The Blind Hammer Column
Blind Hammer looks at why this week’s agreement is a significant victory for West Ham
The agreement that West Ham can now apply to increase seating to 60,000, and further can now plan investment to increase this to 66,000 will unlock a key part of the new Stadium Project.
There are of course pessimists who dismiss West Ham’s ability to sell these seats. Pessimists predicted, before the Stadium move, that we would not sell the required Season Tickets. Many, as recently as last year, claimed that we would not even sell out this season.
However these pessimists have consistently been proved wrong. West Ham already has the largest number of season ticket holders in London. This figure will now rise.
I am convinced that we will fill not just 60,000 but the 66,000. What is certain is that games against Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool Manchester United and City will continue to sell out even at 66,000.
West Ham are rightly confident because of the demand for Premier League Season Tickets and the relative competitiveness of the prices they can offer. This is the massive advantage that the London Stadium and the lack of a requirement to repay Capital costs provide. MY own season ticket offers extraordinary value at £299, a concessionary price for a Blind Supporter.
There are 2 unforeseen consequences of this policy. The first is that West Ham have attracted adverse comment because not all seats sold are always filled. I think that club insiders have admitted that there is an issue with the 10,000 £99 Season Tickets sold to children. Not all of these seats are filled for every game, especially midweek fixtures. Despite this I personally support this investment in building a new generation of supporters. They are West Ham’s future. However expanding the Children’s scheme still further should not be a priority now.
I understand that the club is also taking steps to monitor those enjoying these reduced prices, but who do not attend. People who regularly miss games because they have a cheap ticket in effect devalue their rights. It is an enormous privilege to attend Premier League fixtures on these terms. People who regularly miss fixtures should expect to have their continued right to a ticket queried.
Secondly, the doubling of the Season Ticket Holder Customer base attracted some who were not necessarily lifelong supporters. I have personal knowledge of a Disabled Season Ticket Holder who supported Liverpool. He was attracted to purchase a Season Ticket because of the excellence of the Disabled Access and the ability to watch Premier League teams at an affordable price.
Yet an interesting thing is happening to this supporter. Despite his previous allegiances he is now turning up wearing a West Ham shirt and scarf. He is no longer a “neutral”. He is now celebrating goals and suffering disappointment alongside lifelong supporters like me.
This is part of the natural evolving and building of a new supporter base. People who start to attend games may not initially present an encyclopaedic knowledge of the clubs history and traditions. This will come over time. My father was a West Ham supporter when they played at the Memorial Ground, and was a supporter when they first moved to Upton Park. At both these ground traditions and history had to be built. The same will happen at the London Stadium.
The London Stadium now offers thousands more the opportunity to watch West Ham. These extra thousands, especially the younger new supporters, will evolve their passions and history in the same way as supporters have always done.
The great attraction for West Ham is that the infrastructure is largely there. Extra toilets and services will be required, but seating areas are already existent in the ground. Filling these will improve atmosphere still further.
Finally capacity really does matter. . Manchester United organised 75,000 seats at Old Trafford. Tottenham were determined that their new 62,000 ground was bigger than Arsenal’s 60,000 Emirates Stadium. Chelsea are fretting because they are trapped on 42,000. . Newcastle with 52,000, Liverpool with 54,000, and Manchester city with 55,000 all invest in Stadium Capacity because it matters. A recent analysis attributed Everton’s long standing competitive disadvantage to Liverpool as directly attributable to the inequality in capacity between Goodison and Anfield. Liverpool’s entertainment of 14,000 more supporters creates a massive commercial advantage over not just one season, but decades of seasons. Over time hundreds of thousands more supporters will watch Liverpool as opposed to Everton. Engagement and passions of supporters will always build greater in a Stadium as opposed to the more passive TV experience. That is why Everton are so determined to build a new ground.
Brady’s bravura performance at the London Assembly, allied to the disaster awaiting any continuation of E20 ill-fated legal obstructionism, has finally forced an abandonment of previous petulance. Both LLDC and E20 will apparently now seek a positive commercial partnership with West Ham. The scandal of their failure to attract a naming rights sponsor for the Stadium should now be resolved. There is no doubt that a stadium with a capacity of 66,000 should have a far greater opportunity to sell these rights.