Dickensian Rights and the Orphans in the Workhouses Published 19/03/18 on Moore Than Just A Club
Who would have believed that in the twenty first century of footballing tribulations, the West Ham fans would be facing the fight of their supporting lives? When the Victorian masters on top of the hill would act with impunity, sneer, scoff and deride the spoon fed street urchins until revolutions are hissed with greater ambition?
“The man Dickens, whom the world at large thought it knew, stood for all the Victorian virtues; probity, kindness, hard work, sympathy for the down-trodden, the sanctity of domestic life, even as his novels exposed the violence, hypocrisy, greed, and cruelty of the Victorian age.” – Robert Gottlieb
For the last few weeks, I have taken a step back from the woes of the West Ham world as there was reason to view with impartiality…objectivity…rationality, if ever that were possible? From the outside looking in, many would roll eyes, ridicule and jeer at actions from fans but also from the club as a whole…but few would feel the pain, nay…the heartbreak that many a Hammers’ fan would feel.
The sorrow morphs into angry debate because of failures and mistruths, but also because there is an overwhelming sense of betrayal from those who would claim clear conscience and maintain clean shoes. Layer upon layer is heaped upon the masses with little substance to plug any hole in bucket…and much less sweet jam with our pudding either.
The team performances have been largely awful for the better part of two seasons, however that in itself is less than surprising…for any wayward fan will note a history or ‘never quite and not really evers’ Of course there were successes from the 1960s, 70s and early 80’s but since those silvery and glory periods, there has been much to wish for and many inglorious times to shy away from. However, the combination of anaemic displays, vitriolic responses and those almighty failed ambitions have brought the club and the fanbase to loggerheads with much love lost and more to come.
Whilst many would look at allied and rivalling factions within the support with dubious eyes, there are many that would be sympathetic to dour faced romper stompers and virulent purveyors of doom. One must always ask the question…Why? Why are fans so frustrated, angered and driven to take such actions…whether there are rights and wrongs in their positions?
It is evident for all to see, both from inside the claret and blue walls…and on the outside, looking in from raised embankments where the scribblers offer opinion, the ‘flickerers’ shoot their reels and the domes of support whisper, “Better them than us!” The club is fractured and is infected with an alien bug that no amount of earthly penicillin may cure…unless there is contrition and acts of appeasement from all parties involved.
The three main antagonists in this drama have been less than forthcoming with any such displays of affection and are held in contempt by an ever increasing majority of the fanbase. Whether fans would flatly want them to leave, sell up and never to return…or whether they wish to hold them accountable and rectify all of the ongoing issues…there is little love for the self imposed masters of our universe. Oh how the fans could do with a ‘He-Man’ to banish ‘Skelator’ and his allies; ‘Beast-Man’ and ‘Evil-Lyn’…from when they came!
Regardless of posturing and alienation, the owners and the club as a whole are repeatedly making the same errors in judgement and have failed to acknowledge the fans with any degree of respect. Whether the fanbase is disenfranchised or not, the fact remains that the customer base is less than satisfied with the quality of product and even much less satisfied with the abysmal customer service…from the club and the stadium providers.
It is the responsibility of the club to embrace the fans, to support them as they wish to be supported in turn…and to guide them in unifying the club and team for a common purpose. Irrespective of whether salvation is at all possible and whatever futures are uncertain…there is an onus on the club to be open in all matters with the support, to come clean on all issues, to hold up their hands and admit errors and wrong doings…and finally to sure up bridges across the divide.
When fans run onto the pitch during a game, there must be understanding at this time why such actions are committed. These are peaceful protests…albeit moronically executed. When fans leave their seats and walk toward the directors box to protest…they do so as a last resort because they have been failed time and time again for the last few years both on and off the field.
The club held talks with stadium interested parties after the Burnley game and the net result is a potential increase in stewarding, a greater police presence within the ground and a block to anymore fans being allowed to protest near the directors. If more public protests and pitch invaders are witnessed, then further actions may take place; whether to reduce crowd attendance numbers or to ban all fans from games. One has to ask how that would be workable, who would compensate the fans for such actions and how would stadium interests be best served by the cessation of match day revenues?
As yet, the FA have not passed judgement, but the club have already muted that those invading fans will be facing life bans as well being lumped with a bill to share the burden of any club fines received. Is this possible? Is this legal? What about any other club around the country where fans have come onto the pitch either during or after the game…are they all given life bans and are they legally made to pay the club fines? I think not!
Whilst there are obvious concerns about security of players and the directors, one cannot simply ignore the security of the supporters and the inadequate level and quality of stewarding at the London Stadium. There have been failures at every stage in this transition process and the club have not covered themselves in glory nor have they been understanding for the plight and raw emotions felt by the fans.
Where has the love gone? Where is the protection for the fans and the respect for the supporting casts? The club and the owners must draw the final line in the sand now, address the issues, take ownership of failings and act to appease the dissenting masses before the club and fans are lost forever. Fans are fighting for their rights, to not be regarded as orphans in dirty workhouses anymore…this is not Dickensian Britain…this is West Ham United…this is 21st Century football!