Saturday, 4 September 2010
Why we should stay at the Boleyn!
Take a walk around a council estate - though best don't do it late at night! Look at the lack of pride in the neighbourhood, at the sense of deprivation, at the sense of hopelessness. Then visit a road of owner occupiers. Feel the change, the sense of mini castles, of pride of owning a home, the sense of self respect.
I have heard a lot of twaddle about how a move to the Olympic Stadium is necessary for us to move "to the next level", as if moving to a 60,000 stadium is a passport to success, a guarantee of Champions League football. Look at Arsenal! Look at Man Utd! Look at...
Well if a 60,000 stadium is necessary and will take us to the new level, can anybody explain why the Kids for a Quid scheme was necessary to fill Upton Park for the first home game of the season against Bolton and why there were still 2000 empty seats? Can anybody explain why only 20,000 showed up for the Oxford game when a dad and son could get in for just £15? Can anybody explain why one game in, Goldfinger and Scullimanga were offering 5% discounts on season tickets? Can anybody explain why the mini season ticket offer was available for the last 6 games of last season, at heavily discounted prices? Can anybody explain why there is not a waiting list for season tickets and why there are not dozens of filthy rich touts working Green Street on match days? Our business savvy owners want to double the ground capacity and yet there is only excess demand for tickets for about 25% of our home games. That doesn't make great business sense to me.
Of course Basher and Goldie Horn say they want to reduce prices, to make the game accessible to kids and the poor. It's a lovely idea but I don't buy it personally. Why spend £100million (the Davids' estimate, not mine) if your revenue is not going to increase because ticket prices are reduced to fill the stadium? What sort of business model is that?
The brutal truth is that we are not a big club and moving to a big stadium won't transform us into one. Newcastle have a lovely stadium. That didn't stop them being relegated two seasons ago did it, and when did they last win a trophy? Tottenham's average home gate is only a few thousand more than ours and White Shite Lane fully deserves that nickname, yet they are in the Champions League regardless and are a much wealthier club than we have ever been and are ever likely to be. Yes they want to move to a new stadium but, as much as this may rankle, they have a much bigger fan base and they will fill it without discount schemes and without reducing prices. Moving to a new stadium MAY take Tottenham to the next level but that doesn't mean it will do the same for us. Would a transfer to the Olympic Stadium turn Orient into a big club? Of course not. Matches would simply be played in the footballing equivalent of a ghost town. And no, I am not comparing us to Orient, I am simply using an extreme example to highlight the flawed logic.
And here is another awkward question: do we really want to move to the next level? Do we support West Ham because we want to support a team that wins things, like the plastic fans of Chelsea and the Londoners who support Manchester United, or do we support West Ham because of the heritage and traditions of the club and because of the geographical location? I support West Ham because I was born in East Ham. My father supported West Ham for the same reason. My son supports West Ham because his Dad was born in East Ham and because he would have been put in a children's home if he had supported any other club!
Before the last game of last season, I took my son to Gaitskell House in Katherine Road, where my grandparents used to live, and we "walked the walk" that I used to walk with my father on match days when I was an excited kid going to Upton Park. My father has been dead for more than 20 years, but during that walk he was alive, walking at my shoulder, moaning about Clyde Best in exactly the same way that fans on the way to the Man City game that day were moaning about Carlton Cole. I could hear him, see him, feel the pride in having a Dad who supported West Ham, the club of Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Bobby Moore. The houses were the same, the blocks of flats were the same, the railway bridge was the same. We even stood and waited for a train to go underneath so I could remember the excitement I used to feel as a kid when that happened.
Green Street has changed - but not much. The shops have changed and the market has a roof and the Asian community has swelled over the decades since my early journeys to the ground but Green Street is still Green Street - not a stupid film but our home, the home of West Ham United, the home of a footballing community, of a footballing ethos, the cradle of England's World Cup winning team. Green Street is our family home, it is what makes West Ham West Ham, just like our Claret and Blue shirts. Green Street is where we live, where the family has always lived, Green Street is our castle, our family home, the connection with our history, the home of Hurst, Peters, Moore, Greenwood, Lyall, Brooking, Devonshire, Cottee et all. The stadium has changed, almost out of all recognition, but the location hasn't. It is where we belong. We are West Ham because our ground is in Green Street. Move us and we cease to be West Ham, we lose our heritage, we lose our sense of gravity, we actually become the pikeys that Tottenham fans label us, travellers without a home of our own.
Dismiss this as romanticised nonsense if you will but it is far more than that. If we leave the Boleyn, we surrender our soul and like Faustus, we make a pact with the devil that we will live to regret. Without a stadium of it's own, a club has no substance, no roots, it becomes a forlorn council tenant. A move to the Olympic Stadium may not be a stepping stone to the promised land, but towards annihilation, towards name change to West Ham Olympic, then Olympic FC. This site will campaign against the move from this point forward.
Posted by Hammersfan at 11:23