Take a stand if you love West Ham

I bought my first season ticket whilst I was studying at university.

It was a half-season deal from December of 2004 and from there I never looked back. Student loans went on season tickets and then when I started working, budgets were set accordingly so I could afford that next season's fix of West Ham United. This was the full-blown addiction stage of my fandom where everything in my life geared around the football club and the next game I could attend.

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I started to travel to away matches outside of London for the first time and the experience of that away day win, though rare, is an almost indescribable feeling. I was fully enthralled with the whole idea of going to as many matches as possible as well as consuming everything and anything I could find on WHUFC online.

Around that time, I signed up to the KUMB Forum so I join in the conversation with fellow fans when I was meant to be studying or doing work or find out the latest gossip or newspaper reports on anything from a player’s fitness to what the next embarrassing episode would be. I would read non-stop on the history of the club and want to know more about who Vic Watson was or how a young Bobby Moore was mentored by an ailing Malcolm Allison or who Josh’s misses had seen at the airport around transfer deadline day. It was heaven.

Now however, after 20 years, I no longer hold a season ticket. The deadline for season ticket renewals passed at 5pm on Monday 3 July 2024 - and I chose not to renew my Band 3 season ticket in the Bobby Moore Lower. Right now, I feel strangely at peace with the decision.

I genuinely thought it would be more of a heart-wrenching decision in deciding to give up the season ticket with a last-minute dash to the online ticket office as the metaphorical shutters were closing, but beyond offering my ticket to a friend to see if he wanted to go halves I don’t feel regret about making the decision itself.

My one regret is I won’t be attending every home match with two good friends of mine who did renew their tickets. We were all part of an original group of seven who migrated together from the Bobby Moore Lower of a beloved football stadium to the Meccano set stand within an athletic stadium and now it is just the two of them. This is the withdrawal symptoms stage of my fandom with the realisation I won’t be attending matches with them on a regular basis.

Over time, I suspect they too will choose to pack it in and look to attend semi-regularly, as I am intending to do. Giving up a season ticket does not mean you won’t go to a game any more, but when you have spent so long answering the question of if you go West Ham United with “Yeah, I have a season ticket”, it forms part of your identity. It’s not said to try and rub someone’s face in it or puff your chest out as some sort of superior fan as you have a seat at every game and they do not, I would say it almost as a reflex like you would breathe in and out without thinking about it.

My season ticket increased in price by 18.35% from 2021 (£655) to 2024 (£790). At what point do you say enough is enough and jump off the carousel of ever-increasing ticket prices and (in my own mind), condoning what this current ownership is doing to concession holders across the stadium?

Again, I stress the point that everybody’s fandom and how they follow the club is their own experience, I only speak for myself and how I feel so please do not take anything I have committed to print as a knock or attack on anyone who has renewed. Everyone has their own motivations and reasons for renewing and regularly attending West Ham United and I do not deny the sincerity or reasoning as to why. I only ask that you look beyond what you might perceive as a whinge and a pity party from myself and reflect on why someone choses to walk away from a season ticket commitment.

You might come across someone more animated and colourful in their language and mannerisms and how they articulate their thoughts. You will also find people who could be seen as more measured and assured in their behaviour and rational behind the decision to no longer commit to purchasing a season ticket and there is nothing wrong with any of those ways of expressing yourself and your feelings. I just ask that you look to the underlying reason behind a behavioural response as in this instance, it all stems from the same root cause and it feeds into what at its core the fan base should want to see for the club.

Everybody’s fandom is different and unique to themselves but ultimately, we all want the club to thrive, survive and grow without doing anything that alienates the wider fan base and causes resentment and bad feelings. Decisions made beyond the control of the ordinary fan by this current ownership seem to test the patience and run a bulldozer through dissenting voices or anybody raising genuine concerns and fears for the future direction of the football club and how it operates.

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Hammers United, amongst others, have highlighted the latest season ticket price increases and changes to how concession ticketing is applied. With no meaningful dialog held with support groups and decisions already made to negatively impact large swathes of the overall fan base, it does make you take stock and think: does the club even care what the fan on the street thinks anymore?

Do those who carry titles bestowed upon them by Government of the day who sit in a position of significant power at WHUFC truly want what’s best for the fan base who will remain long after they have left the scene, or are they only looking after their own self-interests and those who they answer to in ownership of WHUFC helm? Seeing as this individual is for example, on the record recently for voting to not enshrine in law protections for children who are victims of criminal exploitation (https://votes.parliament.uk/Votes/Lords/Division/3123#not-contents) in the House of Lords, nothing surprises me anymore.

Self-interest and importance always trump either what is the right thing to do or the most sensible course of action. If you believe in true accountability when trying to explain a difficult decision that has been made, meaningful dialog and engagement is how you should want to try and address any concerns. There are ways of delivering a shit sandwich but as I have noted before in opinion pieces for KUMB, nothing seemingly will change under this current ownership unless something happens to force that change of mindset and approach.

Apathy and resignation, to me, leads to more of the same. If people do not stand up and voice their opinion now, whatever that opinion is and in whatever form it takes regarding concession ticketing, then when will you ever say enough? I do not advocate for pitch invasions or anything that is considered meeting the threshold for criminal activity but in your own way, you can do something.

You might have seen in the news the Wolves fan base has mobilised to petition the club to change their stance on season ticket pricing. You may think congratulations to Wolves or feel admiration for what they have now achieved and this serves as a perfect example of what mobilisation and co-ordination against ticket price increases or any other form of wide spread negative impact on a fan base can achieve.

Personally, I respect the likes of Tottenham’s trust because of their speaking out and how they have protested consistently inside stadiums and sought to bring awareness to what their club are looking to implement.

There is nothing stopping West Ham United fans joining the ranks of fan bases generating noise and headlines and attention. Wheels are in motion behind the scenes and soon, plans will be announced regarding the push back to the current owner’s plans. In my opinion, it does feel like a "put up or shut up" moment with regards to voicing opposition. That bulldozer without opposition will keep on rolling.

Whilst I was on the commute home and the 5pm deadline had passed, random memories of games I had attended whilst holding a season ticket came to mind. The faces you recognise on sight who you may have nodded "hello" to or not even crossed paths with but still remembered from that one time you saw them hugging a steward in celebration. Avoiding beer baths when people wanted to go f***ing mental. The random people in the opposition end who rise to the bait and give the West Ham faithful all the ammunition they need to carry on the wind-up, until stewards move in to tell them to calm down. These memories will stay with me for a lifetime and will always raise a smile.

I will always be a West Ham fan and being a fan does not mean you have to have a season ticket. It can be seen as the ultimate symbol of active support, but it is not for everyone for a whole range of reasons. My support will involve the occasional game in person but will now involve more armchair supporting then I ever envisioned but I am at peace with my choice. Commitments and family dynamics change which help shape decisions, as well as the realisation that things won’t change if you don’t affect or make change happen.

For anyone wondering what can be or should be done, I say wait for Hammers United to make public their plans and look to support where you can. You can make a difference in whatever way or form that takes, be it as a season ticket holder presently, historically, or have never held one. The choice is yours to make, consider lending your voice and taking a stand this time. As Wolves have shown, it can be done.

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