The sun always shines on TV…but it’s hotter in the stadium Published 12/04/18 on Moore Than Just A Club
As the season draws to a close and the club send out season ticket renewals…many within the West Ham fanbase are contemplating whether they should renew or not. Some reports would suggest that nearly half of all season ticket holders are either not intending to renew or are waiting until the end of the season to decide.
Whilst this would appear to be sensible, the club have nothing to fear as there are nearly 50,000 fans on the waiting list to pick up the shortfall…if only that could be relied upon! Natural wastage is part of the process, however it is hardly surprising that so many fans are taking these drastic steps or are hesitating to commit to another season or two, considering what has transpired both on and off the field over the last two seasons.
“I object, Your Honor! This trial is a travesty! It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham! I call a mistrial Your Honor! Do you realize there is not one homosexual in the jury?” – Fielding Mellish – Bananas
One of the problems that many fans face is not so much the financial burden of the season tickets themselves but also the travelling costs, either for home or away matches…or both. However coupled with games that are rescheduled at short notice to accommodate television demands, many fans would also question is it really worth paying for games that simply cannot be attended?
Attendance figures are largely misleading and disingenuous as the club attribute all season tickets purchased as part of the attendance figure of the game, regardless if the ticket holder is actually in attendance. Indeed I have been to numerous games over the last two seasons at the London Stadium where there were many seats still vacant, granted not for the top games but nonetheless still evident. Is this a reflection of poor team performances or is it merely a problem with many fans not being able to attend due to other life demands.
Many fans on the waiting list may indeed be receiving emails shortly to ascertain whether they wish to purchase a season ticket now, but surely this has to be a worrying trend for the club to have so many dissatisfied ‘customers’ leave and not return…regardless if the numbers are readily made up by new holders.
West Ham have been living on borrowed time since their occupation of the London Stadium with many fans taking up the opportunity of the two year deal and others grabbing hold of the Olympic Stadium experience…but that can only last for a short while longer. Depending on the remaining performances and next year’s offerings, will determine when the honeymoon is over and the real business starts for the club.
The Hammers have always had a large and loyal following both for home and away, however it would be naive to think that the stadium would be kept at capacity if there is a third season such as the last two…or if the club is relegated and remain in the Championship for more than one season. Many would bemoan about the atmosphere during the testing times and in the tough matches however, there have also been many roars that have lifted the team to more encouraging displays too.
The question for many fans now will be whether they would want to return at all or whether they will satisfy themselves with the occasional games at home or away. Money is not always the major factor for a lot of the faithful, however it is a huge investment still…moreover it is the sense of whether they would wish to donate their hard earned money to a club…and owners…who would not even meet them halfway with ambition nor with respect.
Of course you would have to factor in the debate between watching a game on TV or via a stream…or actually at the stadium itself. There are advantages to both, but the television experience would lend itself to greater analysis of the game and commentary with the luxury of action replays…which is not available in the stadia. However no one could argue with the irreplaceable atmosphere that one experiences at a game nor the social aspect of attending…I know which I would prefer but principles are a mightier draw than the club may bank upon.
A fan is not an island, as many have been affected by the rescheduled games already this season and will probably only attend a fraction of what they intended, The TV draw may be the prized element that the club cannot ignore but it indeed would affect their customers the most…so where is the balance?
Many other clubs are finding this to be an issue, but West Ham appear to have suffered more than most this season, and coupled with two long breaks in the fixtures has created a sense of loss of value for money…regardless of match performances and results. The answer is for the club not to lose focus on what is the most important element of any club…the fans!
For over two years the club has placed the fans in second place behind their high profile leadership…and whilst the club may stay in the Premier League…there is little to mould that approach, however fans will vote with their feet and more protests are likely to deter fans from attending or even purchasing tickets for future seasons or individual matches.
There are many examples of where owners of football clubs have alienated the fanbase or have caused a disapproving atmosphere within the stadia which has led to attendances falling, and this may take years to recover from…if at all. West Ham have followed this path and have been impotent to address the issues and more so to bring themselves back into favour with the fanbase…the situation can only get worse for both club and fans if an answer is not found soon. The sun may always shine when the game is on TV, but it’s always hotter in the stadium…and would be an unyielding draw…if only the club weren’t so cold!