By Tony Attwood
The club formally known as West Ham United have got for free (or as near as damn it when compared with the cost of the Emirates) a stadium. It has a 60,000 capacity, compared with the 35,000 capacity of Upton Park.
They had a bit of teething trouble – some of the seats hadn’t been put in for the first game, but well, shit happens.
They had a bit of a problem in their game last season against Man U as well, with one of the chair people proclaiming that ‘there was no attack on the coach‘ after some West Ham fans attacked the coach carrying Man U players. When they finally got around to admitting reality was, well, reality, there was talk of life bans for fans involved. I just typed “fans banned after attack on man u bus” into Google, and there are loads of articles promising a banning of fans – but so far I haven’t found details of the banning orders. I am sure they are somewhere, if only I knew where to look.
Anyway, while waiting for a public pronouncement on those banning orders, we now hear that State Aid Utd have now issues ANOTHER threat having said they would hand out life bans to “any supporters found to have been involved in crowd trouble during their defeat by Watford” (the Guardian).
Various sources say that quite a few fans were ejected from the London Stadium after fights broke out in the closing stages as “West Ham supporters fought among themselves and clashed with stewards and visiting fans in what was just the club’s second Premier League game at their new home”.
A club statement read: “West Ham unreservedly condemns the behaviour of the individuals involved in incidents during today’s fixture. While these isolated incidents were quickly brought under control, this behaviour has no place in football and West Ham will work tirelessly to eradicate it. We are currently undertaking an immediate full review with all stakeholders … Our policy on this behaviour remains one of zero tolerance and we will work with the police to identify individuals involved.
“Once identified, they will be banned from attending any West Ham fixture for life and we will request the courts serve banning orders to prevent these individuals attending any football.”
So we now wait for the outcome of two banning issues – the attack on the Man U bus and the fighting in the stadium.
Slaven Bilic said, “I’ve been told about it, and I asked what riot? I really didn’t see anything.” Which is fair enough, it is his job to worry about results.
Now we have been down this road before, looking at what happens to clubs after they get a new stadium. In case you missed an earlier piece on the subject here is a list…
|Riverside Stadium||Middlesbrough||1995||Relegated 1997|
|Britannia Stadium||Stoke City||1997||Relegated 1998|
|Reebok Stadium||Bolton Wanderers||1997||Relegated 1998|
|Pride Park Stadium||Derby County||1997||Relegated 2002|
|Stadium of Light||Sunderland||1997||Relegated 1997|
|Madejski Stadium||Reading||1998||Releg to D3 ’98|
|JJB Stadium||Wigan Athletic||1999||Won D3 2003|
|St Mary’s Stadium||Southampton||2001||Relegated 2005|
|KC Stadium||Hull City||2002||Prom from D3 2005|
|Walkers Stadium||Leicester City||2002||Relegated 2004, returned to win league 2016.|
|Etihad Stadium||Manchester City||2003||Won League 2012|
|Liberty Stadium||Swansea City||2005||Prom D4 2005|
|Emirates Stadium||Arsenal||2006||Top 4 throughout|
|Cardiff City Stadium||Cardiff City||2009||Won D2 2012, but relegated again.|
So will State Aid Utd face the same problems as the majority, or will they be able to do an Arsenal? Questions of course have been raised about the financing, and during this time the issue of the impact of moving has rather been overlooked. Where it has been focussed on, it has been assumed that the inevitable decline in money available for players has been the reason for the relegations and of course the reverse applies here.
For State Aid Utd have famously only rented the stadium for 25 days a year, hence the negligible costs. So surely they should be able to avoid the apocalypse of the new stadium that so many teams have suffered.
Certainly their behaviour – including the donation of £12,500 to the Conservative Party after they got the contract at such a low price – suggests they entered the stadium in bullish mood, joyful at their ability to get such a deal from the highly right honourable Boris Johnson MP. The subsequent defeat to Astra Giurgiu of the Romanian league which knocked them out of the Europa League in August was shrugged off. The fact that that club has a capacity of only 8500 in its ground suggests that maybe it was more of a dent that has been admitted.
Out of the Europa and one place above the relegation spots was perhaps not what they club had in mind when it gave all that money to the Tory Party. This is the table before Sunday’s games.
|17||West Ham United||4||1||0||3||5||9||-4||3|
It seems extraordinary that State Aid Utd have made such a poor start to the season having fallen into a situation in which most of the £701m spent on the stadium has come from those of us unfortunate enough to be tax payers in the UK.
But the trouble is the trouble. If they keep getting crowd trouble, interest will decline (although the club has sold a higher percentage of its seats as season tickets this year than any other Premier League club and so already has the money for the season). But even with a half empty stadium in the Championship West Ham will keep all their ticket revenue while other income streams are shared.
The London Legacy Development Corporation probably considered it had done a decent job in letting State Aid have the stadium, especially as the deal includes performance-related bonuses that guarantee, for example, an extra £100,000 if West Ham finish 10th.
And of course just as the club might climb up the league, the attacks on an arriving club bus, and the rioting between supporters might stop, the club might settle down and they might get a mid-place finish.
For as the Guardian said at the time, “It is difficult to disagree with Arsène Wenger when the Arsenal manager said inheriting the stadium was like “winning the lottery”.”
Gold and Sullivan have both said that they have no intention of selling the club. If the club were sold for £250m within the first five years of the move, the LLDC would receive £12m. Barry Hearn of Leyton Orient said his dog could have negotiated a better deal for the taxpayer. That seems likely even without seeing Mr Hearn’s dog’s pedigree.
But still we have this strange “new stadium” effect. A new stadium ought to give the club a lift but as Middlesbrough, Stoke, Bolton, Derby, Sunderland, Reading, Southampton and Leicester found out, relegation is what can follow. Ultimately it could be that inter-Hammer fighting and attacks on buses could be the least of the club’s worries.
- Emirates security problems (again), catering problems (again), keepers getting cards, and names for derbies.
- Southampton at home; Wilshere as manager
- Maybe we should be more gentle on the Anti-Wengerian journalists and their fellow travellers?
The anniversary of the day
- 11 September 1893. The first ever league win. Woolwich Arsenal 4 Walsall Town Swifts 0; John Heath scored the first ever Arsenal hat-trick in the Football League.
You can find 5000 Arsenal anniversaries arranged day by day on the Arsenal History Society site.