Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have noticed a small disturbance went on at the London Stadium during West Ham’s latest demoralising loss against Burnley.
It was the third game in a row that the Hammers have lost by three goals, and subsequently leaves them barely above the drop zone with eight games left to play, with four of the big six to play.
But what exactly has gone so wrong that the fans are now invading the pitch and threatening the owners?
First of all, there’s been a string of broken promises by the board since the club moved to the London Stadium at the start of the 2016/17 season.
These range from the small matter of promising to move the World Cup winners statue to the Olympic Park, to larger issues like failing to make the stadium worthy of a Premier League team, and not investing money in the squad as promised.
The failure to invest properly in the playing squad was (originally) one of the reasons cited for Dimitri Payet’s departure.
There have been a number of botched signings since then, including the decision that Wissam Ben Yedder was ‘too small and weak’ (he just knocked Man Utd out of the Champions League on his own).
William Carvalho was deemed too cost much (we didn’t offer anywhere near what was asked, and their Director of Football called Gold and Sullivan ‘The Dildo Brothers’), and signing Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass, only to publicly criticise them, and then sell one and send the other out on loan. (As an aside, Jose Fonte would be really useful right now with Winston Reid out for the season.)
Before moving into the London Stadium, Lady Karren Brady claimed that it would be a world-class facility, which would make Tottenham fans envious of what we were set up to achieve.
Well, I can tell you one thing as a West Ham fan: I’ve seen the plans for Tottenham’s new stadium, and I would much rather play there, than at the soulless bowl in the Olympic Park.
“There is nothing that welcomes the fans to the stadium. The John Lyall gates that were so iconic at the Boleyn Ground now reside in the Club Shop, nothing that reminds them immediately at Stratford station that this is the home of West Ham United, nothing that could intimidate away fans.”
Another promise made to the fans was that West Ham’s fixtures would take priority over any event held at the stadium, and fixtures would not be tampered with, which completely contradicts the fact that West Ham played the first three games of the season away from home because of the World Athletics Championships.
Additionally, the retractable seating that makes up the Lower Stand is, for lack of a better word, tinpot, and frankly the only reasonable solution to the stadium issues that I can see would be to tear the whole thing down and start from scratch, building a dedicated football stadium, capable of hosting select other events.
If you look at other stadia that have hosted an Olympic Games, very few are successfully repurposed, and even fewer are still in regular use, so why not take the plunge and make the stadium a real fortress, just like Upton Park used to be, with a real intimidating atmosphere housing 55,000+ fans?
The real thing that rankles with a lot of West Ham fans is the loss of the club’s identity as a whole.
At Upton Park, people had routines. You always saw the same people, went to the same pub, took the same route to the ground.
Now, there are restrictions on walking through Westfield before and after a match, and the walk to the ground feels sanitised, and a small sign of everything that is wrong with modern football.
There is nothing that welcomes the fans to the stadium. The John Lyall gates that were so iconic at the Boleyn Ground now reside in the Club Shop, nothing that reminds them immediately at Stratford station that this is the home of West Ham United, nothing that could intimidate away fans.
The badge now has the word ‘London’ on it, which is merely a marketing ploy (that isn’t employed by any other London club).
I mean, there are popcorn stands around the concourses at the stadium. Can you honestly say you’ve ever been to a football match and thought “I could really go for some popcorn right now”? I very much doubt it.
There was, originally, meant to be a march ahead of the game on Saturday organised by disgruntled fan groups, but the board held a meeting with the group leaders, and sent out what many considered to be a weak response to their complaints, before the Real West Ham Fans Action Group (RWHFAG) cancelled the march.
Rumours then swirled that the RWHFAG leaders were former members of the Inter City Firm who the board had paid to cancel the march and instead go on holiday to Italy to ‘celebrate 40 years of the ICF with Lazio’.
Hence, fans became angrier than ever before, and that all ended up spilling out onto the pitch on Saturday.
Ultimately, the board has made a great deal of empty promises since the deal for the Olympic Stadium was struck, and their attempts to make up for their failings have mostly been superficial.
The majority of West Ham fans have now had enough of their regime and their failure to correctly diagnose problems that run all the way through the club.
Many would argue that the sooner they sell, the better. However, the board, and David Sullivan in particular, seem reticent to give up any control of the club, even to a Director of Football for transfer purposes.
Something has to be done about it, and the protests seen at London Stadium on Saturday could well be the first of many.