Makes for very, very interesting reading.
The Olympic Stadium
Infighting among supporters marred early matches at the ground as did violent scenes with away fans, problems with segregation and insufficient policing and stewarding.
A perceived lack of the famous intimidating Hammers atmosphere from Upton Park has seen the stadium switch cited by many as a reason for the club’s contrast in fortunes compared to their fantastic campaign last term.
West Ham have won just six of their 17 home games this season and a host of pundits and fans have blamed everything from the size of the pitch, to the gap between the stands and the playing surface to explain why.
There were always going to be teething problems and the general matchday experience has, on the whole, improved for the majority of supporters as the season has progressed.
That being said a number of issues continue to irk the Hammers faithful, 52,000 of whom signed up for season tickets at the Olympic Stadium this season – second to only Manchester United.
So have the club delivered on the promises made before the big move?
We take a look at what vice-chairman Karren Brady – who spearheaded the stadium move and transformation – and West Ham as a club pledged before they left their beloved Boleyn Ground last summer and the reality as it stands today.
West Ham United co-owners David Gold (L) and David Sullivan flank vice chairman Karren Brady
On the club’s official website Brady said: “We are determined to deliver one of the greatest stadiums in world football, which will exceed the expectations of our supporters in every regard.”
1) The stadium’s 60,000 capacity will be the third highest in England by 2016, raising West Ham’s potential home attendance over a Barclays Premier League season from 670,000 to more than a million.
In actual fact West Ham have not been able to use the stadium to capacity once so far. Capacity was capped at 57,000 by the authorities over a number of concerns chiefly persistent standing. Brady said she was confident the club would go back up to 60,000 at various stages throughout the season but that has not materialised. The club also maintained they would be looking to raise capacity to 66,000 from next season but co-owner David Gold recently stated on Twitter it was now unlikely after proving ‘more difficult than expected’.
Mind the gap: the gulf between the pitch and stands is fans’ biggest turn off
2) The sightlines have been designed by the same architects responsible for Wembley Stadium and The Emirates, offering incredible, unobstructed views of the action from every seat in the Stadium.
While there were a few early moans and groans, particularly from away fans over the huge gap between the upper and lower tier, the actual sightlines themselves are superb around the stadium.
3) A ground-breaking retractable seating solution will be used to cover the Athletics track when the Stadium is in football mode, with 21,000 retractable seats bringing supporters as close as possible to the action.
Of all the promises made it is this which has irked Hammers fans the most. The ‘ground-breaking retractable seating solution’ is more accurately described as ‘relocatable’ and is far from state-of-the-art. The huge gaps between the stands and the pitch due to the bowl shape of the stadium as well as the chasm between the upper and lower tiers at either end are alien to supporters so used to the intimacy of Upton Park where the fans were right next to the playing surface.
4) There will be 253 wheelchair user accessible viewing spaces and 540 easy access seats, when the Stadium is in football mode.
The club was named in a report criticising some Premier League clubs over disabled access, as reported by Sky Sports. The report slammed West Ham for reducing provision for disabled supporters since it took over the Olympic Stadium. It accused some clubs of “prioritising finance over improving access”, but the Hammers hit back and said the report was based on out-of-date information.
5) The record-breaking new roof, the largest of its kind in the world, will cover every seat in the Stadium, and its special acoustic design will allow Hammers fans to create a cauldron of noise on matchdays.
The roof is certainly impressive and does indeed cover all the seats, but some fans reported still getting wet in their seats when it rains. Although the atmosphere is not as intense as it felt at the Boleyn Ground, there have been a number of games where the atmosphere was noticeably special including Chelsea in the EFL Cup, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion. It hasn’t helped that Slaven Bilic’s side have struggled for wins there in their debut season.
6) The 490 lamps from the floodlights used for the 2012 Games are being removed and re-installed underneath the new roof, providing incredible illumination to the field of play.
In fairness the floodlights are one of the best features of the stadium and really evoke memories of the Olympic Games. On a first visit to the stadium one of the things which strikes people the most are the floodlights. They do indeed provide incredible illumination although sometimes (nitpicking) several of the bulbs are not on which can look odd.
West Ham’s Olympic Stadium v Domizale
7) The pitch will be five metres longer and four metres wider than the Boleyn Ground, identical to the size of Wembley, The Emirates and Old Trafford, and made for the exciting, passing football Hammers fans want to see.
The club have been true to their word on this and despite a host of pundits and fans bemoaning the bigger pitch and blaming it for the club’s struggles this season, it is in actual fact the same size as nearly half the pitches in the Premier League. West Ham’s only mistake was not signing the kind of fast, quality players to thrive and exploit that extra space.
8) State-of-the-art Desso technology will be used to create a resilient and attractive playing surface in all weathers, designed to stand up to the rigours of the Stadium’s multi-use functions.
The pitch is perfect and even players from Italian giants Juventus – who beat the Hammers 3-2 in the stadium’s official opening game there – commented that it was one of the best they had ever played on.
9) The changing room facilities have been designed in consultation with West Ham’s coaching staff, boasting the very best in sports science technology and an 80 per cent increase in floorspace compared to the Boleyn Ground.
The club has to move with the times and this one is only of benefit to the players but pictures seen online show it is a vast improvement on Upton Park’s facilities. But as the old saying goes… they were good enough for Bobby Moore.
West Ham co-owner David Gold poses on the pitch
10) The stadium will house 35 catering outlets for supporters, double the number currently on offer at the Boleyn Ground, as well as almost 1,000 toilets, compared to 283 at the Boleyn.
There’s always room for extra toilets but generally getting food, the variety on offer and the fact supporters can go outside the ground and use other vendors has been welcomed, although is does usually mean large swathes of supporters coming back late for the start of the game or second half.
11) A new club megastore and dedicated West Ham ticket office will be available for Hammers fans on matchdays and throughout the week.
The club store works like clockwork and the system in place is very good for those using it, it is no longer a free for all like at the Boleyn where queues could get pretty lengthy. A pretty slick operation.
Champions statue outside the Boleyn Ground
12) At the Stadium’s north end, Champions Place will be a new landscaped landmark for Hammers to visit before the game, featuring the Champions Statue, and dedicated sections for different West Ham legends; and for those fans wanting to make their own mark in history, Champions Place will also feature personalised message stones in the different legends’ sections so that your names can be immortalised alongside theirs.
The personalised stones are there alright. But the Champions Place statue is still standing in its original position on the corner of Green Street and the Barking Road. While it would undoubtedly add to making the Olympic Stadium feel like home, there is a divide among fans who now feel it should remain in situ as a lasting memorial to Upton Park.
Other promises made not included in this document:
– Names on seats for 1966 area season ticket holders: Fans expected more than just a sticker with a bit of plastic over it but that’s exactly what they got and it arrived a good few months late in the season too.
– The digital wrap: A digital wrap screen around the entirety of the stadium would have been a world first and highly impressive. However planning permission was denied and the club then had to settle for the biggest TV screen in Europe – still hugely impressive though it is – which was not in place until the end of October.
– Free wifi connection for all: While there is available in the Queen Elizabeth Park and Westfield areas, West Ham failed to deliver a fully connected stadium as promised. It was blamed on the failure of the LLDC to agree a naming rights sponsor who would have footed the bill. Apparently will be functioning for next season, by which point it could well be the Vodafone Stadium.
– Concrete blocks: Karren Brady said the sore looking concrete blocks and edging either side of the giant TV screens in the ground – which is reserved for the naming rights partner – would be covered in West Ham colours or graphics until there was one but nothing ever came of it.
Westfield welcomes huge crowds for Boxing Day sales
Concessions the club has had to make:
– Boxing Day fixture no more? While nothing has been officially confirmed, various online message boards and unofficial West Ham sites claim the club have been forced to agree to request all boxing day games – a big English footballing tradition – be played away from home so as not to clash with the high crowds which turn out for the sales at nearby Westfield.