March 22, 2013. The day it all changed, for better or worse. A week ago today the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced that West Ham United Football Club had been chosen as tenants for the Olympic Stadium.
The backlash started almost immediately and failed to simmer down as of yet. That said, the move is also not without it’s fair share of supporters. The club moves away from a ground that has been a deeply engrained part of East London for decades to a state of the art, world class, facility.
We figured it was about time For The Suits weight in with our official opinion on the matter: we’re not making one yet. One can quickly make a fool of oneself when jumping to conclusions and we aren’t about that.
So lets review the facts as they stand: West Ham are paying £15 million towards the renovation costs, they’ve secured a 99 year lease on the stadium which ensures fair rent and to start the club will be paying £2 million in rent annually.
The stadium will be one of the most well connected to public transport in Europe. It will also attain the prestigious UEFA Level 4 designation once renovations are complete. Capacity will move up to 54, 000 on game day. And of course all the other goodies that come with a brand new stadium such as modern concessions and bathrooms.
That’s the good part, the feel good bit which should have every supporter jumping for joy, in theory. In practice for many of us it is much different.
Upton Park was never going to be getting any bigger, after repeated attempts through various owners. Those of us who’ve stood in line to get to Upton Park station after a match can attest that was far from the most fun you could have, and the jaunt to Plaistow station wasn’t much better.
But the ground and its surroundings held a certain charm that will be hard to replace, if it is even possible at all. There will be no Queens or Boleyn pub in Stratford, no walk down Green Street. As the street opens up and the image of Upton Park begins to consume your field of vision it is awe inspiring.
It’s just as inspiring every time you go, whether it be match day or not. All our legends plied their trade at Upton Park. Years and years of memories can never be replaced or simply forgotten about because the club has a new stadium. Generations of lads have memories of going with their fathers and becoming fathers and taking their lads. It’s part of the community.
It will certainly be an emotional goodbye. The argument has been that it’s a goodbye that has to happen if the club is to grow. While that argument is able to stand on its own two feet, the other argument in favour of moving doesn’t. We’ve all heard it: the move will serve to make the club more successful.
It’s a statement which doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny. How does moving to a new stadium ensure success? One only has to look at Arsenal to see that frame of thinking doesn’t quite add up. Investing in our youth Academy, bringing in quality players and most importantly winning all serve to grow the club and making it a success. Simply moving stadiums won’t do that.
Regardless of whether one is for or against, at the start of the 2016-2017 season the Olympic Stadium will be the new home of West Ham. It could end up being a glorious moment in our history, or it could end up being disastrous. Only time can tell.
What we can all do as supporters though? Take the indomitable spirit and vocal support West Ham supporters are so well known for to the Olympic Stadium. There’s no going back and we need to be behind the squad from the very first minute.
Bubbles won’t sound the same at the Olympic Stadium. But it should be sung just as loud, with all the conviction we can muster.