Last Saturday, a 66th minute strike from Ashley Barnes put Burnley ahead against a hammers side who had come in off back to back 4-1 away defeats. The already tense atmosphere quickly turned toxic inside the London Stadium. Several fans invaded the pitch, one of whom was hurled to the ground by captain Mark Noble and hundreds gathered outside the owner’s box to make their feelings known. Two further Burnley goals would only add to the carnage, and by 80 minutes chants of ‘we’re not West Ham anymore’ rang around a now half empty stadium. The move which promised to thrust West Ham into the international spotlight for their football, instead now has the world’s eyes on them for all the wrong reasons. But what exactly is the reasoning behind the protests.
Go back a little less than two years and the face of the club was very different. The date was the 10th May 2016. The club had just said farewell to their beloved home of over a century, Upton Park, with a dramatic 3-2 comeback win over Manchester United. West Ham would finish 7th that season, just 4 points off the Champions League places.
It is easy to look at the events and blame the West Ham fans involved in the incidents at the London Stadium. In fact, I’ve heard many saying ‘same old West Ham’ and ‘who do West Ham fans think they are’. Well if truth be told I don’t think West Ham fans know who they are right now. Their identity has been taken away, and the results promised have not come with it. The next level was something Gold, Brady and Sullivan repeated so many times whilst the move was in progress. This move was meant to elevate West Ham to the Champions League, but it has had the opposite effect and they are now starring down the barrel of Championship football in a 56,000 seat stadium.
Ask any West Ham fan and they’ll tell you they aren’t a successful club. They haven’t won a major trophy since 1980. In the Premier League era, there have been two relegations and only twice have they finished inside the top 7. So, why is there so much discontent now? It is the broken promises of the board that have led to the anger. The first year at the London Stadium generated £41 million profit for the board. Estimations have valued the club at about £300-400 million in terms of profit. But, why in two years and four transfer windows has there been a net spend of £29 million? This is the questions West Ham fans want answered. At the moment it isn’t a football club it is a business.
So maybe the protests are needed. There will never be justification for fans running on the pitch during a game but the events last Saturday have certainly made a point. The future of ownership of the club may be out of their hands but one thing the fans must do is be United as it says in the clubs name and nature. If my beloved football club ends up in the championship who knows what’s to come. Blackpool? Portsmouth? Wigan? Sunderland??? Or could it be even worse than that?