“There’s no place like home” By Adam Ellis
For many of us, our local grounds are like a second home; they bring comfort and a familiarity, and if you’re lucky a comfy seat with a choice of cold or hot beverage.
Which is a nice thought for me to imagine when I travel on the train to NLP towers on an uncomfortable chair and without the option of a beverage.
Last weekend on the journey to the office the train was filled with West Ham United fans on their way to the top flight match against Bournemouth. By chance, I got speaking to a chap sat opposite who had an Irons jacket on and he began talking about how he is a season ticket holder at West Ham but also goes to watch Dagenham & Redbridge ‘four or five times a season’.
Two teams with a proud tradition and standing in their community, but a case of David and Goliath.
“The bigger they are the harder they fall.” Well, not exactly in this case.
Ever since the city of London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics I have followed the story of what the government and the Greater London Authority planned to do with the stadium in Stratford long after Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis had graced it.
After the 16 days of sporting excellence were showcased to the world, focus switched to whether Jeremy Hunt, sport minister at the time, and Mayor Boris Johnson could get the right deal for the taxpayer by finding a tenant who would prevent the stadium from turning into a defunct patch of overgrowth and stinging nettles.
Could they do it? Absolutely not.
As of a year ago, £783m of taxpayers’ money had been spent on the stadium with an annual bill of £20m invoiced for security and cleaning and a host of other services.
So bad was the deal struck by the ground owners’ London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) with West Ham, they appealed against a granted Freedom of Information Act request to have the tenancy contract made public. This after it was known that West Ham would pay £2.5m-a-year in rent over a 99-year lease.
Promotions followed for Hunt and Johnson, West Ham’s co-owners sold Upton Park after 110 years on Green Street, while the Daggers sold top goalscorer Oli Hawkins to Portsmouth for an undisclosed fee after relegation to the National League.
Joined by fellow East Londoners Leyton Orient in dropping to the fifth tier, some fan groups have labelled the tenancy agreement as ‘state aid’. The sum of £2.5m a small drop in the Premier League club’s well of riches.
I brought this up with the man on the train who said he and a lot of other supporters had failed to analyse what their board was selling them with the move.
I asked him whether it must be painful watching football in a stadium built for athletic purposes when Upton Park offered such a good atmosphere. So why not swap his season ticket in 2019 for one at the Daggers?
“They need to start winning games if they want to get more than 1,500 through the gate,” he said.
“Go where you feel at home, you’re not a 400m hurdler are you?” I joked.