroness. The fuss that had occurred for the Europa League and then Juventus game, largely by 'tourists' who won't be there for the real stuff, meant the new landlords flexed their muscles, with something like 25,000 new fans in the ground, the sort that bring wives, kids and popcorn to matches and for some odd reason, wanted to see the match without peering round some fat bloke from Dagenham.
So Karren had to be more Dragons’ Den than Apprentice. The law had to be laid down. The threats put out there for the masses.
We all know it is not illegal to stand at matches, the only thing in statute is that stadium owners must provide a seat for me to sit on. The rest is civil stuff with local authority and football regulations which mean people can be thrown out, have their season tickets withdrawn but nothing that involves the Old Bill unless someone throws a punch that is.
So now, instead of looking towards this momentous season with a smile on our faces, it is scowls and threats all round.
And I fear it will only get worse before it gets better. The stadium owners, who employ all the stewards, are on a mission. There will be a lot of threats and demands to sit down, and lets face it, our lot don’t take kindly being threatened by some oik in a high viz jacket.
Mind you, this could turn nasty if the French owners employ the tactics that Manchester United used when they had a two-season row with their former Clock End patrons who refused to sit down. CCTV footage was used to identify trouble makers, their addresses were found per the row and number on the seats and they had their tickets withdrawn by post, never to be seen again.
My fear is that this level of draconian action is likely because this is now not a tough little working class ground hidden in the backstreets but a state of the art showpiece that will be used to promote our ‘London’ brand.
That reminds me of a debate about our new badge and the London logo I had with a few friends. One of them suggested that what was missing was the foundation date of the club….2016 should be on it he suggested!
Such a shame all this has blown up now. The summer has been highly interesting and generally the club have organised the migration and the whole move well. There are teething problems, too much concrete, scaffolding and B and Q job-lot plastic sheeting on show but Lady H promises that will all be sorted out, even if she keeps waffling on about wraps…and I thought that a lady of her high standing would not be doing the catering.
On the pitch the transfer business, despite there being no £30million striker and weeks of nonsense over Carlos Bacca, the transfer upgrade has been impressive. Gone are the likes of Alex Song, Carl Jenkinson, Victor Moses, Emmanuel Emenike,Joey O’Brien, Elliott Lee and, sadly, James Tomkins, while I reckon the arrivals are a cut above that lot.
Sofiane Feghouli looks a class act, Andre Ayew--who ran riot against us for Swansea last term--and Gokhan Tore all have Champions League pedigree. Likewise the combative Havard Nordtveit and Arthur Masuaku, while young Ashley Fletcher looks a real player, my Manchester United friends are horrified they have let him leave Old Trafford.
My one real moan of the summer, the undignified departure of Tony Carr. A genuine, nice man who did so much to lay the modern, respected history of our club. For our owner to allow one of his teenage sons to bad mouth Carr’s legacy on social media and then to reveal details of the former Academy chief’s financial remunerations was tacky, lacked dignity and respect, and was infact insulting.Maybe even actionable.
Carr didn’t once complain about money when he talked to the Daily Mail, just the disrespectful way he had been treated, with a month of phone calls to the club hierarchy not being returned before some spotty youth from HR sent him £14,000 redundo in the post. That s not the way to treat a legend and I bet Lady H went potty when she saw our new image, the one she has been polishing for months, to be tainted in such a way. David Snr and Junior, you should be ashamed of yourselves on that one.
But then this is West Ham. Whatever the new image and brand, it wouldn’t be West Ham without a row and an almighty cock-up along the way.
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.
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