A brief look at West Ham United’s mission statement on their official site makes you believe that the core values of the club’s move to the London Stadium are full of faults.
It reads: ‘To promote health and wellbeing through community participation in sports, tackle exclusion and poverty and advance the education of children and young people.’
Not only did we see children crying in fear on Saturday as fans fought in the home end against Watford, but we saw heavy-handed security fuel more hate and anger when the club were cruising at 2-0 up on the pitch.
Completely coincidentally, I am sure, but when the moment turned sour in the stands, it soon went drastically wrong on the pitch.
Whilst, I was for the move to the Olympic Stadium, there are plenty of faults that are raising serious concerns for not just me, but with a lot of the Hammers faithful. Security looks out of its depth with many being young kids with experience in only the far more serene environment of athletics and cricket. Whilst many of the experienced staff that served at Upton Park are left guarding lifts, its naivety at its finest.
Of course, this is not the board’s fault, despite what many fans will tell you, this is the fault of the stadium operators and its stubbornness to be proved correct, but the ugly scenes on Saturday prove that they are far from being correct.
Poor segregation between home and away fans, stewards – who are clearly poorly trained – steamed in just four minutes before the interval to eject a fan for persistently standing, plus various flared up incidents throughout the game left the club in a dark place come full-time.
Whilst the on the pitch action wasn’t much better, after a superb opening 35 minutes, the Irons capitulated in spectacular style as kamikaze defending gifted the Hornets two goals before half-time, effectively ending the game as the visitors rolled up their sleeves and dominated the second-half against a flat-footed Hammers side.
Indeed; the only bright light at the end of the tunnel was Michail Antonio, who is one of few things related to West Ham United at the moment to be proud of. Also one of the leading scorers in the Premier League and recently capped by England, Iron Mike is certainly a much needed torch in this dark hole the club finds itself in.
After the Domzale game, in July, there were positive signs surrounding the ground. There were routine pat-downs and bag checks, and security inside the ground were helpful and friendly.
Fast forward to Premier League football, the searches have stopped, the security are mocking the Hammers fans, with one calling the Irons faithful ‘animals’ and the atmosphere inside the ground is positively toxic.
Now let’s look at the mission statement again, ‘health and well-being for children’. On Saturday, there were kids crying and leaving in fear alongside their parents as ugly scenes erupted inside the ground.
Whether these kids or parents will want to welcome their family back into an environment like that remains to be seen, but if the Hammers want to grow their brand and get it away from the way it is going at the minute, which is similar to that of the eighties, the club have to make a stand, make a calm and sensitive announcement to get the fans back on side, because right now, going to the London Stadium is not nice.
Put simply, there has to be a police presence inside the ground, they have to train the new security on how to deal with football fans. These are not the Hooray Henry’s that go to athletics and cricket, these are fans who are passionate beer fuelled men who want to let off some steam one way or another. If you antagonise them, the result won’t be pretty.
We are humans, I am sure if you talk to us like adults and not cattle, we’ll respond far more leniently.
It’s just daft. It’s time to bring an end to this madness and get our club back before it turns into a nightmare and our brand begins to spiral into the abyss.