There are very few football clubs whose fans are thoroughly content with the way their club is run. The general consensus is that owners should, at the bare minimum, keep the club at its current level or look to improve it, invest heartily, ensure its financial future and attend games (to prove their commitment, just in case the millions they plough in weren’t enough).
With all that in mind, it is odd that the club with the angriest fans in Britain isn’t even in the relegation zone and has broken its own transfer record three times in the past two years.
From the outside, the vitriol shown towards West Ham United’s owners is entirely undeserved. David Gold and David Sullivan took over the club in 2010 but West Ham were relegated the following year. After that low point, they appointed a manager whose style of play went against the so-called ‘West Ham Way’ but was known to be necessary to get them back into the Premier League. They invested wisely and, since their immediate return to the top flight in 2012, they haven’t finished below thirteenth in the table.
The six most expensive signings in the club’s history have been made under the current owners. The London Stadium has been a huge cause of ire for Hammers fans. It is once again odd that a group of people can be so resentful towards change, even when the change involves leaving behind a stadium that was dilapidated and unfit for purpose. No sport is fonder of nostalgia than football, yet the love of the Boleyn Ground and the hatred for their new home are simply wasted energy: the club has saved a fortune in acquiring the London Stadium and their old one has already been turned into houses.
Elsewhere in London, the Emirates cost Arsenal £390m and the bill for Spurs’ new ground could reach £1bn. The owners have secured West Ham’s immediate financial future with their nigh-on robbery of the London tax-payer by renting the former Olympic Stadium for £2.5m a year.
While the owners have made sure the club is viable in the short-term, invested and kept the club in the top flight, the fans are still perfectly entitled to vent their frustrations. It may be unwarranted anger they show but in an era where fans, players and owners are so distant (nothing to do with the running track around the pitch) from one another, direct action is the only way to be noticed.
Protesting in the streets does nothing. Not going to matches doesn’t impact the owners. If fans want their voice to be heard, the only way to do so is by playing the dangerous fool. Just because an owner is an octogenarian doesn’t mean he is immune from criticism, the same way that those who protest about the future of their club aren’t hooligans. They are worried for their club, rightly or wrongly, and now, everyone is aware of their ‘struggle’. Job done.