Joint chairman David Gold is ‘confident and optimistic’ West Ham will be playing in front of 60,000 fans in the near future.
Speaking exclusively to Blowing Bubbles Monthly, Gold said the club is in negotiations to increase the capacity but admitted the club still has hurdles to jump before a licence is awarded. And he has urged all West Ham fans to take a look at the ticket exchange service being run by the club to reduce the number of ‘no shows’ that was evident during the last campaign.
‘We are having a bit of difficult getting the licence increased but it’s all negotiations and I’m very confident we will go to 60,000 in the not too distant future,’ he explained. ‘I’m then confident of going up to 66,000 which is where we want to be.’ As for last season’s no shows, he added: ‘You always get them, as you do at any stadium in the country. The important thing to remember, from a revenue point of view, is those are still tickets sold and it’s money coming into the club that we can spend.
‘If you are able to bring in more money than your competitors then it puts you ahead of them in the race to sign a player. ‘Our ticket exchange service is still relatively new and a lot of people don’t know about it. I got tweets all the time last season asking about spare tickets and they didn’t know about the ticket exchange.
‘The more people that are aware of this service, the better, and this will dramatically improve the number of no shows and empty seats. ‘You saw the impact of 57,000 fans when we played Spurs and Palace last season. Our fans’ fantastic support generated an electrifying atmosphere.’
‘The more people that are aware of this service, the better, and this will West Ham have strengthened significantly in the summer transfer window, but Gold says he is just as excited about the players who were brought in over the last few years. ‘This season, I must tell you, if everyone is back fi t, even without the new players, if we have an average amount of injuries – so half what we had last year – we will be improve the number of no shows and empty seats. ‘You saw the impact of 57,000 fans when we played Spurs and Palace last season. Our fans’ fantastic support generated an electrifying atmosphere.’
West Ham have strengthened significantly in the summer transfer window, but Gold says he is just as excited about the players who were brought in over the last few years. ‘This season, I must tell you, if everyone is back fit, even without the new players, if we have an average amount of injuries – so half what we had last year we will be challenging at the right end of the division.
‘If you then add the three or four quality signings to the squad, I’d be stunned if we finished 11th again. There will be absolutely no reason why we won’t be knocking on the door at the right end of the league.’ As for looking for free transfers and the backlash that follows, Gold continued: ‘Free transfers is misleading because they aren’t free. Instead of paying a club a fee for the player, the player gets more in wages and maybe a signing on fee.
Their agent gets twice as much because it’s a “free”. In actual fact when it boils down and you look at the cost over the length of a contract, it’s not a “free” transfer at all. It’s the same as buying a player. ‘People say we are being cheap but in players like Zabaleta, we’ve got a top quality, seasoned player. It’s a great signing but it’s not what the negative fans claim it to be.’
As for the injuries that blighted last season, Gold added: ‘We are looking at a couple of things where we can get extra help. There are some scientists that say the players have to work harder but there were a lot of injuries last season that there was nothing we could do about. Just take Kouyate. ‘The players jumped on him after he scored and he broke his wrist. What do we do? Tell him not to celebrate?
‘Then there was the freak situation with Winston Reid with a bone growing into his knee. The surgeon said he hadn’t seen anything like this. That’s just you luck. ‘You might argue that things might have been done to prevent the soft tissue injuries but I’ve never known in all my time in football, two hamstrings operated on in one season in Antonio and Sam Byram.
‘But let me be clear we are doing all we can and you are not going to have us top of the league of injuries and/or lost minutes again anytime soon.’ West Ham were splashed across many back pages last season, mainly for wrong reasons, but Gold is a firm believer that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Asked if he felt we received negative media attention last season, he replied: ‘Equally we got press which further raised the profile of the club. We did also get press when we did good things. ‘We are a sexy club. If you bear in mind that for the past 70 years, or in my lifetime, we’ve probably averaged 17th place in the top flight, we do get a lot of press attention and that’s because we are a sexy football club.
‘We’ve got the history, the likes of Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking, but when you think of global appeal and the fact we’re not yet a top four club, the Americans love us when we are on TV. ‘We get more attention than the teams around us and that’s got to be a positive. We know this attention means if we step out of line one bit, we get just as much coverage. ‘That’s why we did and continue to work hard to ensure the issues we faced last season don’t happen again.’
As with every interview with Blowing Bubbles, the issue of rail seating was raised and Gold continues to bang the drum for its introduction in the Premier League. ‘How can you have an issue with it? It’s as safe as safe can be. Yes it could work in the London Stadium but until the law is changed, we can’t do anything.
You saw how successful it was for Celtic but the Scottish law is different to ours. I will, however, continue to lobby. What I always say is that we’ve got areas of unofficial standing anyway – why not make it so everyone is safe and happy?’
And finally, as our interview comes to a close, I ask Gold about the possibility of a Red Bull-style takeover. ‘Absolutely no way,’ he replied. ‘Some fans want to hear that West Ham fans are running their football club. This is true.
‘Some fans want to hear that their club will be run by West Ham fans for the foreseeable and again this is true. Both my and David Sullivan’s children love West Ham. ‘Both David Sullivan and myself love West Ham. Unlike foreign owners, we are here at every match – home and away. Even Roman Abramovich, who is a great football fan, doesn’t go to Chelsea’s away matches.
But there are other fans, and I see them on Twitter all the time, who call for us to sell up – especially when we are losing. ‘They call me a liar and say we are pocketing all the money and it’s hard to take but I’ve become immune to it even though it still hurts because it’s simply not true.
‘We are West Ham fans and we don’t want to sell. We want to hand West Ham over to West Ham fans – and these are our children. They are all gaining experience all the time. ‘My two girls are seasoned businesswomen and they’ve been running businesses for 20 years. David Sullivan’s boys are becoming more experienced all the time – one of them is the chairman of the Ladies team.
I think the four of them will be a good combination in years to come when we both give up. That’s where David Sullivan and I stand. ‘This is the club we’ve supported all our lives and we want to be here until the very end. Some fans believe we can’t take this football club to the next level but I think we can.
‘We have had enquiries from people wanting to come into the business and if we thought someone was capable of helping us to fulfil our dream sooner rather than later, we would, of course, be interested in talking to them but as we speak, our plan is to do everything we can to take our football club to the next level and challenge the top of the table.
‘You’ve got to remember I’ve been doing this for a long time. I not only look at things as a fan but also look at the financial side of it all. ‘One feature of being old is that I can’t beat kids over 100 yards or on Twitter but I’ve got 50 years more experience than they have got and I can’t see no reason why we can’t do what we did in ’64, ’75 and ’80 next season. Now, wouldn’t something like that be lovely.’