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Opinion: A fan's perspective on West Ham's London Stadium invasion


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What happened this weekend in West Ham United's 3-0 home defeat to Burnley had very little to do with results.

We've been utter garbage, worse than this, many times in the past. What happened on Saturday was the culmination of years of unrest and unhappiness. 

This has been building since the day the current owners took charge of the club. To link it exclusively to results is misleading. Last season, in the second league game at the Olympic Stadium, having won the first, the side were 2-0 up against Watford and cruising, a video of Karren Brady was shown on the screens and she was booed.

Poor results have not caused these protests, merely good results have delayed it because really it was inevitable for a number of reasons.

West Ham fans do not ask for the world. All they want is to see passion and pride, results are secondary. They do not expect to be lied to and treated with contempt.

Gold and Sullivan have not reduced our debt figure since they took over the club, they have received money from it with a 7% interest fee on the loans they put it in, decreased to 4% in the last financial year. They have undermined every manager they have employed and spoken poorly and unprofessionally about opposition players (as well as their own) and owners. 

We've had a £29 million net profit since the move, as said by Frank Lampard Junior on Match of the Day. This is despite having tiny operating costs, selling our biggest asset and the new TV deal.

There's always talk of signing various star players, but all they do is make low ball bids and shrug their shoulders and say they tried. 

They have constantly lied about what they have done for the club, what they are planning to do for the club and did take the club away from it's home.

I feel people are underestimating the effect of that. The Boleyn Ground was a beautiful place, it was home. Win or lose, everyone loved coming to the place. An intimidating atmosphere and the place was surrounded by West Ham stalls and businesses that relied on West Ham.

The stadium move has destroyed those local businesses as well as made the matchday staff redundant. The local businesses in Stratford don't even want us there.

The board has in my view, deliberately been divisive.

They have attempted to stop any lawful protest by banning large 'board out' banners and let's not ignore the complete mess of the march that was supposed to take place before the Burnley game, the threats and intimidation that followed from a small group of former hooligans that the board personally met.

All this created a dangerous atmosphere with things likely to get really nasty at some point. 

The atmosphere was good for much of the game, but things naturally turned sour when Burnley opened the scoring from Ashley Barnes. The difference between the teams was that Burnley started with a striker and brought on a second when the game was there for the taking, while West Ham started with none and brought on one at 0-2 down.

There was no passion or pride in the team selection, but the lack of investment has not helped that.

The pitch invasions were not nice to see, but I understand why it happened, and I am more upset about the fact that it got to a point where fans felt that was necessary.

It was upsetting to see Mark Noble, the last East End hero left at the club fighting one of his fellow supporters. I don't think he should've done it, but I understand his anger and frustration, and I understand his post-match comments are influenced by his role as captain, so he is to follow the party line, as did Sir Trevor Brooking, who stayed to the end despite the directors' box being evacuated.

He didn't leave because he didn't have to, we supporters have no beef with him. The protestors aren't against the players either - they were never in any danger from what I could see. 

Another thing that has to be pointed out in the pitch invasions, the stewards were nowhere to be seen. There's a video of one sleeping during the chaos and just look at how long some of the fans were on the pitch. 

There was a steward nearby me who said she was "too frightened" to do anything about it, a male colleague came over and was complained to for his inaction, he told fans to "shut up" and "piss off" before walking off.

The pitch invaders got back to the stands and were attacked by fans, stewards nowhere to be seen. It doesn't surprise anyone one bit that the stewards were more concerned about looking tough in front of peaceful fans with genuine complaints than doing their actual jobs. Last season, a fan was banned for complaining that a steward was blocking an emergency exit. 

The board have been warned the stewarding was not good enough since the first game at the stadium, they did nothing about it. This is the result of that ineptitude.

The Boleyn stewards would not have allowed that to happen, the first invader may have got on, but he would've been surrounded in seconds by half a dozen stewards and that would be it.

You may have seen the pitch invader with the corner flag, I will explain some context to this. In 1991, to pay for development to The Boleyn after the Taylor Report, the club introduced a bond scheme. If you bought a bond at £500, £750 or £950, you would have then had the right to buy matchday or season tickets in a specific seat.

This was unacceptable, but there was a degree of apathy until one fan bravely ran onto the pitch and put the corner flag in the center-circle. This inspired more protests, notably in home games against Everton and Arsenal, that were delayed. Eventually, the fans won. The bond scheme was halted and disbanded in 1997, though 808 bondholders still enjoy a few privileges within the club.

I see nothing wrong in the congregation of people in front of the owners, giving them the glare and telling them how they feel. The club attempted to silence them, didn't care about security, and this is the result. A silent majority were against the move, the problem was is too many were pragmatic. Myself, I saw the pragmatism and thought I was just being too negative. Those fans have found their voices now.

It is no coincidence the same happened to the owners whilst at Birmingham, the only difference is the taxpayer-funded City of Birmingham Stadium was never built. To paraphrase the banner on display - some people create storms and complain when it rains.

I fell in love with this club because of the pride, passion and unity I saw. It's been my life for over a decade and I started following the side when Mark Noble broke into the first team, so for several reasons, this was a dark afternoon for myself.

It was too for many, Marko Arnautovic looked heartbroken at the final whistle, he has in the last couple of months, shown himself as being a proper West Ham player, born to play for the club, with his perfect combination of effort and eccentricity. 

Seeing fans fight each other is the destruction of that unity. Whereas going to Boleyn was the best thing in the world, an emotional release after tough weeks, the Olympic Stadium makes me upset, angry and sometimes lonely. 

I will not criticise the actions of fellow fans or Mark Noble, I know they just want what is best for the club, as do I. It's the people who put them into a position where they felt that those actions have become necessary that should be blamed. 

Sullivan, Gold, Brady, please, get out of the club, you've refused to change and I fear Saturday was only the beginning. For everyone's sake, leave this club and give it owners/operators that it deserves. 

Image Credit - Wikipedia Commons. John Seb Barber, Flickr Commons. 

Top Image - It is believed supporters were protesting against West Ham's board members. Including David Gold (right). 

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