West Ham United and the London Stadium (Olympic stadium) the changing face of football in London
London won the bid and was chosen to host the 2012 Olympic Games. The bid focused on a deprived area of East London, Stratford. The bid focused on the need of regeneration of this part of East London. Family incomes around Stratford where some of the lowest in London and unemployment was almost double the London. The aim was to have an Olympic park with facilities for use by the local population. The centrepiece of the park was the Olympic stadium itself, which was the host of all the running athletics at the games. The stadium had an 80,000 capacity. The Olympics was considered a great success but the Olympic stadium could not sustain itself as an athletics ground, the only sensible solution to such a large stadium was to get it used as often as possible which meant that only a football stadium could suit the needs of continual use.
View of the Olympic Park.
The owners of West Ham United wanted to move the club into the elite of Europe. A new large stadium was seen as one of the things needed to achieve this aim. Out of the four big clubs in London, Arsenal had moved into the 60,000 seat Emirates stadium, Tottenham are building a new 61,000 seat stadium and Chelsea plan a new 60,000. West Ham saw the Olympic stadium as the ideal location and ground to match the above mentioned teams who West Ham see as their rivals. Before West Ham got the rights to the stadium, Tottenham were also interested in moving to the Olympic stadium but West Ham gained the rights and Tottenham decided to build a new stadium next to White Hart Lane.
Besides a ground nearly double the size of their old ground Upton Park, the Olympic stadium features a large number of cooperate boxes which brings in a lot more finance. West Ham also have perks where they don’t have to pay for undersoil heating and floodlighting, dugouts for managers, changing rooms and toilets, security and cleaning and pest control. The only cost to West Ham is the cost of renting the stadium which is two and half million a year so in a business sense the move to the new stadium made perfect sense. But what do West Ham fans actually think about their new stadium, do they like it? I interviewed a couple of fans when I attended the match at the London stadium, Everton vs West Ham and also looked at fans comments on the internet and football message boards to find out what they think about their stadium.
Was it sad to leave Upton park and how did you find it?
West Ham fan Collin–Yes I found it extremely sad and depressing to leave a ground which our team have been playing at since 1904 to 2016. It’s a stadium jam packed full of history and great memories. For example here is a sensation historical fact that my Grandad told me, In August 1944, a V-1 flying bomb fell on the south-west corner of the pitch. This forced the team to play its games away from home while repairs were undertaken, but it did not affect performances as West Ham managed nine consecutive victories. And I just think that is sensational.
West Ham fan Johnson- As someone who had been attending matches at The Boleyn Ground since the mid-’70s as a child (following in family footsteps, which go back many more years) it was a tremendous wrench to leave Upton Park. However moving to Stratford was a new big step to become a big club and reach that next level.
How have you found the atmosphere at the London stadium this season?
West Ham fan Lisa- The atmosphere in the London stadium has been a mix between dreadful and brilliant, some matches the atmosphere has been so unbelievably bad and this mostly due to the terrible football which West Ham have played this season and the other factor is that the stadium was just not built as a football ground, the fans are so far away from the pitch it’s untrue you have to squint your eyes to just watch the match next season I will bring binoculars. However apart from all of that there has also been some games where the atmosphere has been absolutely fantastic such as the 2-2 draw against West-Bromwich It felt like I was in a real football stadium it was loud and the fans got behind their team, they allowed us to bring in huge flags into the stadium which where waved all around the stands.
West Ham fan Daniel- The atmosphere at the London stadium is horrendous I can’t tell you how many times I have almost fallen asleep this season due to the lack of noise and the poor football being played for example today that performance was unacceptable a 0-0 draw against Everton that has been the worst match I have ever been too in my life, there was no noise from both supporters and the lack of good football being played was terrible, so overall this stadium has a very poor atmosphere which we as fans must improve for next season if you want to achieve more because to me a football team is not just 11 players it’s 12 as the fans can contribute so much to the outcome of the game.
Are you hopeful of things improving for next season?
West Ham fan Johnson – I always have hope and I know that we will improve over time and the London stadium will soon become a fortress to West Ham where teams will struggle to play at, now how long it will take for us to achieve that I don’t know. My personal opinion is that we need to get a new manager in and get everyone the right attitude where we will start winning at home again.
West Ham fan Jimmy- I think, like most grounds, if the football is entertaining and the team are playing well you should be able to generate a decent atmosphere. It’ll never be The Boleyn, but West Ham fans can make Stratford their own over time. And as a West Ham supporter, I’m loathe to suggest that things can’t get any worse!
How hard has it been to replicate the atmosphere that would have been generated at the old ground?
West Ham fan Daniel -It would be impossible to replicate the atmosphere of the Boleyn in Stratford due to the vast distance between the pitch and the stands. There have also been a number of issues with the migration, such as no discernible family enclosure or singing/standing areas which has resulted in fans being dispersed all over the new stadium. This has certainly affected any atmosphere the ground could potentially generate.
West Ham fan Tim- Well if we ever do recreate the atmosphere that we had at Upton park then those would be happy days indeed, I would just say give it time we need to get used to the stadium with a spent a whole season there now and we will have a good summer hopefully get some good new players in, maybe even a new manager and come back next season stronger than ever and then we the will get behind that teams back and try to create an atmosphere
Do you think it’s had any impact on results this season?
West Ham Fan Dan- Oh, without a shadow of a doubt.
As has people leaving in droves before the final whistle in order to beat the (human) traffic ahead of the 15-minute walk to Stratford station and thousands of empty seats every match – the result of the club’s ‘+2’ scheme which enabled all season ticket holders to purchase up to three tickets during the migration process (many of which are left unused).
West Ham fan Ronald- Yes I blame every loss that we have had on our new stadium because look at last season in the table we finished 7th with 62 points and this season we was flirting with relegation for quite some time It’s just a complete joke and I hate this season if we was still at Upton Park I have a feeling we could win the league and I’m not just being delusional
The question is will West Ham fans ever get used to the London stadium?
The stadium has a capacity of 66,000 compared to the Upton Parks 35,016. This obviously brings in over 30,000 more fans with all the benefits that brings to the club on a match day such as ticket sales, food and drink, merchandises and programme sales etc. West Ham yearly match day revenue is estimated to rise to 40 million pounds compared to 26 million pounds at Upton Park. But many fans have claimed that the atmosphere has been diluted because lots of fans who used to go together and sing together are now separated from each other and there are also many new fans and season ticket holders who don’t stand and sing which has caused problems in the stadium. There has been fighting and some crowd trouble at the start of the season at the London stadium however as the season has gone on stewarding at the ground has improved.
A major complaint has been how far away from the pitch the crowd is, I have my own personal experience of this having attended West Ham vs Everton game, , whereas Upton park was very tight and closed in ground with the fans near the pitch. The London stadium is the complete opposite with a running track and a giant gap dividing the stands from the pitch. The area itself is very soulless because there’s not many pubs where the fans can come together for a drink before and after the match and many harden fans match day experiences have been destroyed because of this.
West Ham Board member Karren Brady described the move to the London Stadium as “a real opportunity to change the brand values of the club”- a comment which felt a bit like a euphemism for trading in West Ham’s working class East End identity for something more marketable.
However in reality there’s no going back for West Ham United the old Upton Park has been sold and construction work for new housing has been started on the site. In today’s football world you need a big stadium bringing in extra revenue which is a must in the era of Financial Fair play and to be able to compete with other top teams. It’s only been the first year and in the coming seasons the fans will get more used to going to certain areas of the ground. And having a good team on the pitch is always a help and in their first season West Ham United have struggled. Arsenal moved into their Emirates stadium in 2006, Tottenham are moving into their new stadium in 2019, Chelsea have plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge and even the Champion ship teams QPR and Brentford have plans to build new stadiums. West Ham are just part of the new face of football London and are trying to compete with the other top London teams and in the future Europe’s elite with this aim the new stadium may not be to all fans liking but it’s an necessity.
Liverpool ECHO 9th April 2017
BBC SPORT 14 April 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/36047809
Why was London chosen for the 2012 Olympics? Source London 2012 https://www.rgs.org/NR/rdonlyres/1E506FE2-3179-439C-81F2-B43D0B97D058/0/CGT_NetRaising_8Olympicpresentation.pdf
West Ham’s first season at London Stadium: a ‘terrible’ experiences or a step forward? The Guardian 28th April 2017
Life at the London Stadium in West Ham’s fans owns words 16th February 2017
West Ham TV