The news that the West Ham Ladies team were playing a charity match at the Boleyn Ground was met with mixed responses.
Suddenly, a fundraiser had turned sour long before a ball had been kicked.
A rather long story, indeed
The premise was a match between the Hammers Ladies and a team of former players and fans, entry billed as free to all but any donations would be welcome. It would also be a chance for other fans to say their fond farewells to their historic ground.
Whilst some were happy, others were not (to put it lightly). As soon as the news of the match started to filter around the internet the backlash was swift, amongst it was the usual sexist drivel, comments about women having no place on the pitch, suggestions that they should be in the kitchen or the bedroom thrown around.
Unsavoury but sadly not uncommon. However, there was a wave of dissent from Hammers fans that were simply unhappy with the location, the lights had been turned off, the gates locked, the Boleyn was closed
A snap decision was made, an internet poll! [Because when has that ever backfired?] The poll ran for 24 hours, almost 12,000 registered a vote and the ladies won with a slim majority (52% to 48%). The match was back on… Wait, no. It was back off, enough people had been against it and it was cancelled. Fans rejoicing, the Boleyn had seen its’ last football, sorry Ladies but Upton Park was closed for business.
The only problem, of course, being that not only was Upton Park open but it was open for rent. Numerous matches had been booked and scheduled between West Ham’s final home game and the when UP was scheduled to be torn down. But none of the matches scheduled had caught as much fire, there were no votes over whether Upton Park FC should go ahead with their game against The Royal Engineers on 30 May (to name but one).
The news broke as two other teams were getting ready to step onto the hallowed turf, their money paid, football boots cleaned, their own farewell to the Boleyn.
The internet continued to argue with itself.
West Ham had said #FarewellBoleyn after the Hammers had beaten Manchester United, a 45 minute celebration after full time had seen the casual fan switch off, too much pomp on show but many had shed a tear. Bobby Moore (or at least a projection of the late England great) turning the lights off one last time.
That was the image left with Hammers, and that was what was at the route of the fury. The voters had had a legitimate quibble but those who rushed to click against the game had done so under the impression that the lights were being turned back on just for that one match. Admittedly, there was a number that voted for other, more [prehistoric] reasons but the lack of information was ultimately what sunk the game, the uninformed voter winning out.
Democracy and football clearly not mixing well. Nothing about the match should have been put to a public vote, let alone one at such short notice running for just 24 hours with limited information available. One petition already up to let the women play, other rumblings about crowd sourcing money to have the Ladies play somewhere else, or at least just to donate to the underfunded team.
West Ham Ladies undoubtedly overjoyed at the outpouring of support and welcoming any donations but many players in the squad (current and former) are not just players but fans, Irons through and through and they’ve missed out on the chance to say goodbye to a ground they have come to see as a second home.
West Ham Ladies play their regular FA WPL home games at AFC Hornchurch in Upminster.