West Ham to meet with stadium move protestors

The Hammers Olympic Stadium supervisor will meet with Nigel Kahn on saturday after he launched an online petition against the move to Stratford

WEST HAM fans determined to scupper a move to the Olympic Stadium have launched a petition to try and persuade the club owners to think again about a move away from Upton Park.

But West Ham believe that they can convince sceptical fans about the merits of moving the club to Stratford following the Olympic Games in 2012.

Lifelong supporter Nigel Kahn has collected around 500 signatures at the last two West Ham home games, while his web petition – mywhufc.com – has been inundated with interest this week.

“It started slowly, but this week the interest has exploded and people are starting to take notice,” said Kahn, who first watched the Hammers in their relegation season of 1977-78.

“I think the move is simply not right for the club. I heard an interview with Karren Brady on the radio and I was horrified by what I was hearing. The club said that they listen to the fans, but I think they are a shoe-in to get the stadium and they are determined to go there.”

The biggest bugbear for many fans is the existence of a running track, but that is not the only thing that worries Kahn.

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“Who sells their house and then goes into rented accommodation?” asked Kahn. “It doesn’t make sense. I think that West Ham can flourish by staying at Upton Park.

“Why do they need a 50,000 seater stadium? West Ham fans know that they are never going to fill that.”

The athletics track is certainly a bone of contention from the comments Kahn has received on his website.

“I wanted people to sign the petition online, so that I can see their comments as well.

“I think for many people it is the running track and therefore the distance from the stadium that is the biggest problem.”

However, West Ham’s Olympic Stadium supervisor, Ian Tompkins, believes that he can convince many fans that the track is not going to be a problem.

“What we would like people to do is keep an open mind about the stadium,” he said this week. “Obviously we can’t say too much about the bid because of the confidentiality and the competition.

“But in terms of viewing, I am confident people that come and see the stadium, will backpedal on their perceptions of it. David Beckham was down there last week and he was very impressed with how it is laid out.

“You can’t compare Upton Park with the Olympic Stadium, just as you can’t compare Highbury with the Emirates, but I am a West Ham fan and when I have been at the stadium, I have not been worried at all about the view.

“As to the atmosphere with a running track, I saw Real Sociedad on the television at the weekend and their running track did not seem to affect the atmosphere, while the World Cup stadium in Durban in the summer also had a great atmosphere.”

Tompkins will meet Kahn and some of his supporters before Saturday’s clash with Manchester City, but the West Ham man believes that there are plenty of other fans out there who do back the stadium plan.

“We are certainly aware of the opposition and we should have a lively discussion when we meet up on Saturday, but I also believe that there are an equal amount of supporters who are fully behind the plan,” said Tompkins.

“As I say, we would like people to keep an open mind. We cannot reveal every hing about our bid, but if we are successful then we will be able to go into more detail as well as making sure we consult as many fans as we can.”

Tompkins is hoping to get the go-ahead to organise sightseeing visits to the Stratford stadium in the next few weeks, so that supporters can see for themselves what the footballing experience at the Olympic Stadium will be like.

For some fans though, they will never be convinced that a move is a right thing.

“Upton Park is my second home,” said Kahn. “I go in the Boleyn, I used to eat in Cassetari’s cafe every Saturday whether West Ham were playing or not.

“I can’t be convinced that a move will be the right thing.”

Kahn will be outside the John Lyall Gates on Saturday before the game if you would like to sign his petition, or you can log on to his website at mywhufc.com.