“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning”Gloria Steinem
AMID all the places in the contemporary West Ham cybersphere for polls, forums and opportunities to “have your say” there is a dearth of space for an encompassing vision of what fans really want our football club to look like. As good as polls are at determining on a day to day basis whether this or that player is a favourite, the answers are only ever going to be granular.
This, then, is a vision of the club we aspire to under the unlikely conceit Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos feels making all that money while also pissing off Donald Trump has left a hole in his life that can only be filled by ploughing millions into an underperforming Premier League football club.
As well as establishing a basis for argument over what a football club should be and do the hope is such an examination can build a better framework within which to answer, “Who would you like to sign for us, x or y player?”
THE current arena isn’t fit for purpose. It was not designed as a football ground and it shows. Seats are too far from the pitch. The shallow rake of the stands means there is little atmosphere, the gap between stands worsens the problem and the scaffolding is an embarrassment. Worse, the migration from Upton Park was handled with all the dexterity and wit of a Duke being interviewed by Emily Maitlis.
Realistically the choice is between rebuild, replace or build a new stadium. A rebuild seems unfeasible as there is so little of the ground worth its name as a football stadium. There is no opportunity to dig down – and going upwards would only exacerbate current problems. Replacement on the same site would be expensive, messy, and would possibly, as with Spurs, involve a period at another ground.
With all respect to those that would quite legitimately cry “Not again” the best choice would be to start afresh with the Amazon Stadium sited elsewhere on the Queen Elizabeth Park. The current owners would be more than happy to get out of the current lease which is costing them around £10million a year. A decent deal could also be made buying some adjacent land as without a football club in situ the park would atrophy.
Seating priority would not be given, as with the recent migration to those having the most money or a mate who wants a ticket but to length of service as a season ticket holder. Obvious to everybody you might think, except for Karren Brady, who if she performed as badly as a contestant on The Apprentice as she does in real life would be booted off on the second week.
The prime concern for the stadium alongside givens such as sightlines, comfort and safety would be atmosphere. To that end the arena would have a steep rake all around and upper tiers that sit above rather than behind the space below giving a theatre feel. Individuals would feel more as though they are part of the action rather than spectators.
Behind one goal would be a single stand “Kop” designated a singing section that would be the cheapest area of the ground. The aim would be something akin to “die Gelbe Wand” (the Yellow Wall) of Borussia Dortmund. (Compare with the current ludicrous idea that the Billy Bonds Stand – with some of the most expensive seats in the ground – would possess the atmosphere).
Controversially perhaps, the ground would have a capacity of just 45-50 thousand. The estimates are we currently attract around 42 thousand – the increased capacity has a lot more to do with David Sullivan’s ego than any practical concern. Much above 50 thousand attendees and atmosphere dissipates, a full ground is always livelier than a sparse stadium whatever the size.
All lower tier seats would be convertible to safe standing and there would be a designated Family Enclosure as well as disabled seating, a sensory room and so on. Corporate areas would consist of lounges with access to seats outside. No boxes. Food available within would be of pub standard rather having pretensions to haute cuisine in order to prevent inflated charges. Food and drink would be available behind the stands as is usual and be comparable in cost to pub prices. Fixed seats and tables would be available. Hopefully, fans would be drawn in earlier, preventing last minute waits to be searched, and profits would raise given fewer supporters would be drinking away from the ground.
INDEPENDENT supporter groups would be encouraged and have regular dialogue with the Supporter Liaison Officer. Meetings with Board members would be regular, as would input into policing and stewarding committees. The hated OSB would be immediately disbanded. As appealing as it sounds a supporter on the Board would be unnecessary so long as the former protocol was adhered to. The Davids, Gold and Sullivan, profess to be fans and both are useless. The concern would be a Board place up for grabs would lead to infighting and invite those more concerned with thoughts of grandeur than representing the club’s support.
PLAYING and training wear would be designed by top brands, realistically that means Nike or adidas. Home kit would consist of claret shirts with sky sleeves, white socks and shorts. Away strips would rotate on a tri-yearly basis between sky, navy and white. There is a place for gold within these kits – but teal, ecru, violet and so forth have no place in a West Ham strip and are an abomination.
Part II to follow. On-pitch matters...