We need the atmosphere at the London Stadium to be taken to another level and we have a plan to achieve that. Anthony Knight is the board member of the West Ham United Supporters’ Trust (WHUST) leading on improving the atmosphere at the ground.
He has teamed up with fan group Ironworks Alliance to take their calls for a dedicated standing and singing area — in the Trevor Booking Lower and or Bobby Moore Lower— to the club. But Anthony wants to go beyond that and has been speaking to architects and grounds experts about ‘filling’ the gaps at each end of the stadium between the lower and upper tiers.
The screens there currently can be moved higher without blocking fans’ views. That allows for more fans to fill that gap. It’s a given that the atmosphere at the stadium needs a kick up the backside. But WHUST is putting forward detailed proposals for how that can be done.
It’s a combination of physical changes and fan behaviour and is modelled on the fan groups at some of the European clubs we’ve played.
Anthony says: ‘David Moyes said after the Seville away game last season that we should adopt and promote a home fans singing end like they have in European stadiums. I know it is not the traditional West Ham way, but times are changing. But if we do this, we have to do it right: think of the Frankfurt home end.’
The WHUST solution is not quite an ‘all-singing, all-dancing’ solution, but it comes close. At Lyon, for example, specific stands have fan groups with coordinated flags and safe pyrotechnics.
There are cheerleaders who have microphones and speakers and they lead the fans. There is a similar level of direction among Frankfurt fans, with choreographed displays of flag waving and scarves being coordinated depending on the chant or song.
Many clubs have larger banners brought out for key moments that are then quickly stored away again. Flags and scarves get swapped and changed with clockwise and anticlockwise rotations and changing flag colours creating hugely dramatic and graphic spectacle.
The senses are enhanced by the huge volume of singing that accompanies the movements. Drums and horns can further add to the noise. The proposal is that the Bobby Moore Lower (BML) — to begin with — needs to be populated with those fans who want to take part in this choreographed fandom.
Anthony says: ‘Union Bear Glasgow Rangers are an example of a singing section of Rangers support who have their own flags and banners and are known by other Rangers fans. Rangers fans outnumbered Frankfurt at the final last season but were totally outsung by the Germans because Frankfurt were better organised and the club helped their singing fans to get seats together behind the goal.’
Most European teams have a special club for those singing fans, providing the necessary flags and scarves, plus building lecterns in the coordinators’ positions for them to stand on (they don’t get to see much of the game as they are facing the crowd). West Ham has provided fold-away cards left on seats, for fans to hold up to create a static image or slogan, but this goes way beyond that.
And the idea is that the BML club would also be guaranteed a proportion of away tickets and all be grouped together for away matches too. Anthony reckons there would be commercial interest in sponsoring the BML club too — perhaps Dr Martens or Fred Perry, he says, hopefully.
Practically these changes mean making the Bobby Moore Lower the first area of the ground to introduce safe standing but everybody there already stands. Season ticket holders will need the chance to move — with those wanting a quieter life, or to be able to sit, moving out and more singing flag wavers moving in.
But there’s more. Specialist architects who have inside knowledge of the London Stadium have told WHUST that the big gap behind the Bobby Moore Lower could be in-filled with more safe standing. As with many clubs, the screens could be placed much higher and suspended from the roof structure.
And Anthony is nothing if not ambitious. He sees the Bobby Moore Lower as just the start. He wants the same at the other end, so it is West Ham fans at both ends and a torrent of noise and colour to cheer on the team. He also wants to add a new Chicken Run standing-only area.
‘We must fill in the gaps at the stadium when we do the safe standing at both ends. This is the only way to improve the fan experience and atmosphere. The stadium is ridiculous as it stands, with the huge gaps,’ Anthony says. ‘It’s unlikely that West Ham’s owners are going to spend money to create a proper football stadium, but if they closed the gaps and made the gaps safe standing, it would be good enough.’