Our move to the London Stadium was originally billed as an opportunity for the club to take a step to the next level, to compete with the very best in England and even the rest of Europe.
But aft er just a handful of games some fans are already writing the move off as a disaster, the club’s identity ruined as a result. Th e transition from the Boleyn Ground to London Stadium hasn’t been plain sailing, we all know that, but that’s not to say it’ll never work out in the end. It will and, regardless if you wanted the move or not, it’s something we’re just going to have to get used to.
There are many people who can be blamed for the way in which the early transition between stadiums has turned out, but you can never blame the club for wanting to make the move in the first place. Lady Karren Brady was tasked with the unenviable job of making the whole thing work from start to finish, and she has done that very well. The early issues were always going to tarnish the incredible job she and the club had done to that point, though.
But the reality is that if we want West Ham United to be successful, then we need to move with the times. A football club is no longer just a football club, it is a business, a brand. And it’s the club’s brand values and culture that Brady recently came out and spoke about. What she said made sense. It’s just a shame the media felt the need to mis-quote what she had said.
More tragically, it’s a shame that a large section of the fans did not have the intelligence to understand what Brady meant. Brady said at a conference in October: ‘We saw the move as a real opportunity to change the brand values of the club. Rebranding ourselves was really important with our new stadium.
‘Getting the culture right, being a place where something is expected of you, that wasn’t there when the chairmen took over.’ Fair comments and words that you’d expect to hear from someone who has been tasked with boosting the club’s global commercial value. But the British media had other ideas. Brady was immediately misquoted as saying that the ‘club had no culture’ in a way to deliberately provoke West Ham fans who were still feeling the pain of moving home.
Brady was absolutely right to say what she did. The club is no longer just a club, it’s a business, which means it must be economically savvy when it comes to brand values and marketability. At the moment the club is doing all it can to ensure we can compete with the elite on the pitch, let alone off it. Believe it or not, in 2016 and in the modern game, both go hand-in-hand.
However, the aftermath of Brady’s quotes led to what I believe to be an even bigger embarrassment than our own fans fighting each other in the stands. That is because if you had half a brain you would’ve understood Brady’s comments and even looked further into the context in which she spoke. One quote that isn’t so widely reported is this: ‘Protecting the fans’ traditions and their values and their integrity is very important.
I’m not sure about anyone else but that says to me that the club has always had the fans in mind throughout the move. But let’s not get that in the way of an excuse to blame someone for what has so far been a disappointment. The fans have been desperate for someone to blame this season and the media misquoting Brady has given just that. The abuse Brady got in the aftermath was nothing short of disgusting.
A mixture of grown men and children all aiming abuse at Brady for what they thought she’d said, instead of showing the integrity and intelligence to really find out what she’d said and exactly what she’d meant by it. As a life-long West Ham fan, one who had a season ticket at the Boleyn Ground for 22 years but still in favour of the move to the London Stadium (yes, we exist), I’m more embarrassed by the behaviour of our so called fans this season, mostly on social media, than I am of some of the performances we’ve put in on the pitch.
Karren Brady, David Gold and David Sullivan will have done and said what they thought was right for the club, and they deserve respect for what they’ve achieved with us so far. Some fans will continue to go against the owners and the move but, in my opinion, those fans will not have the right to celebrate with the rest of us if we do finally reach that next level. It’s time for the fans to get behind the club, the owners and Brady, or at least start thinking for themselves rather than listen and believing to what the media wants them to hear and believe.