BY LAYTH YOUSIF
There was widespread mirth when West Ham United recently blew up a number of seats at their historic home of Upton Park as part of an upcoming film.
But supporters of Kiveton Park FC weren’t laughing in the slightest – after months of frustration at the South Yorkshire club being led to believe they could use some of the Boleyn Ground’s seats for use at their home at Hard Lane – only to see their plans go up in smoke in East London.
The club which was formed in 1883 – 12 years before Thames Ironworks – first contacted the Eastenders to ask if they could have 500 of their seats for their own ground back in May.
A ‘corporate sales executive’ at West Ham responded days after the club’s fans said an emotional goodbye to the evocative old ground, following their thrilling 3-2 comeback win over Manchester United which marked the last-ever game at the much-loved stadium. Kiveton were informed the club, who now rent the newly named ‘London Stadium’, would ‘come back shortly’ with an answer to the side playing in the Sheffield and Hallamshire County senior League Division Two.
However, mysteriously, West Ham stopped responding to Kiveton – prompting the club from the birthplace of legendary Arsenal and Huddersfield manager Herbert Chapman to send a further 11 emails to West Ham over the course of the summer asking for clarification on whether they could take ownership of the seats.
The Yorkshire club had earmarked the majority of the seats for community use including supporting a local children’s charity called Bluebell Wood, and as part of a future club house development planned that included disabled access. The club also has a commitment to bringing the nearby Rotherham United academy under 18s ladies community team to their ground – which would have been aided significantly if West Ham had donated the seats.
Kiveton Park Club secretary Neil Newman said: “The new seats were to replace our current battered fold away seating in our stand and dug outs that were themselves cast-offs from a local comprehensive.
“Our ground has around 100 seats and it would have made a difference to our club as it would greatly improve sponsorship opportunities and offer more comfortable facilities for spectators.
“Our facilities don’t justify charging admittance at the moment.
“Given we are a voluntary club run off the back of the miners’ welfare charity everything we do is geared up to supporting those in our community. Funding is very hard to come by and improved facilities would help attract sponsorship, spectators and players in our senior team. The quotations we have had for new seats previously well exceed the means of the club.”
The flick, called Fatal Score, stars former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan with the plot involving fans being taken hostage.
But fans and officials from the South Yorkshire town felt they were the ones being taken for a ride by the Irons.
Especially when, after West Ham failed to respond to any of their emails, they saw to their horror seats being blown up Upton Park.
The spokesman added: “It’s highly disappointing given the efforts of the volunteers.
“I personally put the time in to email, call more than 30 times and visit West Ham in my own time.
“Given their feedback prior to the rejection and blowing up part of their stadium for entertainment purposes we could possibly have understood this, had we been told months ago.
“We are now looking to explain this to those connected to us, however, West Ham simply will not expand on their rejection.
“I’m sure our community would have put them to good use and the goodwill shown to us would surely equal the expectation of the legacy of the Olympics in our part of England.
“To be honest the explosion seemed in rather bad taste.”
A spokesman for West Ham said they were unable to assist Kiveton Park with their request because: “During our move to the new stadium all seats from the Boleyn Ground were purchased by season ticket holders.”
Those who saw the explosion at Upton Park in aid of a Hollywood film may beg to differ.