London Soccer Issues
Not to brag, but when I follow pro sports in North America, I know where the teams play. I've never turned on a game and said "Portland, Oregon? Where is that?" And when teams move to new stadiums, I don't care if the team moves from the city to the suburbs, the suburbs to the city, or from one end of the city to the other. As long as they stay in the general vicinity, I understand the economic realities of pro sports. Well, at least I thought I did.
Which brings us to the Premier League. Yesterday I came across this long headline on ESPN: West Ham Fans Invade Pitch, Confront Players and Call for Board to Quit during Burnley Game. What the heck was that all about? England is just a bit smaller than the state of California, and I don't recall franchise relocation issues in the Premier League. So I did a little research and....
I'm more confused than ever.
West Ham United F.C. was established in the year 1900 and 4 years later moved to their Upton Park home on the East side of London. Upton Park was the Hammers' home for 112 years before being demolished in 2016. Upon demolition, the Hammers moved 3 1/2 miles east to the shiny new London Stadium, used for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
In an era where Olympic Venues aren't always re-purposed, (see Sarajevo for a sad example, see Rio for an angry example,) moving a Premier League team into London Stadium seemed like a natural fit. Somehow, someway, the West Ham fans are angry because...because....the stands are too far away from the pitch? Fans are getting into confrontations over whether to sit or to stand? The field dimensions don't fit the teams' style of play? All the above?
Before we continue, I must admit that I knew the Premier League teams, but not which city they all played in. I knew about a half a dozen Premier League squads played in London, but wasn't sure which ones. I could name one that I knew 100% for sure played in London - Tottenham. So who else plays in London besides Tottenham and West Ham? Arsenal, Chelsea, and Crystal Palace. And then there's Watford, basically a suburb, 20 miles from downtown London.
So I read the West Ham story, then I read it again. It still made no sense. So I went to the most respected name in British Media, the BBC. West Ham: Why has London Stadium move been so problematic? And....
What the hell is wrong with the Londoners?
Besides West Ham's New Home....
There's the Tottenham Stadium Issue.
Arsenal's got a new home in 2006, but they needed "Arsenalisation" in 2009.
Chelsea is looking for a £1bn home.
Crystal Palace's 93 year old stadium is looking for "redevelopment" in order to stay in the Premiership.
Watford is in the middle of a 4,000 seat "expansion" in order to stay competitive.
And I haven't even mentioned Brentford, Fulham, Millwall, or QPR, all of whom play in the Championship and are striving to return to the Premier Ranks.
Could any city in the United States support:
10 NFL and Division I Football teams?
10 NBA and Division I Basketball teams?
10 MLB teams and AAA Affiliates?
10 NHL and AHL teams?
Then there's this: All 92 English League Stadiums (Ranked by Atmosphere).
FourFourTwo Ranks the West Ham Home at #40 - Still Bedding In, Seats Too Far From Pitch.
Instead of calling the English Soccer Fans whiners, let's just settle on the term "Cultural Differences" and move on....
Teams I root for in the English Soccer Pyramid:
Manchester United - Because of the Giraffes, we root for Man U to win.
Swansea City - We root for Wales not to be relegated.
Sunderland - We root for Sunderland not to be relegated (again).