LONDON STADIUM, THE VERDICT

Author: . Published: at 11:35pm

Stadium

I finally got to go to my first game at the new stadium on Thursday.

Those who follow my articles and Facebook page (facebook.com/bubblesfanzine) will know me as quite a positive person, so I will continue to put a positive spin in this article as best I can.

First of all, I want to quickly touch on the game itself. Astra knew they were not the better footballing side and that they would have to play mind games and get under the skin of the West Ham players. Lessons from last year’s exit were clearly not learnt, whether that is down to the manager or the players, remains to be seen but every time the Hammers had any sort of momentum it was broken up by “injuries” to an Astra player or time wasting from their goal kicks and throw ins. West Ham did not know how to cope with the mind games and ultimately it cost them their place in the group stages.

I do not want to dwell on the game and result too much, we move on and aim for silverware in the cup knowing that 9 key players are due to return to the squad and once they do we will see a very top class West Ham side once again.

I didn’t know what to expect from our new home as I set off from Newport in Wales. My old match day routine was centred around pre match drinks at the supporters club and enjoying watching the queue outside Nathan’s pie and mash, the build up to the game was usually heightened by the crowds walking down Barking road and Green street, the smell of the onions frying from the various burger vans and all the other familiar sights and smells unique to that area.

I knew Stratford would be different to that but I didn’t understand to what extent it would be.
As I left Stratford station I headed right and walked across what I thought would be the main bridge but it turned out to be the one further to the left but I sill got the wow factor, as in the distance the massive stadium started to emerge. It really is a sight to behold, one which I found breath taking. It reminded me of being a child and the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach was very nostalgic and reminiscent of Christmas day.

The first thing that struck me upon approaching the stadium was the street food vendors. Domino’s pizza is a stark contrast to Ercan chip shop or Nathan’s. I know it seems like quite an anal observation but the pre-match build up felt more like a trip to Wembley for an exhibition game rather than approaching a West Ham home game. Those sights, smells and sounds were a big part of my match day experience and the grubby streets of Upton Park were replaced with the sterile and shiny surroundings of the Olympic Park and Westfield with its posh looking bars like the Cow.

This isn’t a negative point per say, more so an observation on my behalf of a small detail that to me makes a difference but to you might be neither here nor there.

I didn’t waste much time getting into the stadium after taking some mandatory selfies outside, and I ended up through the turnstiles. I loved it inside, I was extremely impressed inside the concourse, plenty of room, plenty of toilets and plenty of food and drink stalls.

The one thing that really used to get on my nerves at the Boleyn or any other stadium for that matter, was the split between upper tier and lower tier. If you sat in the upper tier, you had a specific set of turnstiles and they led to a staircase with five or six flights to the concourse. In the London stadium, each block gives you access to both lower and upper tier with ease. I think the layout is very impressive, both tiers in the east stand are very close to each other and to me, that is a great bonus as I hated climbing up so many stairs before.

I found my seat in no time at all, I happened to be sat dead on the half way line in the second row from the front of the upper tier (row 32).

I had expected the pitch to look miles away but in all honesty, the view was world class. Sitting in my seat and taking in the view and my surroundings really left me in absolute awe of the place. I had a huge grin on my face and I am nothing other than hugely impressed with the work that has gone in to making this stadium a fantastic venue to watch sports in.

The next thing on my list of observations was to get a feel of what the atmosphere would be like, bearing in mind this was a general sale game rather than a league game where you do tend to get a different mix of fans. The initial round of blowing bubbles before kick off when the players left the tunnel was deafening and spine tingling.
I picked up on how much louder the extra 20,000 people made the singing sound. As a whole, throughout the game, for my liking, there was enough atmosphere and various busts of ironic “stand up if you love West Ham” in response to the no standing rules.

This brings me nicely onto a few issues I picked up on as the match played out and it saddens me to have to write this next part.
At Upton Park, some people stood, some people sat down. But you always knew which parts of the stadium would do which, usually Bobby Moore and Chav corner had the standing up and the bulk of the songs, and the rest were sat down.
I’m usually in-between, I loved standing as a youngster but I now have severe back problems which makes it a lot harder for me to stand for long periods of time. I respect the rules and others around me that like to sit except when we stand up to sing Bubbles or there is am exciting attacking move which might lead to a goal being scored.

As much as I understand the club’s stance on standing due to the council and stadium operator’s rules, I got the feeling that the enforcement of these rules was a tad on the heavy handed side. I didn’t see any harm in the odd “stand up if you love West Ham” and at least 75% were sat down the rest of the time. I think that once people settle into groups of standing and sitting, no one will have any issues with it. The stewards need to understand these things more than they presently do and give people a chance to show their passion and sit down again before being so heavy handed.

One of the big issues on this subject, as I understand it is that at Upton Park, West Ham employed their own security and as I mentioned already, everyone had their own areas of the stadium for standing. Over here, the stadium provides the security rather than the club and there is a big lack of understanding from them.

Another situation which caused a big issue from what I witnessed on Thursday seems to be the amount of non-West Ham fans. Especially where I was sat in the East Stand. I have no idea whether this is down to cheaper ticket prices or how it has materialised, but I have never witnessed anything as bizarre at a West Ham game in my entire life.

The group in the row in front of me had no idea who West Ham were playing or what competition it was in. They were there to enjoy a night out at a football game but ended up chatting all game and taking various selfies as well as whatsapping friends or checking emails.

Then there was a group of lads behind me of which one of them openly admitted he was not a West Ham supporter but had purchased a season ticket “because why not? It’s cheap and I work in the area”.

At half time, a friend of mine came over to see me and told me he had seen someone in the toilets wearing a Crystal Palace shirt. I also spotted an Arsenal shirt and a Man United shirt.

This would never have happened at Upton Park. I felt disgusted by it, and salt was rubbed in the wound by the fact these people were giving me filthy looks for simply singing COME ON YOU IRONS and Bubbles! I was a West Ham fan at a home game, joining in with my fellow home supporters, singing the songs, creating a atmosphere but being looked at like a scum bag for daring to sing around them because they were all there for a quiet chit chat and a nice evening.
I mentioned an exhibition game at Wembley type atmosphere and feeling before the game as I approached the stadium. Well this was the case inside where I was sat as well.

I am a traditional, old school Hammer who has embraced the move to Stratford with open arms and an open mind. I applaud Mr’s Gold and Sullivan, I take my hat off to Mrs Brady. They have worked wonders for this club and I still think that the move was important for the future of the club. It is a fantastic stadium and it looks a lot like a West Ham home ground, largely down to the hard work and craft put in to its conversion. However, it will not feel like home if non-West Ham fans are buying tickets and the stadium’s own security staff are taking control of things they have no right to control. The stadium needs to be managed the same way that West Ham managed the Boleyn ground.

Despite my obvious ranting and negativity, I cannot offer a solution to anyone as to how to stop these people buying a ticket. However they did it at Upton Park would be a start!

I am not naive enough to think it would be exactly the same! I’ll get used to eating pizza rather than Pie and Mash. I can get used to the shiny and sterile walk to the ground. I can get used to everything because I know it is for the greater good. I love the stadium and the views are fantastic. I love our directors and the manager. I detest how much control has been given up to a third party stadium operator and their staff. Get that control back, get rid of the fake fans, and you will have a fortress and intimidating home atmosphere once again.

This article was written by Richard Oses.

Comments

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  • James
    28th August 2016 at 1:01 am

    Very good article. I love the new stadium but I have to agree, the fans wearing shirts from rival clubs has to stop.

    I only want to sit amongst West Ham fans. I don’t want to sit next to an already plastic Man Utd fan watching a game pretending to be a West Ham fan. That can’t be right, can it? That type of fan is even more plastic than the seats we sit on.

    Probably in time these fans from other clubs will, for want of a better phrase, fade and die (but not literally I hope), as the novelty wears off for them. Then we’ll be left with a stadium full of true West Ham fans (apart from the away fans of course).

    I don’t believe the stadium is soulless, as I’ve heard some West Ham fans call it. The fans provide the soul to any stadium and our new home certainly has the potential to be loud and atmospheric. The fake fans will have to be filtered out though for this to happen, that’s for sure.

    It will start to feel like home once we get use to our surroundings though. I’m sure of that.

  • 28th August 2016 at 8:01 am

    Absolutely fabulous! A balanced and open-minded article. Twitter has been awash with negativity regarding the stadium over the last few weeks. Did people seriously expect the new stadium to be Upton Park mk 2 or expect nothing to change? Did they think creating new pre-match rituals or creating a unique atmosphere would be an instant thing? Upton Park was very special in its old-school shabby way; it was real and visceral and I’ll always love it, but the world moves on and rather than moaning its up to us to make it our own and create the atmosphere, and over time the club will hopefully learn lessons to enable this to happen. We’re 4 games in to this new adventure; I’m confident over time (and it might take a year or two) any problems will be ironed (no pun indended) out.

  • Norman collins
    28th August 2016 at 9:21 am

    Part of your problem was your seat
    From what u say you were in a 1966 seat which is a padded seat in a price band above band 1 hence it attracts the money no probs type of fan who buys a shirt from the champions each year and knows nothing else about football except they have to be seen to be there
    Like u I miss my pre game ritual
    Like u I sit in east upper on the halfway line great view
    Unlike u it’s not a 1966 seat and for Bournemouth I was surrounded by the regular season tx holders and it was as near my previous east lower experience as I could have wished for
    But for the other 3 games not in season tx price a load of odd bLls have sat around me and it was terrible so I may just miss cup games in early rounds as well
    I travel from Yorkshire so add train ticket to usual costs and I need to look at the value for money bit some times
    Norman

  • Stuart jones
    28th August 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Great article very fair comments.
    I would add to the security outside the ground and the inept stewarding and attempts at crowd segregation. Whilst waiting for the train my son and I were headed onto the station with a steward saying “we never had complaints when the Olympics were on.” I laughed and told him if you expect west ham and Tottenham fans to be in harmony whilst getting to the station after a game you will be in the middle of a blood bath. To which he smiled and told me to move along.
    There are a few issues which need work and I am sure we will get used to it.
    Like you, I miss my pie and mash at a decent price instead of the over-priced food Newham council charge.
    Thanks and keep up the good work.

  • Tim
    28th August 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Totally bang on fella!

    Completely agree on the stewards! It was always the same guys and girls from the turnstiles to the seats in the Bobby Moore upper and we got to know them and they got to know us and that meant that everyone knew where there were and the limitations there were. Now at the OS it’s completely different. Someone said to me last night oh see your fans are causing trouble and getting into fights already at the OS! Whilst I’m not naive enough to think this isn’t happening I do know it is down the stewarding at the games! It needs to be sorted and it doesn’t matter it’s us there. If it had been Tottenham, Leyton Orient or an other, anyone who attends home games for anyone across the country can relate to and understand the issues we are having as fans!

    This plastic non West Ham fan thing is actually upsetting me now. In the games I have been to so far at the OS I have seen hoards of fans leave on 75 mins, I have seen hoards of fans go for half time after 30 minutes, I too have seen other football shirts dotted around and a large amount of people sitting near me sitting like they are in church next to me. I have a group of about half a dozen great lads around me but every time one of us makes any nose you can just feel people looking at you as if to say can you just be quiet! I picked the east stand this season as they sold it to me that it was going to be the hub of the atmosphere like the chicken run but about 10 times the size. I shouldn’t have been so naive about that. But the sad fact of it is the east stand on the whole seems quite quiet most the time.

    I truly fear as a club we are slowly becoming an embarrassment and agave lost most the reasons I started supporting the club.

    Unfortunately the owners don’t overly care, football is a money business now and as long as they are selling out every game it happy days for them.

    To summarise….. the games to the OS so far have felt like pre season games or away games and I don’t know what the answer would if there is one on solving these issues?

  • Grahame Bell
    28th August 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Agree totally think you got it spot on. We found our replacement Boleyn pre match pub The Builders Arms and when we started a chorus of bubbles we got a lot of funny looks from people wearing new West Ham shirts as if to say how rowdy we were singing!!
    Love the ground but the stewarding is shocking we had about 20 Astra fans congregate in front of us in one of the disabled sections 1, why were they allowed in there and allowed to stand!! 2,why did it take so long to remove them and only after numerous hammers fans complaints. 3, asking for trouble if this isn’t sorted before the big teams come.
    The extra revenue from the 25 000 extra seats can take us to another level but like at city and arsenal it will come at a price only hope it won’t drive the true Upton Park irons fans away like it has to many of my arsenal friends.⚒⚒

  • Scott
    28th August 2016 at 9:16 pm

    The Stand up if you love West Ham chant was not a response to the instructions to sit down at all, it’s not a protest.
    We sung it at Upton Park and we sung it at the first game at the new stadium against Domzale before the standing issues arose.
    We shouldn’t read too much into it.

  • 29th August 2016 at 10:09 am

    Thak you for your comments the feedback is appreciated

  • JO BUSH
    29th August 2016 at 10:10 am

    I’ve not been to the ground yet because I’m on crutches at the moment but my mum (70) sister (45) and son (21) are all season ticket holders.
    Mum and sis used to have front row seats in the East stand upper by the away fans. They are both little so can’t have people who stand in front of them
    When they went to buy their seats for the OS (London – stupid name) they were told the ones they have would be fine for that. However they are not because, all though they are in a front row of a tier, the drop to the tier below is much less in the East stand so as soon as those in front of them stand up they can’t see.
    My son’s seat was in the East stand lower (chicken run) by the away fans. That part of the Boleyn always stood and sang and he loves that part of the game experience. Where his new seat is that doesn’t happen.
    The way the tickets were sold it was impossible to work out which area would give you a similar match day experience to Upton Park and the ticket office staff clearly had no idea about seat views etc. I know of fans that have been sitting together for years who haven’t been able to this year.
    Everyone I know is keeping an eye on how things develop this season – which areas have more standing/singing, which less with a view to move seats next. They all say they miss the unique smell of fried onions and burgers on the way in !
    I guess it was always going to be that way

  • Mr PP Whitelock
    29th August 2016 at 10:29 am

    I’m a 67 year old EastEnder having grown up in Plaistow , for years I had longed for my area to have some money spent on it to improve the lives of local people. Now EastEnders have something to be proud of namely the QE Olympic Park as a whole not just the stadium. Far from it being sterile a it has become a vibrant place for people to come for a good day out, from the Olympic swimming pool to the kids play ground. You can go on on a trip down the canal, hiire a bke, have a picnic,kids can have a great time playing in the water fountain and so much more. So can I suggest next time you go to a match , just take a little time to walk round the park first, I think you just might enjoy it.

  • 29th August 2016 at 10:35 am

    Well I’m in a 1966 seat holder and think it’s only been at the Bournemouth game that the actual Season Ticket holders have turned up. Around me they’re all long-term Season Ticket holders, quite a few I recognise from where we sat in the Betway/Rio Upper at Upton Park, for over 20 years (incidentally there were 12 flights of stairs up to the Concourse and I’m surprised there weren’t more heart attacks – including mine!)

    I can afford a 1966 seat so why not have one, I’ve worked hard for my money so why shouldn’t I enjoy it – I didn’t appreciate the sneering tone of this blogger towards us 1966’ers.

    As far as the article is concerned – no, the Stadium doesn’t feel like home yet – the walk through Westfield where we are directed this way and that, and particularly the walk back to the Station where you’re directed away from Westfield, the barriers, stop-go boards, umpteen stewards make me feel like we’re being treated like cattle – definitely not showing us punters much respect!

    The Stewarding is poor, they seem to be a load of students making a couple of bob – not having been trained or have much of a clue what they are doing. At Upton Park you saw the same Stewards at every game and they were trained and had some idea of what they were supposed to do – not perfect but infinitely better than what we’ve got at the Olympic Stadium!

    Similarly, the bar staff are a load of students who haven’t a clue what they’re doing – for the Juventus game I went to the Real Ale bar and asked for two pints of Deuchars and the guy just stared at me like I was talking another language, all he was interested in was taking the money and fumble around with his bum bag sorting out the change instead of actually pouring out the beer!

    Real Ale being available is an improvement but they need to sharpen up the bar staff!

  • 29th August 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Great article!
    Unfortunately you cant controll, and shouldnt control, who comes to watch our games as long as they dont have a banning order. Everyone have had their first game sometime, these people are interested in our club and will help revenue when buying thints etc. But I honestly believe shirts from other teams should be banned except when you are at the away section. No more strange than when some pubs select who can come in, and sometimes you are not allowed to wear club colours.

  • James Hepting
    1st September 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Very well balanced and informative article. I am a season ticket holder in BML and have been to every home game barring the first europa league qualifier. I am in total agreement with you on sterile sites and sounds on the walk to the ground but this is something in time the majority of fans will eventually learn to get used to. I for one enjoy being able to easily grab a beer at one of the stalls directly outside the ground, also who can honestly say they enjoyed crawling down Green St or queuing for Upton Park station after a rain soaked mid week game?

    I always said that the litmus test would be the Bournemouth game when all season ticket holders will be present in their own seats and I have to say I thought the atmosphere was on a par and in parts surpassed that at Upton Park (Spurs, Liverpool and Chelsea aside), especially considering it was a Sunday KO and like the Juve game it was extremely hot.

    For the last few years I have stood in BML and was pleased that this tradition has continued at the new ground. Quite rightly there has been complaints from fans sitting in traditional sitting areas who cannot see because of consistent standing but the club will have a serious issue on their hands if they try to enforce those who stand in traditional well established standing areas who sing and create the unique Westham atmosphere to sit down. I for one would seriously consider giving up my season ticket if this was forcefully implemented by the club as I believe it would be the beginning of the end of the club I love and support and Westham become another soulless, corporate, multinational entity like Arsenal or City.

    Other positives for me is that it is much much easier to get a drink and go to the toilet at half time and I really like the open feel on the concourse, not sure it will be quite the same for an evening game in December. I do however have an issue with the exposed concrete areas around the stadium which reminds me of the Liberty stadium and MK Don’s ground, I assume once naming rights have been agreed some sort of branding will be used but for time being surely just put some Westham flags up or just cover it with some claret and blue boards? Also I am not a fan of the green astro round the outside of the pitch, I would rather there was an additional set of advertising boards or even just paint it Claret and have it similar to how it was just outside the dug out at UP. My last issue and for me probably the most serious problem is the segregation of the home and away fans, especially travelling to and from the stadium. As I was walking across the grass to the right of the orbit towards Stratford High St a fair number of Bournemouth fans were allowed to run right amongst Westham fans and there were a number of altercations with no police in sight. If the same tactics and procedures are used by police and the local authorities for any of our big rivals, it could easily become an absolute blood bath.

    Overall I am pleased and excited about the future of the club at the new stadium but it is essential the issues being pointed out by the fans are addressed by the club as soon as possible.

    COYI

    Jim ‘hammer’ Hepting