West Ham's Boleyn Ground farewell: What will become of Upton Park?

By Rob StevensBBC Sport
Boleyn Ground 1904-2016: Farewell Upton Park

West Ham United's final game at the Boleyn Ground will be an emotional occasion for everyone associated with the club.

The Hammers are leaving their home of 112 years at the end of this season for the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.

It has been a much-publicised move - including revelations that the Premier League club will only pay £2.5m a year in rent for their new home - but seemingly a popular one, with in excess of 50,000 season tickets already sold.

But the Upton Park area is also home to thriving businesses, whose well-being is in large part due to the activity a matchday brings.

The 35,000-seater stadium will be replaced by flats, but food outlets, pubs and street traders face an uncertain future when the Hammers move from E13 to E20.

'It will affect us terribly'

Supporters have a number of pre-match eating rituals, be it the temptation of sizzling onions at a burger stand, a trip to the chippy or, in East London, the traditional option of pie and mash.

Full English breakfast and sausage sandwiches are the best-sellers at Ken's Cafe on Green Street, which has been family-run for 50 years.

"My dad started it off and we are all carrying it on. I was born here," the eponymous Ken told BBC Radio London.

"Dad's still out the back cooking and mum is serving. West Ham is in the blood and it's been good to us.

"It will be a bit quieter but we'll survive. We'll carry on because we've got all our regulars that come in during the week."

Nathan's Pies and Eels shop
Nathan's Pies and Eels has been open since 1938 but faces an uncertain future

Up the road, Osman Mustafa of Queen's Fish Bar is less optimistic about his prospects.

"At least 25% of our business comes from West Ham," he said.

"I hope I can keep going. With knocking the stadium down and the construction to develop the new flats, the workers there will help for a while. After a few years, I don't know. It will affect us terribly."

When the Hammers are at home, healthy queues also form outside Nathan's Pies and Eels shop on the Barking Road, but Richard Nathan is also unsure if his family-run business, first opened in 1938, will survive.

"It managed to survive through the second World War and various family members managed to keep it going. There is a lot of history," he said.

"It has kept going through thick and thin but things change."

'The brewery will see if we can do something different'

Pubs close to football grounds are always busy on matchdays and that is true of those near the Boleyn Ground.

Ron Bolwell owns The Queens and The Denmark Arms and estimates he will lose almost half a million pounds in income, which makes up two thirds of his turnover.

He intends to reassess his financial situation after three months.

"On a matchday, you just can't move with the football fans and the atmosphere," he said.

"Our rates are very high and our rents are high.

"The brewery have mentioned they will come along and see if we can redevelop the pubs and see if we can do something different to get more people in."

West Ham programme seller
Some programme sellers and street stall traders are unlikely to move to the Olympic Park

'Upton Park is going to be dead'

Independent programme seller Paul Vickery shifts approximately 2,000 official programmes per game from his pitch directly opposite Upton Park tube station.

"My life has been all West Ham," the 51-year-old said.

"I grew up selling eels and singing 'cockles and mussels'. Burgers, hot-dogs - you name it I've sold it."

Vickery is considering whether to follow the club to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - but believes Upton Park will suffer in the long-term.

"I spoke to [West Ham co-owner] David Gold and asked 'what happens about us?' and he said 'you never know what is going to happen'.

"What I do know is they sold their ground and made plenty of money and then all of a sudden they rent another one. Who is in the money - him or me?

"Upton Park is going to be dead. It is going to be a has-been."

Upton Park tube
The crowds of West Ham supporters seen at Upton Park tube station will be a thing of the past

'No major impact'

However, Sir Robin Wales, the Mayor of Newham, believes West Ham's move will not necessarily damage the economy in Upton Park.

"If you ever go to a match, very little is spent by fans in the market and elsewhere," the 61-year-old said. "They have just come for the game.

"There will be some cafes and things which will struggle and a few pubs. But fans will be drinking in Stratford so there will be jobs and opportunities there.

"I am comfortable we don't have a major problem, except for a few businesses which are specifically set up to cater for the fans coming in."

Sir Robin says Newham Council have held talks with some businesses in Upton Park.

"We had some initial conversations with one or two and we think it would be good to be supportive," he added.

"We are waiting to see what happens. Otherwise, the money will go into Stratford. Because of Westfield Shopping Centre it is quite likely there will be more money going into Stratford."

What will be the impact of the demolition of Upton Park?

'Families will regenerate the area'

Football fans will be replaced by families, creating a completely different atmosphere in that part of the East End.

The place where Bobby Moore, Frank Lampard and Dimitri Payet plied their trade for West Ham will instead become 842 new flats, which will be completed by 2022.

An initial 25% of the scheme is affordable housing, with Newham Council investing £18m to increase that number by a further 10%, and the council insists construction jobs will be earmarked for local people.

"We'll have 800-odd families living here which will help to regenerate the whole area," councillor Ken Clark said.

"This is a very vibrant, diverse neighbourhood. I think the future for the area is very positive."

Sir Robin added: "Housing is a major problem and the problem is the government are not investing in it.

"We have got a brand new community centre being built and overall it is a big plus for the residents of Newham."

Sir Robin Wales and David Gold
Sir Robin Wales, (left) pictured with West Ham co-owner David Gold, has been Mayor of Newham since 2002

Pub landlord Bolwell is sceptical as to whether the housing development will help his businesses.

"It will bring a bit of life into that area once it's all done but I don't think it'll make any difference to my pubs," he said.

"You may get one or two in but we won't get anything near what we have been getting from the football.

"There is not much more Sir Robin Wales can do really - unless he can stand outside and get customers to come in as they pass."

Despite West Ham auctioning off memorabilia from the Boleyn Ground, the new housing development will celebrate the history of the area.

A new statue of West Ham and England legend Bobby Moore, the club's current Memorial Garden and a landscaped courtyard to replace the Boleyn's centre circle will all be included in the scheme.

"Our regeneration and planning people have worked really hard to make sure we are going to get something here where people will be proud of their history and community," Sir Robin said.

"You want to create a community. That is going to be the challenge for us."

Interviews by BBC Radio London's Jamie Reid and Duncan Barkes and BBC London's Sara Orchard.

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