In Brief

Vodafone pulls out of West Ham stadium naming rights deal

The Hammers are still looking for a sponsor a year after they moved to the Olympic stadium in Newham

West Ham's travails at their new stadium are continuing to drag on after Vodafone pulled out of a £20m deal to sponsor the London Stadium.

Talks over a six-year contract that would have seen the Olympic stadium renamed the Vodafone Arena were at an advanced stage. The deal was due to begin in time for the start of next season.

Both West Ham and Vodafone insist that the decision is not connected to the HMRC investigation into some of the club's transfer dealings. Instead they say it was down to "commercial reasons". 

The news comes on the day the telecoms company announced an annual loss of more than £5bn. 

The collapse of the deal is a blow for the club and the local council, which stood to benefit from it, reports the London Evening Standard

"London E20 Stadium, which manages the stadium, will now seek a new sponsor but it is a setback for the London Legacy Development Corporation and Newham Council, who were due to receive more than £3m a year from the Vodafone agreement."

The decision to allow West Ham to move into the former Olympic stadium has proved controversial as it was built with public money.

"The naming rights deal is seen as crucial to making the complex sums around the taxpayer funded stadium add up," reports The Guardian. "Talks with the Indian conglomerate Mahindra collapsed last year amid differences over the value of the naming rights.

"The stadium has had a controversial first season as a Premier League venue. There was crowd trouble during early matches, owing to problems over relocation and segregation, and there have been underwhelming performances on the pitch."

The Hammers will be anxious to finalise a deal as soon as possible as two other big London clubs will soon be looking for stadium partners. Spurs are due to move into their new home at the start of the 2018-19 season, while Chelsea are pressing ahead with plans to overhaul Stamford Bridge.

Police to be present inside West Ham stadium for Stoke game

4 November 

Police will be stationed inside West Ham's London Stadium for Stoke City's visit tomorrow as the club hope to prevent a repeat of the trouble that has marred previous home games this season.

Officers will be "deployed within the stadium to support stadium stewards", said the Metropolitan Police.

Up to now, police have not been present inside the ground on Premier League match days as their Airwave radio system has not been installed. It should be in place by February, but the force said it has found a working solution.

They added: "Although Airwave radio is not yet installed at the venue, a tactical measure will be in place to ensure adequate airwave coverage for safe deployment of officers within the stadium."

It remains to be seen if they can halt the rising tide of unrest inside the ground, where West Ham fans have fought among themselves, battled rival supporters and sung songs critical of their new home.

"Security has been a major issue since the Hammers' move to the ground on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at the start of this season," says the Daily Mail. But Stoke fans "will be watching in the presence of tighter security than at any point so far this season".

Police have identified danger areas and some fans have been relocated.

"Officers will be stationed along an enlarged segregation area separating rival fans after clashes marred several West Ham games, the worst of which came during the EFL Cup fourth-round victory over Chelsea last Wednesday," says The Times.

West Ham's move to their new home has not gone smoothly. David Edmonds, the chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation, which has been responsible for running the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, resigned this week after it was revealed the taxpayer bill for converting the stadium to West Ham's new ground had soared by £51m to £323m, pushing the total cost to £752m. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has ordered an inquiry into the rising costs.

West Ham count cost of violence as sponsorship talks end

28 October

Calls are growing for West Ham to play behind closed doors following the latest outbreak of violence at their new home during the 2-1 EFL Cup win over Chelsea.

The London club is already starting to feel the impact of the hooliganism, with the reported collapse of a lucrative deal for the naming rights of their stadium.

Fears things would turn nasty started even before Wednesday's kick-off - West Ham's first local derby since moving from the Boleyn Ground to the former Olympic Stadium - and were proved right, with fans hurling coins, seats and bottles during ugly clashes before and after the final whistle.

It was not the first outbreak of trouble at the Hammers' new home, says Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph. "There has been trouble in games against Watford, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and now Chelsea," he writes. 

West Ham's owners had hoped a new home would usher in a new era. But, says Hayward, the "dream of fans lunching at Wagamama and browsing the shops of the Westfield Centre before getting behind the Irons" has been undermined by the realities of life at the London Stadium.

"Upton Park, as we know, was a cauldron, a gathering place for the generations, with a distinct identity and a history of hostility," the journalist says. Moving to a glossy new home "was bound to cause dislocation, and resentment".

He continues: "You sense at West Ham games the free-flowing, random anger of our times. Some feel within their rights to behave as destructively as they wish. But this is no time for compassionate sociology. One more outbreak should mean games behind closed doors."

However, Henry Winter in The Times calls for some perspective, saying this is not the same level of violence as was seen in the 1970s and 80s. 

But it is also true that "where Jessica Ennis-Hill once threw javelins, they now throw coins" and that cannot continue, he adds.

"West Ham need to solve this quickly otherwise the more bellicose visiting fans will see a trip to the London Stadium as an excuse for a malevolent stomp down memory lane, and [Karen] Brady's cherished corporate clientele will vote with their brogue-clad feet."

It seems recent events are already deterring fans from attending matches. "West Ham should ask themselves why their first derby under lights did not take place in front of a sell-out crowd," says Jacob Steinberg of The Guardian. "Quite simply, it was the consequence of the shortcomings in security in previous matches."

Just as worrying as falling attendances is the damage to the club's reputation. The Telegraph claims the "toxic start" to West Ham's tenancy at the London Stadium has scuppered talks with an Indian technology company, Mahindra Group, over naming rights at the stadium.

The Hammers' had hoped to earn £4m a year through such a deal.

Sponsorship experts tell the paper the outbreaks of hooliganism will make it much harder for West Ham to sell the rights to the ground, "stopping the taxpayer clawing back millions of pounds of public money spent on converting the London 2012 centrepiece into a Premier League ground", it adds.

Olympic Stadium move turns sour for West Ham after fan violence

12 September

West Ham's move to the Olympic stadium is in danger of turning sour after the Hammers threw away a two-goal lead and lost to Watford in an afternoon marred by violence at the stadium.

West Ham had a 2-0 lead 33 minutes into the game, but ended up losing 4-2. Tempers reached boiling point in the stands, where rival fans clashed and there were confrontations between home supporters.

"It has not been a great start to the season for the Hammers," says the BBC. "Slaven Bilic's side were knocked out of the Europa League by Romanian side Astra Giurgiu for the second season running and they have now lost three of their first four Premier League matches."

However, the problems in the stadium are of more significance and the club "will be forced into an emergency relocation of some fans to try to prevent a repeat of the ugly scenes at the former Olympic Stadium on Saturday", says The Times.

"Home supporters fought with each other and children were left in tears after fans insisted on standing for a third consecutive game, while there were disturbances between rival supporters when the segregation area was breached in the upper tier," adds the paper.

Much of the blame has been laid at the door of the stewards and the "trouble sparked a row between West Ham and LS185, the group which runs matchday operations".

The company has been accused of not providing enough security, failing to properly segregate fans, filming supporters and taking draconian measures against fans who stand, which is believed to be the issue that sparked much of the fighting.

"The situation became all the more farcical as it emerged yesterday that West Ham have no control over match-day security and not a single police officer is placed within the London Stadium," reports the Daily Mail. "West Ham issued a statement on Saturday night condemning supporters and threatening life bans but behind the scenes, tensions are mounting between the club and the stadium owners and operators.

"West Ham privately hope that Saturday's events will prove to be a major turning point and that the security company will now adapt their methods. The club's decision makers, Karren Brady, David Sullivan and David Gold, have already sent out letters calling for unity among supporters and positive behaviour. The club have also issued ten life bans to supporters in the opening weeks of the season after previous trouble against Bournemouth in the Premier League and Astra in the Europa League."


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