I don’t write much, I’m not very good at it and quite frankly find it far easier to stand in front of a camera and give my opinion. However after speaking to Hugh on the phone this morning he was quite keen that I share with the C&H readers my experience of yesterday which saw Watford visit The London Stadium.
THE JOURNEY IN
The first sign that all was not well was when I left Stratford station with my Betfred promo code to begin my journey to the Hammerschat boat bars at midday. Rather than being allowed to take the most direct route to what is already a fairly long walk I found myself blocked off and herded in the opposite direction. I had grown accustomed to not being allowed into Westfield after the game but it was now clear that if I wanted to grab a sarnie before the game, I’d have to circumnavigate Cape Horn to get back to the stadium.
A big part of the allure of moving from Upton Park were the transport links and for a slightly rotund individual like myself of course the food halls. The food halls are fantastic but it’s a logistical nightmare to use them and far from Westfield being part of the matchday experience it is very quickly becoming evident that we (Hammers Fans) are not welcome.
The trains, station and links are of course first class but it’s little use having a punctual train service if one is going to be significantly delayed when leaving the station.
INTO THE STADIUM
Much has been made of the standing issue but rather than give you my personal view it’s probably easier to explain what I actually do. . . . I don’t stand much of the time, I get onto my feet for the singing of ‘Bubbles’, when we score, when it looks like we might score and for periods when the referee might be dishing out some rough justice.
With that in mind I did not believe that the persistent standing issue applied to me as a blind eye seems to be turned when standing at periods of ‘high excitement’. . . . . .. I could not have been more wrong. Some 15 seconds into the first rendition of Bubbles there were a posse of stewards telling the people in front section to sit down.
The only game I’ve missed this season was the Juve friendly so I’ve started to recognise the familiar stewards but this time it was different. They were mob handed and appeared to have a new leader who was a hulking presence in a bright orange baseball cap. I’m not entirely sure when people started getting ejected because the game was incredibly exciting to begin with so my attention was on the pitch.
Not everyone’s attention was on the game though because the stewards were mobilised and intent on making people sit. Probably the worst example was when a carer of somebody in the disabled section had stood to sing ‘Bubbles’ and was aggressively asked to leave. It took the fan in the wheelchair to plead for reason and point out that nobody’s view was being obstructed. To call it unedifying would be putting it mildly.
Now here is where I think the trouble started. As some West Ham fans were being ushered out by the stewards the Watford fans (who were un-policed and standing throughout) were singing ‘Cheerio’ to the West Ham fans. The sense of injustice and double standards was palpable so now rather than standing and singing, fans were standing angrily and gesticulating towards the impervious Hornet supporters.
Things were now getting dangerous, grown men were on the move and there were mothers and fathers rushing to take their children out of the stadium. I was sat next to my hammerschat co-owner Geo and we saw at least three children in tears. It wasn’t long before fights started breaking out around us , from what I could gather the fights were about people standing, about kids getting caught up in it and in particular the Watford fans. If I had to use one word to describe the cause of the scuffles it would be ‘frustration’.
The icing on the cake was when it became clear that an opposition fan was in the West Ham end with us. The opposing fans were becoming ever more boisterous as their team scored four unanswered goals against our error- prone defence. Possibly the best thing to happen was Watfords 5th and subsequently disallowed goal because it emptied the venue and defused the atmosphere somewhat.
I would just like to say that the stewarding at the Boleyn ground was excellent, the Bobby Moore Stand was run by a bloke called Paul who was a proper West Ham fan and he and his minions seemed to understand the fans. I would often see stewards and fans giving ‘high fives’ and on occasions even embracing when West Ham scored a goal but I don’t think there are many Hammers fans on the staff these days . . . . . . . .. I think we are probably the only Premier League club in that situation.
It wasn’t quite like the infamous 80’s because this was not organised violence, it was fist-fighting breaking out in pockets but it created a sinister, nervous and uneasy atmosphere. It is also worth noting that I did not see a policeman all day.
Fans bought into the dream . . . . . . Westfield, the roof generating noise, the transport links and of course the team itself.
The reservation center appointments were the perfect opportunity to create unofficial family areas but the +2 scheme has been nothing short of a disaster and nobody will persuade me otherwise.
The problem is the standing issue and in particular those who used to stand in the BML and Chav Corner, nobody told them “it’s all going to change when we move and you’ll have to sit”. Myself and Geo were sold our tickets with a nudge and a wink and an indication that we’d be in the ‘raucous’ section near the away fans.
How a mother and a child of about six years of age found themselves stuck in amongst those who used to stand for the past 15 years is beyond stupid.
I have never known the club so divided because things like the Tevez saga, relegation and the Bond scheme have traditionally unified us. Unfortunately the crowd are now fighting themselves and the board, stewards and fans have never been further apart.
Very eloquently put Gonzo and paints the picture for those of us that weren’t (thankfully) there… Let’s hope commonsense prevails from all parties and we can get back to supporting our beloved Hammers (and I can go back to lurking!) #coyi
Very good insight and exactly my own experience. However much the Daves love the club and I do believe they are genuine supporters, they unfortunately left all the detail to the Brady bunch who’s only concern is bull**** PR, marketing and selling your soul for
The sake of a pound. Why can’t us fans just shut up and hand over the money.
Great article Gonzo. I have only been to one match, against Bournemouth, but there was trouble in the far stand to me and the lower tier at both ends were standing, including the Bournemouth fans. It does seem as you say the stewards have no idea how to deal with a football fan. It is only human nature and part of being a football fan that you stand when a goal is scored, something contentious happens or a there is about to be a scoring chance. If the stewards insist fans sit when these things happen then we might as well all go home. As I understand it the problem is the ‘fans’ who want to stand though out the match and it seems the majority of these are taking no notice of the stewards. Therefore we either need experienced stewards or unfortunately the police. Children are the fans of the future there should NEVER be an instance where it it is not safe or they are unable to watch a match.
Great read that Gonzo.Not too much to add the guys above have covered really.Police,it could be the only way to go,if even possible,for the short term at least.I must admit I have been fortunate & seen very little incident when at the matches.I have been surrounded by a good bunch of fans all enjoying,or trying to enjoy the match.The problem is the fact that it only takes a dozen morons fighting amongst a 57,000 crowd for it to all be across the media.
This is a problem that can be sorted out but it needs much dialogue between all parties.Meaningful dialogue that deals with the situation ASAP!!
GOLD,SULLIVAN,BRADY SORT IT OUT!!!
As a watcher I surpose I should keep quite,
But when it involves your club it’s hard to just sit and watch,
The club need to have quich serious talks about bring back stewardship and bringing on board club fans and connected people to work alongside the OS personal,
The problem is at the moment standing is the only topic and it seems a over reaction took place this game,
English people do not let anyone push then around especially
When this issue has a very clouded area,
The stadium should have had family areas,Standing areas
And very clear rules,
You can’t have home fans forced to sit when away fans can stand,
I am afraid emotional fans let loose with there language all the time and age or sex does not come into it,
Even at home this week my wife stood behind where I was watching for 35 minutes but the minute the Clamity defence took over she went somewhere else as my language got worse every minute,
That does not make me a bad person,but it’s hard to not get emotional,
This is going to take along time to sort out but over reacting is not going to help,
I have no answer but hope we can get it sorted on and off the pitch
That mirrors my experience on match days pretty much. However, I never once elected to be allowed through Westfield. I was fortunate to go to the Olympics and expected the same process of circling around and in. There is abd well be no chance of 50,000 walking through John Lewis to avoid going around. I was walking with a bunch who were getting very agitated at the walk around to the stadium. I find this difficult to understand as UP was around a 10 min walk to seat from the station and this isn’t that far.
You’re missing the point about Westfield – it was all part of the ‘dream’ we were sold. Remember the declaration that your missus could go shopping while you went to the game, then meet up for dinner afterwards. No chance. Westfield are going out of their way to make things as difficult as possible for us, so eventually it will all end in tears. Can’t use the most sensible car parks, made to walk miles out of your way when you can see where you want to go ten yards away, made to walk up and down hundreds of steps just to get back to the car park (then find only one pay machine is working and there’s a huge queue), ears ringing from morons with megaphones ordering us around. Give a tw4t a hi-viz and you can see how the Third Reich took hold.
No one expects Westfield to welcome 60,000 fans storming through after a game, but making the pub and restaurant area off limits is just daft. I booked into the Holiday Inn after one game and had to walk for twenty minutes to reach a room that was ten yards away. Making the ‘stewards’ bigger, uglier and more aggressive isn’t a solution, as Westfield will find out when things eventually go bad. It came close after Watford, with pouring rain on fans being made to traipse round the perimeter of the shopping centre. Barricades don’t make for a welcoming atmosphere.
Westfield needs to start thinking of us a neighbour, not a nuisance. My other half simply won’t go if we can’t meet up, which defeats half the attraction of moving ground in the first place.
And don’t get me going on the ground itself…..
Spot on, attended two games at the rugby World Cup and had exactly the opposite experience. Westfield couldn’t do enough to welcome the fans and and encourage them to use all the available facilities. It would appear that only football supporters are not wanted, because obviously we are all Neanderthal thugs who just want to destroy their shinny shops. We need to be herded like cattle and kept away at all cost.
Thanks for the replies fellas.
Demon: I absolutely agree with your take on Westfield, well said
Expected not elected
Well put. You know I wouldn’t even mind if they said they were going to fix this for next season. At the moment they are in denial that there is even a problem.
The route that most fans are forced to take to and from the stadium will become a battlefield for some games. No police or stewards, little lighting in the evening and the fans mixing. Guaranteed to happen.
I haven’t experienced the issues many fans face as I come up from Kent and use the DLR. Still can’t wear colours though because of travelling through Lewisham. Anyway, the main thing I have noticed is the lack of segregation between the home and away fans. There are never enough stewards for this. I think we should give the away fans the whole of the lower section of the Trevor Brooking.
Secondly, these ‘stewards’ are just ‘rent a thugs’. They have no people skills, are rude and unhelpful and have clearly been told to have a zero tolerance behaviour. I’m convinced the club have got this wrong here and need to speak to the owners about the stewarding policy. The fact they are filming on their mobile phones is disgraceful and I won’t tolerate my family or me being filmed.
The last point is that we sold over 50,000 season tickets. Do the club know who they have sold them to? I appreciate we are a big club but to go from 25,000 STH to over 50,000 surprised me. How many people saw a cheap ticket and are just there to cause trouble?
When we went to Westfield to get our new tickets we were changing from the family enclosure in the STBU and asked for the same again so they said that area is now the BMU and as I go with elderly parents a 9 year old and a 7 year old we needed an area they can sit for most of it. ( bubbles and goal mouth action excluded obviously) The guy booking our tickets knew the areas where people were most likely to stand and where the families were being gathered. I have to also say that other than a couple of steward scuffles down to our left we haven’t seen any trouble. The kids don’t even know this is going on. I think I have been incredibly lucky by the sounds of what others are experiencing.
Read this Nic…. This was written in to a fans forum called Claret and Hugh, I don’t know if you follow it but the leaves a bitter taste in my mouth… It seems as though my (possibly our) West Ham died when we left Upton Park. I’ve tried to be positive throughout the transition but this now is fast becoming a club that I’m not a part of…
Really, will I really stop buying the merchandise or paying through the nose for the tickets I buy as I don’t live in the country anymore so flights and so on are expensive, having my day spoiled coz we lose or say “I support West Ham.!!!!” I don’t know, but this needs to sink in, because this just doesn’t sit well with me just now… Fears of us losing our identity because of a move I thought were unfounded but they are becoming a reality…
I’m 47 years old and have supported West Ham from then living in Peckham and all that entails with a strong Millwall contingent….
All leaves me very worried for our beloved club. I went to the Juve game there were no issues that I witnessed. Thought it was the start of something big,now I feel like it could be the beginning of the end.COYI