In the recesses of my sombre mind, I may yet see a flicker of hope that would ease my fears and make our club whole once more…and that may not mean surviving in the Premier League.
On the whole, I am not convinced that certain patrons of our world-class stadium are indeed West Ham fans but rather fans of Premier League football. The move has generated an extra twenty thousand opportunities to see our home games which were readily snapped up and with the allure of frozen prices for the next season or two, there might still be that hold for many regardless of our final spot.
It has been my contention that relegation, whilst most horrid and foul in financial terms…may also be a blessing in disguise. It may act to recenter the team, refocus our endeavour and rejuvenate our spirit that has somewhat been given and damn good thrashing over the last two campaigns.
Many fans are priced out of the game these days, whether due to personal finances or because of tickets prices and travelling costs…not to mention the refreshing beverages, sustenance and club merchandise. The club resides in a comfortable position as their overheads have been dramatically reduced, only having to generate enough money to pay the landlord the monthly rent, so a drop to the Championship would not necessarily see us scrambling around trying to stay out of the red…well not immediately anyway.
The club would receive the parachute payment but also the loyal fanbase would still amount to circa thirty thousand per game…easily enough to meet any running costs. There would, of course, be shedding of talent for huge transfer fees which should help our recovery if not then absolutely assure the owners’ wallets remain fat and jolly.
However…“Houston, we have a problem” Much of the fanbase already regard the stadium as a soulless fishbowl, if it isn’t sold out then that feeling would be compounded and there would be a downward spiral effect if the team were not able to secure promotion the very next season.
For some fans, I’m sure much of the glory and appeal of watching a game is to experience the spectacle. West Ham have been able to deliver showcase games against world-renowned opposition in a stadium that was also globally recognised…if only for a glorious two week period nearly six years ago. They have allowed all fans of all persuasions and demographics to experience the ‘show’ and much of the money model is based upon sell out games…but what happens when the ‘show’ no longer applies and the club come begging to sell tickets to weekly encounters?
The recent talks with fan groups and club representatives chaired by Karren Brady might give the impression that the ownership is committed to correcting many if not all of the wrongs and injustices within the framework of our match going experience. There would be much nodding of approval if only anyone believed the political posturing and corporate spin. However huge issues were omitted from the discussion because the board members were not present to answer the probing questions…such as transfer dealings and financial transparency etc. We are still in the dark, however for some protestations and dissenting voices…it appears that the vague hope of attention is enough to resign in compliance and remove fan from flame.
Karren Brady et al released a lengthy account of what was discussed but one paragraph that really drew my attention and got my mind working overtime…more than is usual:
‘Our current understanding is that a long-term retractable solution would cost tens of millions and require a long period (up to a year) during which we would have to relocate from the Stadium. The Board would, of course, consider this if this change stood to offer more direct benefits for our supporters but our understanding is that benefits would be minimal and you are likely to favour investments of this level to go directly to the playing squad’
I may be in the minority on this, however, our survival in the Premier League does not determine my passion for my club nor does it determine whether I am a weekly attendee or go to games as and when I am able. Although I want the profits to be reinvested into the club, that does not necessarily mean that I want it all spent on overpriced players who will not bleed, both physically and emotionally for the club colours.
Our relationship with the club that we support is not based on who is the current manager or which player occupies the number 1, 10, 23 or 69 shirt. That relationship is based upon a support for the club as a whole and the weekly aspiration that any current team will entertain us whilst accepting that there will be the full spectrum of emotions along the way, matched only by performances and passion.
All issues at the club can be readily rectified…even the major ones. All that is required is a commitment to spend the money that fills the club coffers to the brim. One of the biggest issues right now is the match going experience, included within that is the seating proximity to the pitch. If millions are to be spent to rectify it…then spend it and be done with it! After all, it is an investment into the club that I’m most concerned with and the game experience too.
The club could throw millions at the team right now, but it would not necessarily improve our position and secure any long-term future. We need investment in the club infrastructure, a fully modernised training ground, an improved academy that will leave us with a club legacy that Sebastian Coe could only wish for his Olympic wet dreams.
Spend the money now for a better tomorrow! I want the club to stay in the Premier League but not at the expense of our future security. If we are to be relegated, then sad as that might be…it would not change my feelings for this club. It will undoubtedly reduce attendances, it will inhibit our ability to attract those ‘world class players’. It might leave the crowd to the faithful and proud as opposed being filtered with show chasers, big time experts and the well groomed. Our club can be true again…get rid of the straw boaters and river floaters at the top and bring in the passionate, knowledgeable and the media-shy, who will run our club properly from tomorrow and beyond. Do away with the regatta oars and bring in the aficionado boars, invest in the club now…action now without false promises and if we survive then show true ambition in player recruitment in summer dealings.