Talking Point

Mind the Gap

Blind Hammer assesses how much financial pressure West Ham can place on the top 4 positions and wonders if we will need to manage expectations from our move to the OS.

Leicester’s upsetting of the form book was a memorable highlight of last season, along with our sparkling performances at Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool. For the first time in a long time the apparent “right” of clubs with greater financial resources to dominate the top of the Premier League was shaken up. Chelsea finished in an unfamiliar 10th place and Manchester United, despite winning the FA Cup missed out on Champion’s League qualification.

As well as Leicester and ourselves , Tottenham also achieved above most expectations grabbing a Champion’s League spot, whilst Arsenal provided the consistency which many of their fans complain about, in grabbing for yet another season, a Champion’s League berth. The relative fluidity of places in the top 4, plus the prospect of moving into the Olympic Stadium has caused some excitement that West Ham are also poised to break into the top four of the Premiership. Paul Merson has predicted that West Ham will be a Champion’s League club by 2019. The argument goes is that the move to the OS will allow West Ham the financial clout to compete with the top four. Whilst West Ham may compete on the pitch, whether they can compete, in the short term financially is less certain.

Despite the relative decline of Chelsea and Manchester United the extent to which their financial resources still dwarf that of West Ham is sobering. Not many football supporters realise the sheer size of the inequality in resources in the Premiership. Sullivan has gone on record as saying that he expects turnover at West Ham to increase next year because of increased ticket sales, but this increases is not as much as you would expect as the club lose exclusive rights to catering and other sources of revenue from activities such as stadium tours. Sullivan estimated that the club would receive a net £12 million boost from the move to the OS.

Whilst this is a welcome increase in resources, it is a drop in the ocean when we compare it to existing turnovers in the Premier League. The latest figures available are for the 2014-2015 season. In that year Manchester United had a turnover of £395 million, and Chelsea had £319 million. Their turnover figures were both massively higher than West Ham’s, about 3 times higher, at £121 million. The gap between West Ham and Manchester united and Chelsea turnover was therefore £274 million and 198 million respectively. In other words the gap in financial power alone dwarfed West Ham’s complete turnover. As you might imagine similar gaps exist between us and Manchester City and Arsenal. Arsenal’s turnover of £345 million was £224 million bigger than ours and Manchester City’s at £352 million was £231 million greater. Even Liverpool at £298 million was £177 million ahead of us.

So whilst with the move to the Olympic Stadium West Ham can start a process of catch up, we should have no illusions as to the scale of the financial mountain we have to climb. Financial resources are not, as we have seen last season, necessarily a guide to performance. Newcastle united had a greater turnover than West Ham, at £129 million, yet still managed to suffer relegation. Yet across Europe if we look at a table of turnover we find that money provides results. The clubs with the largest turnovers tend to prevail. The reality is that over time money talks, clubs are able to buy in the players they need to compete at the top level.

In fact, a good way of judging the performance of your club is to compare results against the turnover table. West Ham was 9th in the turnover table, so can be judged, in finishing 7th to have performed well, punching above their weight.

So given the turnover table that are the sides around us who are our nearest competitors? Well the good news for next season at least is that 2 of our nearest turnover competitors were relegated. Newcastle was 2 places above us at £129 million, whilst Villa was one place behind us at £116 million. This means that, looking upwards, our nearest competitor was Everton at £126 million, and looking behind, Southampton at £114 million. With these competitors our yearly £12 million increase will potentially make a difference, however as we know Everton have been promised extra investment to try and maintain their edge.

For many of us though the most pertinent question is what is the gap between West Ham and Tottenham? The gap in turnover between West Ham and Tottenham is not as big as other top 6 clubs but is still substantial. Tottenham at £198 million is a hefty £77 million greater than West Ham. Tottenham Also have plans to move into a 61,000 seater stadium. Whilst the terms of this stadium construction is unlikely to approach the deal available to West Ham at the OS, it does mean that, unlike West ham, they will have exclusive rights to income generated from their stadium.

Much will depend, over the next 10 years, as to the extent that West Ham can extend their commercial revenues amongst an expanded supporter base both at home and abroad. In this they are involved in a race with other clubs to unlock resources in developing world markets. However the consequences of the gap will also tend, I imagine, over time to increase pressure on ticket prices at the OS.

The existing gap in resources is a reality background we should bear in mind when we move to the OS. We will not, as a result of moving to the OS become a club with the resources of Tottenham and Liverpool, let alone Chelsea or Arsenal overnight and we may have to manage expectations. If the project all goes according to plan West Ham can start the long process of overhauling the gap which exists between us and these clubs above us in the turnover table. As with everything results will be critical. Attempts to expand the turnover potential of the club will flounder if the team struggles in their new home. For myself I will keep an eye on the turnover table. If our results on the pitch match or exceed our financial turnover I will consider each season a success.

COYI

David Griffith


Talking Point

I Feel Completely Ripped Off by West Ham United & I Won't Stand For It

Like many of you, I shelled out £50 to buy my seat at the end of the season. The price included delivery. Or so I thought.

This evening I got an email from the ticket office to say that, well, actually, they’re terribly sorry but it doesn’t now include delivery and would I like to make “one final pilgramage” to the Boleyn Ground to collect it. No I bloody wouldn’t.

They then give a link to click through to to have it delivered, at an extra cost of… wait for it… £12.99! A nice little profit there.

The fact that the bloody seat is made of plastic and is actually worth 25p doesn’t seem to have occurred to them.

I expect my seat to be delivered for the price I originally paid. That was the contract I made with West Ham United. If they don’t wish to fulfil their part of the bargain they can refund the money and keep the seat.

I’m f****** furious.


Player News

Valencia Sparks Ecuador Comeback

Congratulations to Enner Valencia, who scored Ecuador’s first goal in their 2-2 draw with Peru in the Copa America Centenario last night. Los Amarillos, who had drawn their opening match of the tournament 0-0 with Brazil over the weekend, found themselves 2-0 down after just 13 minutes before Valencia controlled a chipped pass on his chest inside the penalty area and rifled home a volleyed shot in the 39th minute.

Ecuador take on Haiti in their final match in Group B on Sunday – Valencia’s side will qualify for the quarter-finals if they win that match and Peru lose to Brazil. The Ecuadorians would be most likely to face Colombia in the last eight. The Hammers forward’s strike last night was his 15th international goal in his 26th appearance.


The S J Chandos Column

What does next season hold for Diego Poyet?

When West Ham signed Diego Poyet on a Bosman deal it was widely lauded as something of a coup. He won Charlton’s player of the year award for 2013-14, his debut season, despite only making his first appearance for the Addicks, in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, in January 2014 and making a total of 20 league appearances. With his existing Charlton deal expiring on 1 July 2014, he subsequently signed a four year contract with the Hammers on 8 July 2014. Poyet had established a reputation as a top prospect and it was widely anticipated that he would continue his progress with the Hammers and go on to become a first team regular.

Yet, the reality of his time at West Ham has proven somewhat different from that anticipated. He has made a mere three appearances for the club, over two seasons, (one in each of the PL, League Cup and Europa Cup), and has spent the vast majority of his time out on loan. Over that period, he spent time at Huddersfield Town, Milton Keynes Dons and Charlton Athletic, making a grand total of 26 appearances for all three clubs. There is nothing unusual in young prospects spending time out on loan, just look at the successful loans enjoyed by Burke, Cullen and Samuelson last season. However, Poyet’s loan experience has sharply contrasted with that of the aforementioned youngsters. He made 2 appearances for Huddersfield, had his loan to MK Dons cut short after 18 appearances and made little impact at Charlton, where he appeared only 6 times.

Those statistics are disappointing for such a talented young player. Charlton were relegated from the Championship at the end of the last campaign, and the situation at the club was undoubtedly problematic, but surely Poyet should still have featured more prominently for his former club? When a young player consistently fails to perform whilst out on loan it does inevitably raise alarm bells about their development and ability to succeed in the top tier of English football. Alternatively, perhaps Poyet has been exceptionally unlucky with the clubs that he has joined on loan and this record has given somewhat of a false impression? Is it not premature to write off Poyet’s potential just yet, considering that youngsters can develop at different rates and often suffer dips in form as part of the developmental process?

It does pose an interesting question that Slaven Bilic will need to address over the summer. Arguably, there are three options. The club can decide to cut their losses and put Poyet up for sale; they can determine to put him out on loan again, to a decent Championship side, and closely monitor his progress; or (and this is the bravest option) they can retain him in the first team squad next season and utilise him in the demanding PL, domestic cup and Europa League programme that we face. With Alex Song exiting the club, there is probably a need for another out and out defensive midfielder to cover for Nordtvelt and Obiang. But the problem for Poyet is that he has an outstanding prospect like Reece Oxford ahead of him for that role. If it did, indeed, boil down to a straight choice between Oxford or Poyet, which would you choose?

So I guess the key proposition offered for discussion is: which of the three options, outlined above, do you consider most likely with regard to Poyet next season?

SJ. Chandos.


Talking Point

The Culture Of Football Fans - Are We A Modern Day Tribe?

Football appears to be a consistently evolving economical force. With a seemingly endless supply of commercial opportunities, we’ve seen more money pumped into the sport so those wealthy enough can get even more money out of it. At the age of 25, I may have grown-up in the ‘modern football era’ but even in a relatively short period of time, I’ve seen massive changes in the structure of competitions, the running of football clubs, the mentality of players and most recently, where a club might call ‘home’. Although there may be several contributing factors to these changes, there is most certainly one thing that rules all. Money.

When analysing the impact money has had on the sport of football, I began to wonder if there was one thing money might not change. One thing that the greed of others and potential financial reward couldn’t alter. Aside from the cynics amongst us, I believe there is one thing that hasn’t changed (or at least hasn’t changed so drastically) in the game of football. What it means to be a fan. Not what it’s like to be a fan, we know match day tickets can cost a small fortune nowadays (not to mention the obligatory pie and cuppa that goes with it) and you practically have to take out a loan to buy the latest version of your team’s kit. That is the experience of being a fan, I’m referring to the emotion of being a fan. Our passion for a certain team, our adulation of our favourite players, the ecstasy we can’t contain after beating our local ‘enemies’ or the frustration we take out on others after losing three valuable points. We may not look like your perception of it, we may not act like your perception of it (for the most part anyway) but us true football fans are almost like a modern day tribe.

We have our ceremony of watching the game, our match day rituals and superstitions, the team we worship and the players we see as heroic figures. There’s our badge or crest that symbolises who we are, our tribal colours and garments that represent to whom we belong, as well as our chants and songs that are used to express our devotion. Many fans, including myself, go as far as having their team permanently etched onto their skin as a means of expressing such a deep connection to them. Although a group of strangers, we are brought together by our loyalty and shared beliefs, a common desire amongst us all, the desire to achieve dominance over other clubs. Our sense of belonging to this tribe and similar values as individuals can be determined by all kinds of reasons, be it territorial, hereditary or as is becoming increasingly common in later generations of fans, choice.

Certain connections are bound to be drawn between comparing football fans to a tribe. Hooliganism is one such comparison that I won’t be paying too much attention to. The aggressive and primitive actions that so often dominated society’s view of football in the past appears to be fading. That isn’t to say it is non-existent in the modern game, it just isn’t as prevalent as it was a few decades ago. The point of this article isn’t to analyse if we act like a tribe in terms of primal behaviours, it is to assess whether we feel like a tribe. In amongst all the changes in the modern game, do we, as fans, still feel like a community or is there as much disparity amongst us as there is between ourselves and those that have ‘control’ over the game?

There are, of course, exceptions to this notion of football fandom being a kind of modern day tribe. Nowadays, supporters seem happy to ‘jump ship’ and follow another club in the quest for success. Some supporters stake claim to multiple clubs and no longer have just one to which they devote all of their passion, they are selective and calculated rather than intuitive. This is why I refer to such people as ‘supporters’. They don’t become part of a club or immerse themselves in it, they merely ‘support’ a club. Foreign investment means the leaders, those in charge, no longer try to appease the community but simply try to bolster their bank balance. It may well be that gone are the days of fans having an influence over decisions made by the club. If the money involved in the game continues to grow as an overriding factor, we may end up with players being sold at will (providing the offer is big enough), regardless of how much they are loved by the club’s loyal following. Seeing someone who is a ‘fan favourite’ being employed as a club’s manager could quickly become a thing of the past.

For so many fans, who we support becomes part of who we are, a collective expression of identity. There may be various psychological factors that determine how this expression of identity is portrayed in our behaviour but at the very core, the identity remains the same. There are very few aspects of modern day life where people of different backgrounds, class, age, race and even political views can find common ground and feel as one in a community. I may be an optimist for believing that this idea of a tribal belonging still remains in football but that’s all it is, a belief. A hope, perhaps.

COYI


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