Rooting for furniture: Why changing grounds is a big deal
West Ham United play their final home game at the Boleyn Ground (or Upton Park, as it’s known to pretty much everyone) tonight. When they take on Man United, it will be the end of a season of constant emotional build up to the end of the 112 year residence at Upton Park. The club have been orchestrating the #FarewellBoleyn conversation all season, and some have criticised the parade of tributes as being a bit much, it’s only a stadium after all. But the thing is stadiums do really matter for football fans. It might defy logic, but moving stadium is a big deal.
If there is one thing that defines modern football, it is constant change. Players change, managers change and kits change. Each year new teams are promoted and relegated and this season we’ve even seen football’s hierarchy turned on its head by Leicester City. Football today is, like most things in modern life, transient. In the Snapchat society, great football moments shine bright, and then they’re gone.
That is why football fans make such a big deal about stadiums. Stadiums are solid, sturdy, and they won’t leave you in the summer for higher profile club. They’re full of memories, of nostalgia, and of little intricacies that you’ve worked out over generations. I’ve been to the Olympic Stadium a couple of times already, it is a great venue with world class facilities and Upton Park, while a fantastic ground with a great atmosphere, could never have been described as a perfect facility. But the thing is, Upton Park was full of history and character, and it will be years before the Olympic Stadium gets close to that, if it ever does.
Tonight’s final game at Upton Park will be a scene of high emotion. There will be historic tributes and famous faces, and grown men may very well cry. At a time when everything in football is disposable, historic stadiums like the Boleyn are one of last symbols of stability for football fans to hold on to. We shouldn’t be surprised therefore that when a historic ground like this is left behind, fans will make a bit of a fuss.
Are you tired of the #FarewellBoleyn conversation or do you think it’s deserved? Get in touch by tweeting @hksports