West Ham’s London Stadium should be knocked down and rebuilt to suit football fans, a stadium expert says. Paul Fletcher, who has built or advised on more than 30 new grounds, says athletics was wrongly put before football at the former Olympic Stadium. He says fans are too far from the pitch at a ground beset by problems since the Hammers moved there this summer. “Either we go on as we are for the next 30 or 40 years or we knock it down and start again,” Fletcher said. “Something has to give. If you want to satisfy spectators the only way to get those spectators near that pitch is to knock it down and start again,” added the former Burnley striker turned chief executive.
Fletcher, who was behind new stadiums at Bolton, Huddersfield and Coventry, among others, and was commercial director for Wembley Stadium, said he was asked about the development of an Olympic stadium in 2000. “I said what you must do is design a football stadium that converts to an athletics stadium for two weeks of its lifetime,” he said. “When I build my football stadiums, my number one concern is the spectator. “What they’ve done is tried to convert an athletics stadium into a football pitch and, in my opinion, it doesn’t work. “The building was almost built when they started to talk to West Ham.” West Ham won the bid to occupy the Olympic Stadium in March 2013 and played their first game there in August 2016, after 112 years at Upton Park. However, their move has been marred by fan violence, leading the club to issue a five-point security plan to prevent further disorder. Hundreds of supporters clashed during the Hammers’ EFL Cup tie against Chelsea, with seven arrests made as riot police were deployed inside the stadium. Vice-chairwoman Karren Brady said the club would ban any fans involved in the violence, while Mark Field MP said the club should be forced to play behind closed doors until the issues are solved. “Let’s face it, there was only going to be one end user and it was only going to be West Ham,” Fletcher added. “Everyone in those days spoke about legacy. The only legacy was going to be as a football stadium and they should have been talking to West Ham and ask them what they want.”