It’s difficult to justify the shocking scenes involving angry West Ham fans at the London Stadium last weekend, though it’s fair to say that the actions of the disgruntled minority were probably more a result of supporters feeling detached and marginalised from the club they love and venting their frustration rather than mindless hooliganism.
West Ham’s 3-0 home defeat to Burnley was overshadowed by ugly scenes including a number of pitch invasions, with one intruder being tackled by Hammers skipper Mark Noble while furious supporters vented their fury at the club’s board in the Director’s Box leading to a number of children taking shelter on the Burnley bench from the chaos around them.
After over a century playing football at West Ham’s spiritual home, the Boleyn Ground, the club’s move to a modern 60,000 arena was supposed to take the club to the next level; but if anything it has been a total PR disaster.
So with Everton also looking to leave their home of some 130 years and move to a brand new stadium to the north of the city at Bramley Moore Dock what, if any, lessons can the Blues learn from the chaos that is currently taking place at The London Stadium?
Get the Aesthetics Right
Let’s face it, the London Stadium wasn’t built as a football stadium, it was constructed with athletics in mind for the Olympics which were held in the capital during the summer of 2012. Obviously Everton’s new ground will be designed specifically for football but there are still some key lessons that can be learned.
Goodison Park has been famed for its atmosphere down the years and that must be replicated as much as possible at Bramley Moore. Whether that’s the steepness of the stands, the close proximity of supporters to the pitch or even planning for the possibility of rail seating being introduced at a later date, architect Dan Meis has a lot to consider with Chief executive Robert Elstone calling for a stadium that breaks the mould and is an intimate yet intimidating “fortress.”
Embrace the Local Area
Anyone who has been to a game at West Ham’s new ground will know what an underwhelming experience it can be getting to and from the stadium, mostly thanks to the fact that you have to circumnavigate the consumer’s paradise that is the vast Westfield shopping centre complete with its chain restaurants and coffee shops.
As it stands Bramley Moore Dock is little more than a barren wasteland since the ships and dockyard workers left the site for the final time some 30 years ago, meaning the club pretty much has a blank canvas when it comes to the surrounding area.
As a result, Everton has a duty to revitalise a part of town that has certainly seen better days while also seizing the chance to provide the thousands of match going fans with a place to eat, drink and socialise in the build-up to a game. You only have to look at the transformation just a mile or so down the road at Albert Dock to see what potential there is.
Involve the Fans
Probably the biggest mistake that West Ham made when moving home was assuming they knew what was best for the fans when they beat London rivals Tottenham to move into the ready-made stadium; but as Spurs prepare to put the finishing touches to their own 61,000 capacity stadium with its blend of modern features and steep, imposing stands close to the pitch, their fans will no doubt feel they’ve dodged a bullet.
Consultation with fans is key if Everton are to produce a first-class stadium that is worthy of a club with the tradition and history that Everton boast; whether that’s the names of the stands, potential singing sections, the ale that is served in the bars or even the music that is played at halftime, it all matters.
A Fair Pricing Structure
One positive from West Ham’s move to the London Stadium, if there is one, is the fact that more people are able to gain access to the stadium and as a result prices can be kept relatively low.
But a new stadium doesn’t necessarily mean cheap seats, just ask Tottenham fans who have recently been told that their season tickets are to increase by several hundred pounds in order to pay for the “privilege” of watching their team in a modern arena and have even been offered the services of a mortgage broker when it comes to paying for them.
Obviously there is no such thing as a free lunch but there needs to be a compromise when it comes to pricing to ensure a new generation of Blues will be calling Bramley Moore Dock “home” in 50 years’ time rather than listening to stories about a stadium that is no more which their fathers and grandfathers still yearn for.
Get it Right on the Pitch
Let’s face it, if West Ham were fighting for European places or chasing silverware then it’s highly likely that we wouldn’t be talking about the scenes witnessed in recent months purely because they probably wouldn’t have happened.
Obviously there are a number of logistical problems with West Ham’s new found home but these teething problems would probably be minimal if the team were playing well and Everton need to be sure that they have a decent, top-flight, side that will do justice to their new surroundings for years to come as they prepare to move home.
Just look at the likes of The Macron Stadium, The Stadium of Light and The Riverside in the lower divisions if you want to see the warning signs. Once bustling Premier League grounds which are now half full at best most weeks due to clubs who have planned for the future off the field without getting things right on it.