It’s taken almost three years but it does seem as though we’re beginning to make London Stadium feel like home. It doesn’t need to be said that it’ll never compare to Upton Park because that’s a given but now, after six home games unbeaten following the Newcastle game, it certainly feels as though things are beginning to click in Stratford.
One of the biggest gripes among our fans since the big move was the gaps between the seats and the pitch, with the stadium’s running track and the retractable seating restrictions the reasons behind not being able to bring the fans closer to the action. It’s a fair gripe to have, too. The gaps are big, ugly and do play a part in diluting atmosphere on matchdays. But things may be about to change.
The recent announcement that the club and the stadium owners and operators are exploring ways in which seats in the Trevor Brooking and Bobby Moore Stands can be squared off were met with a positive reaction from fans. It removes the rounded off design we currently have and of course it does give the allusion that fans are closer behind the goal. However, the images released to show what the final result may look like suggest that probably won’t be the case.
Without being too negative about it, it does look as though some fans may be worse off than before the changes. It’s hard to form a solid opinion of what this means for those supporters behind the goals and sitting in the corners, but the image released does appear to show fans in the corners being pushed a little further back to accommodate the design change.
Obviously that may not be the case, but for someone like me who has a season ticket on the corner flag and enjoys his view on a matchday, it’s a worry nonetheless. Some fans have also pointed out that by squaring off the front rows, it’ll mean a number of rows of seats being open to the elements, which does contradict the club’s initial boasts of every single seat being covered by the world’s largest cantilever roof. Again, this may not be the case but we just can’t rule it out just yet.
There are other issues that these changes may bring about but I think it’s important for fans to see the positives in the changes the club are proposing here. We’ve spent almost three years moaning about everything that’s wrong about the stadium and the fact we felt we’d been lied to by the club about several aspects of the stadium move.
So to see that the club is beginning to listen to fans and explore ways in which the stadium experience can improved should only be seen as a positive. Let’s be honest, the club are extremely interested in buying the stadium outright and then potentially renovating it so that it is solely an arena designed to host football matches.
However, that’s probably not going to happen any time soon and even if it did, the way in which the stadium is now would mean it may take years to renovate for purpose. Therefore, interim changes like this are important. They signal intent from the club to start correcting their wrongs and to begin to repair the broken relationship they have with fans.
They began those attempts with the £100m summer recruitment on players and the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini, which has paid off, and now they’re moving to the next steps of the process. Obviously, there are many fans out there who will remain sceptical about the proposed squaring off of the stands behind the goals but unless we see more detailed designs or until we see the final product, it’s hard to really decide whether it’s going to be a good move or not.
Personally, the intention to start improving matters is enough for me right now. They’re doing this both on and off the pitch in a number of different ways and without much of a peep from David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady in the process.
Notice how quiet it’s been from them recently? Perhaps this is what it’s like to support a normal football club? Owners listening to fans and acting accordingly? Long may that continue.