Guest Post by the Voice of Reason
I really have no idea whether the West Ham board fully understand how upset a large number of fans (their customers – ha!) are at the moment but I think that they will when it comes to Season Ticket renewal time.
Prior to the stadium move there were various groups of fans with differing views. Some were totally against the move, some for it, others who were ambivalent and some who could see the logic, in terms of growth potential and were willing to see how things panned out.
I will admit to being in the last group. I renewed my Season Ticket (in fact upgraded it) and went more in hope than expectation with the view that I would give it a full season and then decide what to do next.
I still intend to wait until the end of the season before deciding about renewing but I have to admit that I am leaning towards giving it up. I also know of several other fans who will definitely be calling it a day and I think that the total number of non-renewals are going to be substantial.
I’ve always enjoyed going to away games. This season I look forward to them more than ever and that is because the difference to the home games is stark. Proper football stadia (even putting up with the rubbish seats at the likes of Everton) and a much better atmosphere.
But everything is hunk dory because there are 50,000 on the waiting list!
Do you really believe that? I certainly don’t and of all the things that have been “spun” by the club this one is probably rotating longer and faster than any other (along with first class migration, retractable seating etc., etc., etc.).
If there is a waiting list of any substantial number I would guess that a fair few on it will think again if they are offered the chance of a season ticket next season, as many will have already visited the stadium and, like many existing ST holders, will have second thoughts about shelling out their hard-earned..
So where does that leave us?
Obviously, not everything is bad.
Personally, I find getting to and from the ground easier than it was at the Boleyn, but others will find it more inconvenient. Going in and out of Hackney Wick would seem to have an advantage over Stratford.
The seats and legroom are good and the sightlines as well, although the distance from the pitch is extreme. If the team was performing better the atmosphere would probably improve and it might convince a few more to stay. Unfortunately we don’t have a “world class team and a world class stadium” as Lady Brady promised. The team is some way from that description and the stadium will never be that, in football terms, as it was not built for the game and is still what it originally was – an athletics stadium.
Additionally, we are already seeing the fickle side of the corporate “clients”. Whilst there are patches of empty seats all around the ground, it is the “posh seats” in the West Stand where the most gaps are and maybe that is because a lot of the expense is borne by companies so the individuals have no personal investment and just pick and choose when to attend games.
Of course, as the cameras are located on the west side these empty seats are not seen by TV viewers. The official attendance for the Hull game was just short of 57,000. My estimate would be that it was, in reality, around 10,000 less than that.
What can the club do?
I was taught, many years ago, that if you cocked something up the best way forward is to hold your hands up and admit it.
If the club is to have any chance of getting the majority of fans back onside they need to do just that. Everyone knows of the problems, they can’t be hidden so just come out and say “Whoops, bit of a ricket here, chaps”. The third part ownership does not help things as the club are limited in what they actually can do but it is surely in the interest of the owners to make this as successful as possible as failure will impinge on them as much as the club.
The shape of the stadium cannot be changed and, as there is no going back, we are stuck with it.
Whether much can be improved inside the stadium I don’t know but it should be looked at along with all of the other match day “offerings” (like food and drink – exorbitant and sub-standard in my view) as well as giving a chance for Season Ticket holders to move seats next season.
Whilst it would be difficult for many of the issues to be addressed part way through the season, the least the club should do is acknowledge the problems and give an indication about how they might be addressed. And they need to do this now.
Failure to address the problems will result in thousands of empty seats next season. Mine might be one of them.
This was written before the encouraging result at Swansea which gave us a third consecutive league victory. Improved results will obviously help the overall atmosphere around the club but should not distract from the bigger issues.