A crowdsourced report from Football Ground Map has concluded that the London Stadium has the worst atmosphere of the 20 Premier League clubs. Granted the new stadium will never match the claustrophobic and hostile ambience of Upton Park, but is it really that bad?
Football Ground Map compile their data from a network of fans who rate stadia across the world on criteria such as view (ours is fourth worst in the league), atmosphere (the worst now Spurs have moved) and police (second worst). These factors help to make up a damning summary of the London Stadium – the fourth worst stadium in the entire Premier League.
The biggest issue with the London Stadium is well known, the fans are too far from the pitch to influence the game. This has been exacerbated by spending our first two Stratford seasons battling relegation and the board have been vilified for moving the team from it’s historic home.
Non-Hammer fans might not have been aware of the depth of fans’ anger until it all boiled over in March 2018, during a game that was supposed to be remembered for commemorating the 25th anniversary of Bobby Moore’s death. With relegation a real possibility and the crushing 1-4 defeat to 18th place Swansea City still fresh in the memory; the tension boiled over to the pitch after the Hammers went a goal down to Burnley.
Chaos was triggered, with at least four instances of fans invading the pitch and disrupting the game, in shameful, chaotic scenes. By full-time the misery of the 0-3 scoreline suitably matched the despair of the fanbase. The sight of a despondent Trevor Brooking in the stands watching rogue fans scuffling with Mark Noble will live long in the memory.
One year later and the improvement on the pitch has been dramatic. The club unveiled the Billy Bonds Stand in front of close to 60,000 jubilant supporters, with an emphatic 2-0 win; in what Mark Noble described as the ‘perfect weekend’. The big difference? Wins. Prior to the Newcastle game we hadn’t lost at home since December, and left the stadium with our team in ninth position, relegation a distant possibility.
New manager Manuel Pellegrini has worked wonders with his squad; simply, going to football matches and watching your team win has given the London Stadium a renewed sense of vigor. It’s harder to gripe if you’ve just watched your team win.
Pellegrini is taking the club in a brave new direction which involves skillful build-up play, and novel ideas like scoring more goals than the opponent.
To their credit the Davids appear to be listening to fans and have proposed moving the lower tiers of the Sir Trevor Brooking and Bobby Moore stands four metres closer to the action.
This would be a welcome change, as compared to Upton Park the fan’s distance from the pitch feels cavernous. In terms of prestige, the London Stadium is fantastic and the transport links from Stratford far exceed Upton Park, a station never designed to handle 35,000 fans.
I’ll never forget the first time I walked into the London Stadium for the inaugural game against NK Domzale, I was in awe by how many fans were in the stadium. From an architectural perspective, seeing 53,914 Hammers fans in our new home stadium was awe-inspiring.
People don’t often mention that we have the fourth largest stadium in England, and if the Davids follow through with their plan to expand the capacity to 66,000 we’d eclipse Spurs. It might take awhile for the stadium to be adapted for football, but the London Stadium has added to the reputation of the club.
Without an ambitious stadium it’s hard to imagine us attracting the likes of Pellegrini. Don’t forget that the City of Manchester Stadium experienced significant teething issues, but contributed to Manchester City’s multi-billion pound takeover. It’s been over a year since the London Stadium witnessed its darkest day during the Burnley chaos.
Since then the atmosphere has improved, primarily due to the Irons miraculously turning into a good team. The reaction of fans in the stands mirrors the success of the team on the pitch.
The future feels bright, with a strong squad and excellent manager behind us, as well as promises from the owners to address the stadium’s issues. It no longer feels like we are stuck with the stadium but are moving in a positive direction as a club.