I first heard about the intended ‘Last game’ at Upton Park on 5th June in support of West Ham Ladies via Twitter. Jack Sullivan had arranged a fundraising game for West Ham Ladies being billed as the Last Game at The Boleyn.
Now, being a West Ham fan and a bit of a feminist (and a West Ham Ladies fan) I had mixed feelings about it. My first thoughts were ‘NO! Tuesday against Manchester United was the perfect send off’ followed by ‘Why not? It’s only a fundraiser and West Ham Ladies need the money.’ I took to Twitter to find out what other fans thought.
They seemed against it.
I saw poll after poll weighed heavily against the Ladies. Very heavily. Why? Was it a dose of good old fashioned sexism? Spite? Sour grapes? What? So I decided to plough through all the tweets that mentioned it and what I found out surprised me.
I didn’t see one wholly misogynistic or sexist comment. Not one. Maybe there WERE some, but I didn’t see any. If anything, there seemed to be a lot of support for West Ham Ladies.
Okay, not sexism then.
Also, there were a huge number of tweets that used the words ‘closure’ ‘ending’ ‘final’ and even more that mentioned ‘Bobby Moore switched off the lights’ and still more that said ‘another last game at The Boleyn made a mockery of Tuesday’ and was ‘disrespectful’.
Didn’t come across as sour grapes either.
Then I saw someone (can’t remember who now, sorry) say ‘it’s like digging up a grave’.
That’s when I realised what it was.
(I lost my father to Pick’s Disease or Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia two weeks ago. The wording the fans had used seemed so familiar because they were using the words I’d been using about my Dad’s death.)
It sounded a lot like grief.
Grief. Grief for Upton Park, the very special atmosphere, a way of life, the end of our memories. Not just the ground, but the pubs, the off licences, the Bobby Moore statue, the vendors… Tuesday was the funeral and the wake for The Boleyn, and if it was the funeral, how could we have ANOTHER?
I don’t think many of the fans know that a number of charity games and fundraisers, not to mention private hires etc., were scheduled at Upton Park after Bobby Moore turned off the lights. I don’t think the vast majority would really want to stop money being raised for Great Ormond Street Hospital, or The Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research, and I doubt very much they would begrudge our very underfunded Ladies having a chance to raise their profile and raise them some money.
I think what upset us was the Ladies game firstly being the only fun/fundraiser game we actually heard about and secondly being called ‘the last game at Upton Park.’ The last game, the farewell ceremony, the spine-tingling sadness we all felt as the lights were switched off already happened. *It* *happened* *on* *Tuesday*.
When I saw Jack Sullivan had got a poll started, I was pleased, though I wish more of the fans knew that it’s just one of a number. If the other games are happening, then it seems a bit unfair to penalise our West Ham Ladies. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to Jack Sullivan, also, who apparently put a lot of work into it.
I think if we told the fans about the other games, and changed the advertising from ‘The last Game at Upton Park’ to ‘An Open Day at Upton Park – all proceeds to West Ham Ladies’ we’d see a different outcome to the poll. Until we do that I think most fans will sadly vote ‘no’.
After all, they are grieving.