The match day experience at London Stadium hasn’t met everyone’s expectations, but lately it’s been a tough pill to swallow. At the time of writing, West Ham are in the relegation zone, and they’re likely still there at the time of reading. Performances have been sluggish, with fans’ frustrations mounting.
There’s no respite at home games, and with grumblings about the match day experience growing louder, it’s becoming more of a chore to show up to Stratford. So are things getting worse at London Stadium, or do the frustrations stack up more when we’re failing to put performances in on the pitch?
A frustration which permanently stacks up is the queue to get through ‘security’ and onto the island. This was particularly bad at our March game against Villa, when the queues exceeded the metal barriers for the entire hour prior to kick-off.
Rumours swirled that turnstiles weren’t working, but operators suggested that too many fans had arrived at the same time. That seems statistically unlikely, unless an unreported “super train” with a capacity of 50,000 pulled into Stratford shortly before 2pm.
Furthermore, West Ham’s customer support portal suggests fans arrive at least 90 minutes before kick off to avoid queues, while their official website states 60 minutes before kick-off. Both of these times would still have been met with a lengthy queue on this occasion.
British people do love a queue – but even they have limits. If you’re queuing up to watch an electric performance and that goals are coming, it’s annoying that there’s no good time to arrive – but your queue is full of eagerness and anticipation.
When your team is barely churning out uninspired, lethargic losses as they sleepwalk towards relegation, a lengthy wait for the ‘privilege’ of seeing such a performance only puts fans in a worse mood by the time they eventually take their seats.
For some fans, taking their seats is a source of even more aggravation, with fans in the ‘standing’ sections suddenly being told to sit down. West Ham do find themselves in a slightly sticky situation with safe standing.
From July last year, some Premier League Clubs were granted permission for staff standing areas. West Ham were not one of those clubs, but plan to introduce it in 2023/24. In our first Stratford season, standing caused a significant issue to fans.
With all eyes focused on those lucky-so-and-so’s in their taxpayer funded stadium, the club did well to rectify this in our early games by craftily moving fans’ season tickets around to form an unofficial standing section whilst just about staying onside of the legal issue of advertising a standing section – and it’s not been an issue since.
This seemed to take a turn for the worse the aforementioned Villa game, with videos circulating online of stewards telling fans in said standing section to sit down and quoting legislation. In a season where safe standing has been permitted in other clubs, it’s surprising to see it suddenly cracked down upon at West Ham – but perhaps now that there’s a legal route to go down, they need to actually go down that route and put the ‘safe’ into ‘safe standing.’
It’s a shame to see things heading away from the club’s commitment for standing by 2023/24 – and at the end of the day, the fans shouldn’t be left to suffer with rules that aren’t consistently enforced or ignored. It’s unofficial, sure, but we all know it’s the standing section, and sitters like me wouldn’t be caught dead in there – so suddenly encouraging fans to sit down when the players on the pitch need their encouragement more than ever isn’t an imagined frustration.
It’s another nail in the coffin for relegation. On and off the pitch, fan experience is at an all time low. No matter when we arrive, we’re faced with lengthy queues.
Those in the standing sections, the most vocal and vital when it comes to encouraging our team, are told to stay seated – and all this just to watch poor performances on the pitch. The frustration from fans in the ground is building before a ball is even kicked – and the negativity in the ground could be cut with a knife.
It’s the last thing we need in a relegation dogfight in which our team are currently merely spectators without an ounce of fight in them. If we’re going to survive, we need changes. Moyes and the lads are responsible for on the pitch, no question about it.
Maybe a substitution before the 70th minute if things aren’t working? I don’t know, I’m not an expert. Off the pitch, the 12th man is needed. Moyes isn’t going to turn things around; the 60,000 of us in the ground might just be West Ham’s last hope.
For that, we need to be in the ground and cheering our team on. As far as requests go, it’s not a hard one – but it’s getting harder to imagine it happening.