Friday, 23 November 2018
Reading time 3 minutes 47 seconds
The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves – Sarah Connor.
I’m a happier person these days but the one constant stream of sadness, coupled with anger, has always been my football team. I console myself that I’m not an Arsenal fan.
With the lovely football season in full swing I’d like to present an article I had published in 2010 for a football fanzine. The article was set in the future, which eight years on is almost upon us, and its premise was to paint a bleak picture of impending doom for the club I support.
Some of the things I predicted at the time came true, some are still in flux. It’s title was;
‘West Ham United Football club the shape of things to come?’
The year is 2020 and London is truly an unremarkable place. Having had the Olympic games in 2012 and the populace uprising riots of 2014 it is a shadow of its former self. It’s hard to imagine London was once the hub of the world’s biggest empire.
Focusing on a small part of that terrible London decay I’d like to mention the downfall of West Ham United football club. I was a supporter and like generations before me I was born into it like a child is born to poverty. My Dad, Granddad and even his dad all supported West Ham. I grew up locally to the ground and when I finally could afford too I became a season ticket holder until the club folded in 2019.
West Ham United were a football club founded in the East End of London in 1895. They built up loyal support and as London changed during the 20th century so did the club. West Ham were famed for having some of the most loyal supporters in English Football. The team also had a number of players in the English world cup winning side of 1966 although the fans rarely mention this.
In 2011, West Ham united won the opportunity to develop the Olympic Stadium in East London as its new 60,000 seat ground after its use in the British 2012 Olympic games. This was to be the death blow for West Ham which only some of the fans could see at the time.
The stadium was an athletics stadium and not a football one. The men of power who were running West Ham at the time were brilliant business men. They excelled in making money for themselves, initially from the pornography industry then moving into a business with more sex and scandal, namely English Premiership Football.
Despite the numerous campaigns by fans and local businesses the owners were moving to the new Athletic stadium, the now famous White Elephant of the London 2012 Olympic legacy.
The owners professed to being fans and saw this as a way to “save the club and build for the future”. As we now know it was based around them making more money and bolstering their already large financial coffers.
The West Ham team at the time showed everything that was great about the English game and the fighting spirit of those courageous players will live with me and all West Ham fans forever.
The move to the new stadium in 2013 was the beginning of the end for West Ham United. West Ham beat Tottenham Hotspur in bidding for the ground as they promised to keep Athletics at the grounds heart. The atmosphere in the new stadium was incomparable to the fantastic atmosphere of the ground at Upton Park. The running track around the outside kept fans away from the action. There were only 40,000 supporters every week which had only changed by a few thousand in West Hams worse years. 40,000 passionate people in a stadium built for 80,000 and reduced to 60,000 does not a good atmosphere make.
West Ham had a bleak season. They had two managers, neither of whom made it to the end of the season. They finished bottom of the table and were relegated.
In the following season the fans stopped attending and numbers halved. A Facebook poll asking why fans were staying away was cited as being largely down to the atmosphere and the view.
The promises made in 2007 for the 2012 Olympic village and surrounding area never materialised once the games had finished. The East end of London returned to be the boil the on the back side of London as it had always been.
There were no pubs or local businesses near the stadium. To get there you had to walk through Europe’s largest shopping centre which ironically would not allow football fans through it every other week meaning you had to walk an extra 20 minutes through a horrible barren Olympic waste ground.
During this time Green Street where West Ham United had been located went into steep decline. By not having 30,000 people every other week spending money the area regrettably did not survive. Westfield shopping centre opened in Stratford this was also another blow for this once vibrant community. The old once famous and respected Boleyn ground was developed into flats and made the owners even more money.
With West Ham relegated season after season, fan numbers dwindled by their thousands every year until eventually only a few old hard core fans would go to games. If you thought 40,000 people in a stadium built for 80,000 then “converted” to 60,000 seats was bad it was disastrous with only a few thousand. West Ham could not financially support itself and eventually went into administration
The stadium was never used again for football
The premiership continues to survive and West Ham is now only a distant memory in the fast moving world of football.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if fans had a vote on moving to that stadium maybe we would have said say no and maybe the owners would have listened. As normal in business the real stakeholders were not communicated to. All other London clubs survived and only the once Mighty West Ham failed for the age old reason of Greed. I know me and the other 39,999 other fans in the stadium of those great and painful days would agree with me if asked back then should we move.
Rest in Peace West Ham United you are sorely missed
M.D Wills Shortbloke@gmail.com February 12th 2020
Photo: Bear with me