With the players embarking on pre-season training in Switzerland and the first game of the season only a few weeks away now might be a good time to talk about one of the issues fans are constantly bringing up with us.
Many clubs have problems with stewarding – but the situation at the London Stadium with West Ham leasing the ground from E20 is all but unique as far as we are aware, in that the club aren’t responsible for their own stewards.
Whether this was by design or happy accident (for the club, not the paying supporters) we are not sure but it puts further premium on cost on an activity hardly known for clubs financing it thoroughly, especially as E20 are losing around £10million a year.
Given the management structure at West Ham it isn't unreasonable to suggest that members of staff, even senior ones, have little to no jurisdiction over stewards who do not report or answer to them. It is a great shame given our location lessons weren’t learned from the hugely successful Olympic Games Makers.
It is probably important to note most fans won't experience poor stewarding – although the author of this piece has witnessed some appalling instances of heavy-handed stewarding at away grounds around the country. The majority of stewards do an adequate job
The role is pretty poorly paid with many workers on minimum wage despite effectively being the club’s front of house staff.
West Ham are very proud of their stadium and news is breaking just today of an attempt to increase the capacity of the London Stadium to 62, 500. Yet in terms of the approach to customer service and attitude of matchday stewards towards paying fans is less than it might be.
We wonder if many of the stewards on a match day will be there to fulfil guidelines on numbers required rather than fully trained operatives able to take ownership of their role. Also moot is if the club are fully satisfied all stewards are familiar with the stadium and would be effective in the event of an emergency
In many stadiums excessive force has been an issue. Equally, a complaint we often received in the early days following the migration was of stewards standing around watching as fights kicked off around them.
As has been mentioned away fans are often treated not as paying customers who can have travelled a long way but solely as potential public order problems. We cannot think of another arena in which this behaviour would be tolerated.
Since the move the identity of stewards at Stratford have changed from those at Upton Park. On a walk up to the stadium it is not uncommon to pass stewards standing around talking to each other and making no effort whatsoever to engage with people who are obviously Irons. This lack of customer engagement could be seen as a trigger for dissatisfaction. We don’t blame the stewards themselves – we doubt they get any worthwhile training in this area but bridges need to be built, not walls. A hello, a smile or similar could go a long way in building mutual respect.
Many thanks must go to Amanda Jacks of the FSA for her help with this report.