The GoatyGav Column

The Way Forward For Professional Football

With key players in world football getting together on a video conference later today (tomorrow as I write) there appears to be several options open to the professional game.

Despite the fact it’s been discussed at length I believe that there’s real value in gaining a consensus. Perhaps a survey could be compiled on this very site to give an indication of popular opinion. With that in mind I wanted to float some of the current ideas, that are kicking around, past you wise and knowledgeable lot.

It looks like it could be some time before games can begin again. There are all manner of contracts to satisfy, honours, qualifying and relegation all to be decided and knock on effects on other competitions to be put to bed by Premier and Champion’s league fixture completion. So what to do?

Personally I would like to see the current season completed when possible. There is the option to scrap it and start again however my heartfelt opinion is that it would be grossly unfair, and litigiously questionable, to do so. The only positive that I could draw would be the potential for Bury to be re-instated if they could prove they were capable of completing their fixtures under the league’s stipulations.

So what to do if the current season is to be completed? To add to the difficulty in achieving the closing out of the various campaigns you have the uncertainty of when it might be safe to begin playing games again. This article won’t list every conceivable option and, no doubt, many alternative solutions will be put forward. I certainly hope that’s the case anyway.

To outline some of the options I’ve numbered them as follows: -

1. Increase the frequency of fixtures, played behind closed doors, or in open stadia, when safely possible, to bring the season to a conclusion on time (target final game Sunday 17th May).

2. Complete this season at the normal game frequency and make next season shorter or less time pressed by

a. Cancelling 2020-21 season cup competitions

b. Reducing 2020-21 season cup competitions to one round only

c. Each team playing each other team only once during 2020-21

d. Cancelling International football (including all tournaments and European Nations League qualifying matches)

e. Postponing International football (eg. Euros to be moved to Jan 2021 – which may have the added benefit of being a dry run for the Qatar World Cup)

f. A combination, or all, of the above

3. Restart the season in 2020-21 with all league leaders on zero points and those behind starting on minus points in line with current league status (eg. Man City on -22 or -25, Leicester on -29, Chelsea on -34 etc) once all teams reach 29 games completion this season.

4. Begin the immediate playing of domestic matches again, without team personnel who have contracted Covid-19, within the current fixture schedule with a catch up schedule for games already postponed (unfair on Arsenal and Chelsea for sure). Europa and Champions League matches to be re-scheduled when possible.

5. Some kind of ‘Duckworth-Lewis’ style, variable stipulated, calculation to predict the outcomes of the remaining games of the season and points awarded accordingly.

6. Mini-tournament, played as soon and as safely as possible, for the top eight and bottom eight teams to decide final league positions.

7. Other forms of mini-leagues to shorten next season.

As fee paying customers, or fans if you, like I, prefer, the prospect of the leagues being completed by matches being played behind closed doors provides other challenges. For those who have paid TV subscription fees, and those who have paid for Season Tickets, could be joined by others on a pay per view basis with the Season Ticket holders catered for by their respective clubs for all their remaining games to be aired live. It will certainly be weird. Those who remember the ‘Ghost’ match played at Upton Park, against Castilla, in the Cup Winner’s Cup on 1st October 1980, might have got a taste of the atmosphere of a match played in an empty stadium – albeit broadcasted on the radio and not on TV. Others might have watched U23 games played in the Bowl attended by much smaller numbers however the prospect of first class matches in empty stadia is another thing altogether.

Clearly far more important events are upon us. By comparison to how lives potentially could be, and are being, affected football really should be a lower priority. This being a football based blog, however, potential solutions to this season’s fixture pile ups are front and centre. I’d be very interested to hear what you lot think about the above and your opinions or ideas.

Stay safe and healthy and take care of each other all.

The HamburgHammer Column

Football in 1996 was different, so was West Ham, so were the times

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With no football to look forward to in the coming weeks and likely months, Iain has asked us to still keep the articles coming somehow. And as I cannot discuss recently played West Ham games, missed chances, wrong formations, weird starting lineups, not even local Hamburg football including Concordia (all those games have been cancelled too, until the end of April at least), well, I might just have to travel back to good old 1996 instead.

Which was and forever will be one of the most important years of my life.
Mainly because I discovered West Ham United in 1996, I saw my first game at Upton Park and got hooked/sentenced for life there and then.

It certainly was one of the most intense years ever for me personally as I was living away from home for a significant number of months (18 in total) for the first time in my life. It was the first time this Hamburg lad got taken out of Hamburg. A social experiment. An experience. A journey.

A fish out of water comes to mind, but thank God it didn’t stay like this for long…

Thinking back, it has to be said I probably never felt more alive, neither before nor after, than during my time in Barking, Essex in 1996/97 (of course I also spent time in Central London, Cardiff, Pembrokeshire, Norwich and some other places during that time).

Back then every day was like a big adventure for me, but also a rollercoaster of emotions – with new things learned, seen and heard every single day. Improving my spoken English, the understanding AND the speaking bit, was key, practising this on the job, literally, with my colleagues in the Barking office presented me with the challenge of having to cope with English accents the likes of which I hadn’t encountered yet (Cockney, Essex, Estuary) – not at school, not while being a trainee at the shipping company I was working for at the time in Hamburg, not when watching English-language films without German dubbing.

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So I was always alternating between feeling like being on top of the world due to working only a few stops on the District Line away from Central London, for me still one of the most interesting and great cities in the world to this day, and suffering painful bouts of homesickness: Terribly missing my parents, my brother, my mates, even the sights and sounds from back home in Hamburg.
It didn’t help much when speaking to my folks via my landline phone in the Barking house I was staying in.

No mobile phones back then. Sometimes a flatmate would kindly take a message from your loved ones for you when you had been out and about in town, missing the phone call while doing some shopping, sightseeing or taking a walk in the local park.

That homesickness almost naturally drove me to football as a welcome distraction because the English brand of the beautiful game enjoyed legendary status among football enthusiasts in my neck of the woods back then (Kick and rush!). And like most Germans I was very much into football despite not having been very gifted as a player myself, being a left back at SC Poppenbüttel for a few years when I was a young lad.

Luckily, when arriving in England I wasn’t strongly bonded with one of the two big clubs in Hamburg as my dad had merely been an armchair fan who had never taken much of an effort to get tickets so that my brother and I might have an actual matchday experience and eventually support either of those two clubs.

We only ever watched a game with my dad inside a ground once if I remember correctly – and that was at a Concordia home game around 1990.

So, with my heart free for a proper football relationship and several of my claret and blue supporting colleagues at Hapag-Lloyd rabbiting on about West Ham during our tea breaks I decided fairly sharpish in March 1996 I would buy a ticket for the upcoming home game against Manchester City on Saturday, March 23rd – and find out if West ’Am could be my home from home, my surrogate family in England. A perfect match, on and off the pitch, maybe ?
At that point I only had been away from home for three weeks!

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As most of you will recall, we won that game 4:2. Iain Dowie scored twice, skipper Julian “The Terminator” Dicks added another with a piledriver from outside the box with Portuguese loan striker/photo model Dani providing the final nail in City’s coffin who were destined for relegation that season. They had three Germans on the pitch that afternoon, but it didn’t save them.

And I was past the point of saving too – I had hopelessly wholeheartedly, foolishly fallen in love with West Ham United, the club colours, the singing of Bubbles, the humour displayed by the fans, the passion on the pitch, the raucous atmosphere in that weird and wonderful stadium (I had to look past a supporting pillar during my first game, I still saw everything as I was pretty close to the pitch still, even from the West Stand Upper).
I was even impressed with seeing police horses in action which were unheard of in German football at the time, police dogs for sure, fierce Alsatians on duty for local derbies, they were a common sight on German matchdays, but horses ? Not really.

The rest, as they say, is history. So, what was different, football-wise ? It’s funny what you remember from your own matchday experience from 24 years ago and what you can only remember after refreshing your memory by watching highlights of the game on Youtube or DVD.

There were only three substitutes allowed on the bench back then, if I remember correctly. The Upton Park pitch in March 1996 showed precious few patches of green and quite a lot of brown, muddy spots (like the St.Pauli pitch used to in those days).

There were only just over 24.000 fans inside the stadium, but at times it sounded like at least 15.000 or so more. That noise bowled me over…and it got me hooked, wanting more of it.

News on the club in the days before the internet were hard to come by.
You actually had to buy a newspaper in the hope they might have some West Ham related bits in the sports section that day and you used to eagerly wait for the latest issue of Hammers News Magazine to arrive on the shelves of your local newsagents once a month, picking it up from WHSMITH at Barking Station in my case.

Pubs ? As far as Barking was concerned I was surprised how many pubs there were back then, I hadn’t expected quite so many outside the city centre.
Back then I used several of those, a main one to watch the football and to drink with the colleagues on a Friday night (Legends), others to enjoy a Real Ale (The Spotted Dog, The Bull) or take mates or family members when they were over from Germany (The Barking Dog or The Spotted Dog).

From previous visits I knew that pub culture was a big thing in England, but there were around ten pubs crammed into a relatively small area in Barking back then and I wondered how on earth they all found enough trade to thrive. A few years later, of course, plenty of those pubs were boarded up, so I guess that answers the question.

Of course back then West Ham were losing a lot of games and spent the majority of the 1996/97 season fighting relegation, just like today. But it all used to be part of being a Hammer, taking the rough with the smooth. Knowing deep down you’d never really challenge for the title, but beating the big boys occasionally was very much on, same as going on a decent Cup run or just cheering on the players running their socks off against opposition with players five times as expensive as the West Ham squad was certainly good enough in those days. It felt good to support the local team, the likeable underdog from an East London community where tourists rarely stepped off the tube to have a butcher’s. Everybody’s second team.
The club of Moore, Bonzo and Brooking.

Thing is, it was easy to accept all the shortcomings back then because we didn’t know any better. We didn’t miss the internet or social media in 1996 because it simply wasn’t available yet. The talk over a pint after the game was the 1996 version of social media.

You didn’t get riled up about news coming from the West Ham board or even another club being run better than yours because all those news and bits and bobs weren’t readily available unless you bought and read plenty of newspapers, fanzines and club magazines or listened to the phone-in shows on the radio.

Now, with Sky and BT Sports, with social media, twitter accounts, blogs and forums plus all the usual debates on TV and radio you are exposed to all the football news and rumours 24/7.

Again, this is the reality now and we have to live with that. The media will never return to its 1996 version. And us fans, we have grown older as well and changed with it. Some more than others, but none of us is the same person today than they were 24 years ago.

We all use the internet regularly now, without even thinking about it much anymore, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
Who of us actually still buys the same newspaper (paper version) every day without fail ?
Who of us is still using a landline phone – and no mobile phone as well ?

In some cases this 24/7 overkill of news and rumours can be frustrating, annoying, tiresome, but in other cases it can also be very useful, entertaining and worthwhile.

So, was I happier as a West Ham fan in 1996, compared to 2020 ? Not really, it was different for sure back then, but as always with West Ham there were ups and downs.

For me, certainly, it was more exciting in 1996 as my Westhamification was merely beginning to take shape, everything was brand new back then, everything was fresh and interesting, it was like going on a date with West Ham every weekend, learning more about the club every week and I will never forget the first time I was able to join in singing Bubbles at Upton Park all the way through because I finally knew all the words…;-))

Back then, I have to say, the stadium wasn’t a massive factor in my supporting West Ham, simply because I took the place for granted and as we all know, there are things in life we only begin to miss once they’re gone.
Like with a loved one you sometimes argue or fight with, but once they’re taken away from you by a twist of fate, that’s when you start to realise how lucky and happy you were to have that person in the first place…

Let’s all hope then that eventually we will get our football back. And our West Ham. Only now we are all beginning to find out how big a part football plays in our everyday lives and weekend routines. After all, it’s only 22 blokes in shorts kicking a ball, but we still love it to bits, don’t we ?


Talking Point

Help a Fellow Hammer

West Ham United is not just a football team. It is a community and we are all proud to be part of it. Communities help their own. Earlier today, while I was on the air at LBC I received an email from a West Ham supporting listener, Graham. He wrote…

I was wondering if you could help in any way with my brothers go fund me page as he is a die hard West Ham man through n through,any help would be much appreciated.
All the best

I clicked on the GoFundMe page and read about what had happened to him.

We are raising funds to help John continue his ongoing health needs and life after hospital. As many of you may know, John was attacked, left in the street for dead. He was attacked for his phone and a little bit of shopping he had nipped out to buy. Had it not have been for a passerby finding him, he wouldn’t be here today. He was taken to hospital where he was transferred to a specialist unit at the Royal London, he was in a coma for 3 weeks, and a result of their care and his spirit, he came out of the coma. However, little did we know then what the extent of his injuries would be – we knew from the doctors if he survived it would be life changing, and it is. He has a severe brain injury, which means he will never be able to work again, nor live on his own. This happened in February 2019, and John has spent the last year in hospitals and rehabilitation. He now needs to have 24 hour care within a care home. When he moves into a home, he will need to furnish , and contribute towards his care needs. None of this will come cheap, so we are fund raising to help him start this new chapter in his life. Any help we can get him will be greatly appreciated, by John and all of us as we help him move on from this nightmare that has changed our life’s forever. Thank you in advance from John and family xx

I’ve made a small donation and I hope you all will too. Please donate HERE

Match Report

Sign Up for the Karren Brady MBA

What are we going to do to maintain our mental health during the football shutdown?

I could suggest we all take up knitting, but I could be accused of sexism, as a lot can be read into that short sentence. The first accusation would be that I am suggesting an activity mainly undertaken by women to a bunch of men and that my actual intention wasn’t to suggest men take up that hobby but to get a cheap laugh at the expense of women.. The second accusation is that I am stating that , during a period of repose, men take up an activity usually undertaken by people who have nothing better to do.

So, I had better steer clear and instead ,suggest you sign up for the new Karren Brady MBA at the Arden University (which I have never heard of). Its an online course and at a cost of £12,000, it’s an absolute snip. Like Karren, it will equip you with the skills to tackle common business issues. You will eventually, like Karren, become a world-class business leader. The blurb states that Kerren gives her fascinating insights into what happens behind the boardroom doors. I do believe a number of people do watch videos of what happens in such situations, so they will be quite fascinated.

Karren has given the site her own view, informing potential students that she has managed and led football clubs. With insight, Karren states that people rarely become an overnight success, but her hard grind (my words not hers) has led her to the top.

Karren came from nothing to her position of greatness. Her father had a mere £50 million quid. Karren didn’t take an MBA herself and, instead, she targeted the advertising spend of one her father’s clients, David Sullivan, who was so impressed by her talents that she end up as managing director of Birmingham City at the tender age of 23. Admittedly, a low point was her arrest on 2006 by the City of London Police amid allegations of corruption in English Football, but it all came to nothing.

As well as having David Sullivan as a mentor, Karren took a job with that other well-known moral example, Phillip Green when in 2017 she took the job of chairman of Taveta who own the Arcadia Group.

I am sure one segment of the MBA will be entitled ‘Chuzapah’, which , on its own will justify the outlay.

Now, to more serious matters and that is the consequence for the Premier League clubs whilst football is at a standstill. At some point, Sky, BT et al will stop paying and that will be a greater blow than the loss of income from the sale of tickets. Wages of £135 million a year will still have to be paid. As it stands, the club has little cash and everything is mortgaged up to the hilt.

The owners will not be able to step in. I suggest you consider the predicament of Intu, a leading property company in retail units and this is effectively bust. The owners of West Ham will be fighting for their survival. One good piece of news for David Gold is that, since people will be spending more time at home, the business of Ann Summers may have revival.

Looking at the results of the stadium survey, this will achieve what the fans want. West Ham will go into administration and rise like a phoenix to a new beginning.

Talking Point

2020 London Stadium Survey results

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The results from the London Stadium survey 2020 are in with 11,672 match going supporters filling it out – we are able to publish today a true reflection of West Ham fan’s updated perception of the London Stadium, one year on from the last survey and 44 months after moving in. On the whole, perceptions have decreased in the majority of categories over the last 12 months.

The supporter survey was promoted by several West Ham websites, blogs and social media channels.

After nearly four years in the London Stadium do you believe that the move was a good idea?

Yes 15%
No 67%
Not sure 18%

A swing of 40% on last year when 27% said it was not a good idea.

When will the London stadium feel like our proper home?

It does already 7%
4-5 seasons 12%
6-10 seasons 12%
+10 seasons 12%
It never will 57%

Another swing of 36% on last year saying the London Stadium will never fill like home.

If you are a season ticket holder do you plan to renew for next season?

Already have/Multiyear deal 1%
Yes 26%
No 12%
Not sure 24%
Not a season ticket holder 34%
On the waiting list 3%

With season ticket renewals yet to be announced it hard to compare these results against last year’s.

If you are a season ticket holder have you ever used ticket exchange functionality for matches you can’t make?

I never miss a game 15%
Yes sometimes 20%
Yes, every time I can’t go 8%
I prefer to sell it myself or forward to a friend or family 27%
Not worth it financially 21%
I prefer to leave my seat empty 9%

Broadly similar to last year although the amount who prefer to leave their seat empty when not in use has risen from threefold from 3%

What is your view on the general matchday atmosphere at the London Stadium in terms of volume and support for the team?

Excellent 4%
Good 18%
Average 42%
Poor 36%

A swing of 22% to poor on last year not impressed with the London Stadium atmosphere.

What is your view on the quality of stewarding and security taking into account the last game you attended at the London Stadium?

Excellent 2%
Good 18%
Average 38%
Poor 42%

A swing of 11% to poor for the quality of stewarding at the Stadium

What is your view on the quality, choice and price of food and drink within the London Stadium?

Excellent 1%
Good 10%
Average 35%
Poor 54%

A swing of 13% to poor on this section compared to last year

What is your experience of the London Stadium sightlines and views of the pitch from your seat?

Excellent 9%
Good 29%
Average 31%
Poor 31%

What is your experience of travelling to and from the London Stadium taking into account walking, public transport or car?

Excellent 8%
Good 27%
Average 30%
Poor 35%

A 10% swing to poor compared to last year

How do you rate your general matchday experience at the London Stadium?

Excellent 3%
Good 21%
Average 41%
Poor 35%

A 21% swing to poor compared to last year

West Ham has been criticised by some for not paying enough in the contribution to the running costs. Do you think West Ham should pay more?

Yes 33%
No 39%
Don’t know 28%.

A swing of 11%  who believe West Ham should pay more for the London Stadium compared to last year

Do you think West Ham will become a regular top-six club within the next five years as a result of the move to the London Stadium?

Yes 3%
No 88%
Not sure 9%

A swing of 16% on No compared to last year

Do you think West Ham will kick on to the next level and become a top-four team within ten years as a result of the move to the London Stadium?

Yes 3%
No 87%
Not sure 10%

A swing of 17% on No compared to last year

Do you think the West Ham board are doing a good job?

Excellent 1%
Good 4%
Average 22%
Poor 73%

The biggest swing of the survey with a 57% swing to poor for the West Ham board.

Last year 2019 figures were Excellent 3% Good 36% Average 45% and Poor 16%

How well does West Ham value you as a supporter and listen to fans concerns?

Excellent 1%
Good 4%
Average 24%
Poor 71%

The second biggest swing of the survey with a 40% swing to poor on valuing and listening to supporters.

Last year 2019 figures were Excellent 2% Good 20% Average 47% and Poor 31%

These results together with 4,950 additional comments were sent to David Sullivan, David Gold,  Karren Brady, Tara Warren and Andy Mollet on Saturday morning.

A copy of the full 2020 survey data including all comments can be downloaded from HERE  

Previous years London Stadium Survey results

2019  2018  2017 

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