It can hardly be overstated; it’s been one of the toughest years our country and sport has ever faced. So, welcoming back 10,000 fans to our final game of the season at the London Stadium this weekend will represent an uplifting moment, and most importantly a significant step towards the normality we are all desperately hoping for.
It’s been a hugely positive season for us, with David Moyes’s team having played a brand of exciting, attacking football that means our loyal supporters will see us go into the final game in strong contention for a European spot and looking set to see us secure one of our highest finishes, as well as hopefully a record points tally in the Premier League era.
But it’s somewhat bitter-sweet, as everyone at the club wanted our fans there to witness it. We are all desperate for a return to full stadiums and I know our more recent signings can’t wait to play in front of 60,000 fans and experience a full London Stadium for the first time.
Like so much in the last year, the absence of our supporters has prevented us from celebrating moments together in person, as we had originally hoped, but we’ve focused on supporting those who need it most, including making more than 3,000 calls and keeping in constant contact with our over-70s and vulnerable supporters.
We’re proud of our roots as a working-class club in east London, the foundations of which lie deep in the local community. That is also why, as a club, we want to reiterate our commitment to that community and our desire to remain a force for good in it. By the end of this year, we will have invested £28million across our local communities via our Players’ Project, with the purpose of motivating, inspiring, educating and responding to those most in need during these unprecedented times.
With social inequality a particular issue in Newham, we have also doubled our commitment to the Holiday Hunger programme, which will mean £100,000 will be put towards the project by the end of 2021. Under the Players’ Project, we are targeting more than 1,000 hours to support the local community by the end of the year.
Everyone associated with West Ham has rallied together again. We have all been reminded of what a powerful force a united football club is, when the staff, players, and supporters all pull in the same direction. West Ham have made huge strides on and off the pitch, laying strong foundations in the process which we will all continue to work together to build upon.
We have been working hard all year to establish a new approach to supporter consultation and, in January, announced the Independent Supporters’ Committee (ISC), formed following dialogue between the club and the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) and created independently by several supporters’ groups.
It forms part of a wider evolution to enhance structured dialogue and consultation between the club and its fans, which also includes a 50-strong Matchday Supporter Liaison team and the creation of the online Hammers Hub and Hammers help resources.
There has also been further improvements to enhance the matchday experience, including the lower tiers of the Bobby Moore and Sir Trevor Brooking Stands being reconfigured to square off the stands and bring them closer to the pitch, as well as the addition of a new floodlight system to add yet more to those nights under the lights.
I want to thank David, his staff, captain Mark Noble and our tremendous team for their professionalism and hard work during this period. They have been fantastic and, however our season finishes, I know they cannot wait to be reunited with supporters to help them round off the campaign in style.
There is a fantastic feeling of unity and positivity throughout the club, and we are looking forward to building upon these foundations, starting with welcoming back 10,000 fans on Sunday.