How West Ham Can Improve Fan Relations In The 2021/22 Season?

Following West Ham’s great start to the 2021/22 season, fans of the club are only inclined to be more enthusiastic about the team’s future. However, there are some glaring pain points that the club must address to ensure that their support doesn’t fizzle out in vain.

Potentially the most looming worry, West Ham is not in a financially safe spot to chase ambitious dreams. Even with their superb performance in recent years, such as being a few points shy of a Champions League appearance, finishing top six in the Premier League for the first time since 1999, and providing a consistent performance under David Moyes. Still, supporters can’t help but wonder if these gains will be boosted under the ownership of PAI Capital.

According to Nasib Piriyev, managing partner of PAI Capital, buying West Ham will change the standards of the club to a regular top 6 spot, improve fan relations and most importantly, provide a bigger budget in the transfer window.

We wouldn’t be quick to rule out the gold mine that PAI Capital could be, but there is something special brewing for the Hammers, and switching to a new owner could set the course off sail.

Rob Newman’s appointment in West Ham as the new head of Recruitment and Scouting is a positive move**. This is reflected in the recent transfer window. In August, the club signed new talent in the likes of Kurt Zouma, Nikola Vlasic and Alex Kral to support blooming players like Said Benrahma who is wonderfully adjusting to his new role as a goalscorer following Jesse Lingard’s departure.

Michail Antonio’s recent adoption of the number 9 jersey is also certain to have ignited the support of fans who have watched him do justice to the mantle this season.

The squad’s average age might be among the highest in the league at 29.4, but their performance delivers superbly. With U23 players like Mipo Odubeko (Huddersfield Town), Conor Coventry (Peterborough) and Frederik Alves (Sunderland in League 1) out on loan, they are sure to receive more priority in their respective teams against seasoned players. Upon their return, their performance is sure to be miles ahead of any previous potential they held in the senior team. This will undoubtedly lead to more options for David Moyes in his strategic vision for West Ham.

Off the pitch, West Ham has been making strides towards improvement with the unveiling of statues dedicated to club legends Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters at Boleyn Ground, the team’s former home.

Image Reference: Hammersfan via Wikipedia, 11/2/19

Unfortunately, the Olympic Stadium lacks a traditional ownership from the club which is a severe minus for fans that love a real home turf to visit. If West Ham could convert from a renting model to a purchase of the Olympic Stadium, that would be ideal. However, judging from the current strides, buying a stadium doesn’t seem far off into the future. This would be a great move for players as well, because a custom training ground will have facilities prioritized towards team improvement.

Judging from the recent developments, West Ham can expect a top six finish in the Premier League, League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League respectively. David Moyes will have to take advantage of the recent transfers and proper training routines to ensure that players remain in top shape for what’s to come.

** PS: The new Director of Football appointment will begin in late September after Rob Newman served a period of gardening leave by his previous employer Manchester City.

THE OLYMPIC STADIUM AND ITS “HAMMERING” PROBLEMS

Image Reference: Maxpixel

Ever since its inauguration the 5th of May 2012, two months before its first official use for the 2012 London Olympic Games, the London Olympic Stadium has been through some various problems about its use for a variety of sports such as football and athletics, and its controversial capacity that has varied overtime.

Originally built for the 2012 Olympic Games as the venue for athletics and both the opening and closing ceremonies the Olympic Stadium is known to be the first ever stadium that can be removed piece by piece. With an original capacity of 80000 the London Olympic Stadium underwent renovations so that it could be used for football upon the arrival of Premier League side West Ham United. 

After the arrival of the hammers, the Olympic Stadium saw its capacity reduced to 60000 even though a good part of the athletics track was covered by uncountable rows of seats.

Image Reference: Egghead06 via Wikipedia, 10/9/16

Since its inaugural match, West Ham have faced various problems with both the stadium and fans such as match-tickets marked with non-existing seating to complete discomfort among the distance of the crowd from the pitch and the vanishing atmosphere that the Boleyn Ground had every time the irons played. 

Ever since arriving at the now known as London Stadium tensions between the fans and the West Ham board have grown to an all-time high blaming them of selling their dream, the beloved Boleyn Ground, for a nightmare, that nightmare being the Olympic Stadium.

Although the president and its executives tried everything to put the fans on their side by adding a new set of seating on both ends for fans to be closer to action, it’s already too late.

Image Reference: daniel0685 from Flickr, 6/1/18

Except for the 2020-21 season (only season without fans for the most part), the new stadium was also affecting the team’s performance finishing on the bottom-half of the table 3 of the 5 full-seasons played at the London Stadium, historically that’s where West Ham would normally finish but with new owners and a big investment on the club with the promise of new signings that would improve the squad through time European football was the minimum fans would accept.

However as we all know, on this sport promises tend to be broke and of course, those signings once promised transformed into minimum investment on the acquisition of new players, an example of that is this season in which with only three weeks left of the transfer window the only signings have been Craig Dawson (he was already at the club on loan from Watford) and goalkeeper Alphonse Areola from French side PSG.

With the return of fans this weekend for the season opener against Newcastle United, manager David Moyes will try to repeat the feat he achieved last season but with the addition of the long-awaited return of fans, the perfect opportunity to give the irons hope for the following seasons, this time with both Premier League and Europa League football and a bright squad with talented players such as Algerian winger Said Benrahma, Czech midfielder Tomas Soucek and England international Declan Rice backed-up with the experience of veteran and captain Mark Noble. The London Stadium will hold both Premier League and European football for the second time in its short history.

However, a problem remains. If West Ham want to renovate the stadium demolishing the athletics track and therefore moving the stands closer to the pitch, they’ll need to buy the stadium, an investment that if not prepared correctly, could result on huge losses and high amounts of debt. 

An example of a team whose stadium was renovated was Spanish side Real Sociedad, their stadium known as the Reale Arena for sponsoring reasons had its low tier renovated bringing the stands closer to the action that resulted on an overall improvement on the players performances and making fans more involved on the game. 

Image Reference: Bhgh543bgf via Wikipedia, 28/2/20

For the operation to happen not only do West Ham need to put in the money, but it also must be approved by the London council which would result on the creation of a new stadium where athletics could be held. In the case of this happening London could be seeing a potential decrease on the overall interest in athletics which would result on the loss of major athletics events for a pursuable future.

Nevertheless West Ham have the perfect opportunity this season to bring back to life the atmosphere that once died when the last game at the Boleyn Ground was played.

Europa League football as well as a promising squad that has shown to be solid on both ends and the possible signing of Serbian youngster Nikola Milenkovic after negotiations for both Kurt Zouma and Tammy Abraham got complicated could be the missing piece of the puzzle for the backline of the hammers and what a better place to make all of this happen than in the London Stadium, a place where Olympic records were beaten, and incredible stories will be written.