Commonly known as Upton Park the Boleyn Ground home of West Ham United saw the last game on its hallowed grass turf played during May 2016. The pumped up Hammers side defeated Manchester United by 3-2 and with the win thereby took the curtain down on an 112-year-old history at the London ground.
West Ham had played football at Upton Park since 1904 but the earliest incarnation of West Ham United was founded way back in 1895 and they went by the name of Thames Ironworks.
To this day the club is still known as ‘The Irons’ or ‘The Hammers’.
From the start of the 2016-17 season, West Ham United have chosen to play football at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. This was the stadium that had been the location for the successful 2012 London Olympic Games and the granted of the stadium to West Ham for football purposes is one of the chief legacy features of these games.
After a long and somewhat protracted bidding process; one that involved judicial reviews, legal challenge from rival bidding clubs and the deal almost collapsing at one point, it was announced that West Ham’s tenancy bid had been successful. The Hammers agreed it would take over with a 99-year lease and will move in during August 2016.
Two months after that last game the seats will be removed from the Boleyn Ground and will soon be selling at £50 each. More tellingly the famous historical facade of Upton Park will be boarded-up. The stadium by the end of July 2016 will become a ghost town and is due to be handed over to developers for demolition and eventual redevelopment.
With the move to a new home so has also come what could be called a ‘marketing re-brand’ with a new club badge approved by West Ham supporters in July 2014.
This new design has already popped up around the Olympic Park during the summer of 2016 and removes the Boleyn Castle that featured on the previous badge and leaves only the familiar crossed hammers. This feature is one which the club says is inspired by the club crest used during the days of Bobby Moore. The word ‘London’ meanwhile has been introduced below the two hammers as a means of placing the club ‘on the international global stage’.
These crossed hammers are of course symbolic of the rivet hammer tools used in the iron and shipbuilding industry. But the castle was a representation of a historical home that once stood on the site of the Boleyn Ground. This place, called Green Street House, was a manor known as Boleyn Castle due to an association it had with the former Queen of Henry VIII – Anne Boleyn.
When West Ham redeveloped the outer façade of Upton Park in 2002 the Boleyn Castle from the badge was incorporated into the building structure at the main entrance to the ground.
These huge towers were prominent features of Upton Park and both had the clubs’ modern insignia displayed.
Regular club crest changes have occurred for many years throughout the English leagues. Moreover, rebrands of the league logo and cup competitions are an almost yearly occurrence. But with this drastic change of badge to a more modern design and the new home for West Ham, it could be argued that what we are seeing is the continuation of a new modern trend in football branding.
The Hull City owner announced that he wanted to re-register the club as ‘Hull City Tigers Ltd’ and market his club as the Tigers. While arguments over this process have rumbled on the current club logo now features a Tigers head on a modern amber shield with the club’s nickname ‘The Tigers’ visible. So while West Ham United still features on the new Hammers badge, Hull City are now one of the few English league teams without the club name on the crest. This is a move that has proved particularly unpopular with Hull City fans.
Fans at Everton meanwhile were less than positive about a rebrand muted for the club badge. Through the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools, Everton supporters managed to trigger a huge backlash against the changes and a petition was created to get rid of a sleeker emblem. The main focal point of contention surrounding a new logo was the use of Prince Rupert’s tower and a move away from more traditional features. Effectively this fan backlash at Everton worked and the club went back to a crest that bore a huge resemblance to the previous traditional one.
Likewise, Manchester City has this season re-introduced a classical 1970’s badge that had once graced the shirt for 25 years. After a four-week consultation process to gauge the views of fans the more modern eagle shield was ditched. However, some commentators and fans have been less than convinced of the change. Members of the Man City football group – both New York City FC and Melbourne City – have also attained similar club badges to that of Manchester City. The lettering and imagery used also looks similar and has given scope to the ‘Man City umbrella brand’ logo accusation.
What is certain is that West Ham will not have any trouble selling tickets for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Stadium. Moreover, it’s also likely that the club crest will be amended again over the next 5 years depending on how successful they are on the pitch and where the club’s identity goes within global football.
See West Ham images here.