Today is the one year anniversary of the troubles that marred West Ham’s game against Burnley at the London Stadium this time last year. The pitch invasions and board protest made headlines around the world which mostly condemned Hammers fans as hooligans and louts.
At the time the London Mayor blamed West Ham fans while club responded saying it was a small minority and that the Stadium owners were partially to blame having cut stewarding and security budgets.
A recently published FA investigation agreed with West Ham that operators London Stadium 185 were partially to blame and that steward numbers had been cut. Earlier this year stadium owners E20 stadium took control of French operators London Stadium 185 buying them out and bringing operations ‘in-house’. Stewarding numbers have since increased by 300 on average since that fateful game and remain at that level along with new pitch safety stewards with their now familiar safety glasses and football boots.
West Ham Vice-Chairman Karren Brady published a five thousand word open letter to West Ham Groups United on 21st February 2018 in an attempt to diffuse planned action on 10th March.
The protest march was called off in response but troubles still spilt over to the pitch and outside the director’s box as the Hammers surrendered to another disappointing home defeat.
The promise to honour the club’s history and heritage has largely been met through new murals on the concourse, the flag bearers before kick-off, programme articles and the ceremony and naming of the Billy Bonds stand. One notable exclusion outstanding has been the promise of a permanent display of West Ham’s memorabilia or a museum although there have been some temporary exhibitions at the club store.
On improving the match day experience again there has been some improvement with more West Ham themed murals around the concourse and introduction of fan zones with live bands outside the stadium in recent games. A new statue will also be commissioned next season in Champions Place.
Outstanding actions include the renaming of the road to the stadium as the West Ham Way and with the exception of the Ribman we are still waiting for specialised food and sweet stalls to return as promised.
Maybe the recent out of court settlement with Stadium owners E20 last November will help with some of this endeavours including the proposal to square off and bring the stands behind the goals slightly closer for some fans which was another promise.
There is still work to do on the match day experience, the Boleyn Ground memorial garden and Westfield access as mentioned in the letter but we appear to be moving in the right direction.
Possibly the biggest change in the past year has been the investment in a world-class manager in Manuel Pellegrini and £89.5m of transfers last summer.
There is still much work to do but it a massive step in the right direction and we are unlikely to see a repeat of the Burnley troubles anytime soon.
The full 5,000 word open letter from Karren Brady can be still found HERE