I’m not sure whether you’ve noticed or not but West Ham fans are currently underneath a cloud of misery. Staring down the barrel of a relegation threat and surviving, the promise of progress for the club is a distant, and somewhat bitter, memory.
If further evidence was needed to illustrate the displeasure of the Hammers’ following, the results of the ‘2018 London Stadium WHU Supporters Survey’ are in and they go a long way to explaining how fans feel and why they feel it.
With a focus on the historic move to the London Stadium, the survey, taken by more than 4,000 people, asked participants to rate their feelings and experiences with the opportunity to openly jot their sentiments down in the form of a comment.
The majority of the fans have been supporting West Ham for more than 30 years, so many of the answers have been given by people who’ve witnessed good and bad times for the club over the decades. The results are remarkable.
Home sweet home?
When asked when the London Stadium will feel like home, a pessimistic 38 per cent opted for the ‘never’ option. Immediately, the strong negative feelings are on show here.
The second most popular answer with 30 per cent was ‘two to fi ve seasons’ – a somewhat sunnier outlook on things to come. This gives a little balance to the negative opinions on the stadium move, but it’s still a minority view.
Perhaps surprisingly, there were 236 respondents who claim that it already does feel like home. It’s hard to come by many people who admit that – perhaps that 6 per cent is indicative of the worldwide fan base.
After two seasons in our new home, just over half of the supporters don’t believe that the move was a good idea. The rest are fairly evenly split between ‘yes’ and ‘not sure’. A high level of disapproval and uncertainty looms.
Season in, season out
Season ticket holders can be a key indicator of sentiment. Generally speaking, they watch and monitor performances, trends and results over the weeks and years.
Of the respondents LUCY WOOLFORD @lucy_whufc Polled: What do West Ham fans really think? 19 who were season ticket holders, 41 per cent will renew for 2018/19, 20 per cent already have and 22 per cent just weren’t sure. Meanwhile, 16 per cent said they would not be renewing their tickets at the end of this season. Of course, there can be many reasons for not renewing.
These results show something in West Ham fans; resilience. We may not be happy but we’ll be sure to endure that gloom for longer in order to support our club. Some say that fans should protest with their wallets but that’s easier said than done when your fortnightly fix of claret and blue is what gives you a thrill.
Something in the atmosphere
The meaning of football is more of a feeling than a game of results. Your match experience exists inside of the turnstiles. It’s so often the atmosphere that creates the all-important memories. So how do we feel about that?
When asked about general match day atmosphere and support for the team at the London Stadium, the results indicate that half of the fans feel that it’s ‘average’. Only 22 per cent mark it as ‘poor’. But put those two results together and that’s nearly three quarters of fans who are less than impressed with the atmosphere of the stadium and the support from the fans.
That’s not what people go to football matches for, is it? As a matter of interest, 124 survey takers believe the match day atmosphere to be ‘excellent’. There are optimists amongst us!
All the trimmings
Your match day experience doesn’t start and end with the action on the pitch. So the survey took all into consideration and addressed some of the other concerns of fans from before and since the stadium move.
Stewarding, refreshments and views were all put under the spotlight. It’s probably fairly predictable where this is going! 53 per cent of respondents marked the match day stewarding and security as ‘poor’. Not a huge surprise, but incredibly disappointing.
Maybe somewhat astonishingly, 50 people believed the same to be ‘excellent’. But then I guess if you haven’t personally witnessed any incidents then you’d have no reason to believe otherwise.
But fans going to a football stadium, home or away, should feel safe. This is one of the most concerning results in the survey. The food offerings (and prices of them) were voted to be average and poor in equal measures. That’s just one of those things with modern day football, unfortunately.
People are generally happy with the views from their seats though, which is something that had caused concern pre-move. The most popular reply to the question about the view was ‘good’ (36 per cent).
This is an interesting result given the vast concerns raised over the distance between fans and pitch ahead of the stadium move. One would have thought that if people were just utilising this survey to complain for the sake of complaining, then these results would have veered further towards the negative.
Are we nearly there yet?
Some have complained that the promises of great travel arrangements to the London Stadium have been under delivered. The reactions to a question on getting to and from the stadium are mixed.
Those who answered that travel to the stadium is good, average or poor are in almost equal measure. The question took walking, driving and public transport into consideration, so it’s likely that it depends on which mode of transport you take as to what the answer is.
All of the above led to an overall match day satisfaction level of overwhelming mediocrity. Almost half (45 per cent) of fans said that their experience has been ‘average’. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t sound like what we moved for.
Living the dream
The whole idea of the stadium move was to progress the club into higher league positions, to attract better players, to ultimately start to win some silverware. How’s that going, according to the fans?
Will West Ham be a top six side in the next five years? Not according to the survey participants. A staggering 85 per cent said ‘no’ when asked this question.
Again, when asked if the club can become a top four team within 10 years, the answer was a resounding ‘no’, with 82 per cent opting for the negative.
This, of course, underpins the resentment directed at the board for much of this season. Unsurprisingly, over two thirds of respondents said that the board is doing a ‘poor’ job. Worth noting that there are a tiny amount of optimistic followers, with one per cent judging the board to be doing an ‘excellent’ job.
Before inviting free comment, the survey asked if fans feel the club is listening to them and valuing their opinions and concerns.
It’s a sad state of affairs, as 62 per cent declared that they feel under appreciated and that West Ham, as a club, does a ‘poor’ job of making them feel valued. The comments to follow, as you can imagine, are overwhelmingly hostile, with the common themes being the board and the stadium.
Sifting through them, I notice many messages suggesting that the board should leave, Moyes should be sacked, London Stadium is soulless and even mentions of giving up supporting West Ham altogether.
Some tug at the heartstrings: ‘The move killed a community where the life blood was West Ham.’
At my age, I do not want to ruin the love I have always had for West Ham United.’
‘The move has killed the club.’ Whatever the outcome of this season, the air of discontent is obvious.
It’s something the club can’t ignore, and when I say club, I mean the board.
It’s time to stop trying so hard with fl ag waving, social media and PR and to start listening to the only people who really matter in football – the fans.