At the end of last season, West Ham United waved goodbye to Upton Park, which had been their home for 112 years. Having won the tenancy to the Olympic Stadium back in 2013, the Hammers moved into the Stratford Ground in the summer, but it is yet to really feel like home.
On the pitch, there’s been a decline in the performances following 2015-16’s seventh place finish, with Slaven Bilic’s side sitting in the relegation zone earlier in the campaign and are 12th at the time of writing, leading to last season’s star man Dimitri Payet refusing to play for the club. Off the pitch, crowd trouble has been the major issue with 200 people given banning orders from the stadium following violence at the EFL Cup fixture with Chelsea alone. A move that was meant enhance the club has done the opposite, with both the players and fans (who are now much further away from the pitch) struggling to settle.
But is this common place when teams move stadiums? In part one of my investigation, I’ve looked at the stats from the previous five Football League sides to switch homes, and whether their decision to up sticks has seen them grow as a club.
Rotherham United – 2012 – From the Don Valley Stadium (8,300)* to the New York Stadium (12,021)
Rotherham’s final 10 games at the Don Valley Stadium saw them win six, draw two and lose two, scoring 13 goals and conceding eight (GD +5). They finished 10th in League Two. Their first season at the New York Stadium was also Steve Evans’ first full campaign in charge of the club, and their first 10 home league games of the season resulted in seven wins and three defeats – with 22 goals scored and 13 conceded (GD +9). They finished second in League Two, earning automatic promotion. The following season, the Millers achieved back-to-back promotions as they finished fourth in League One and then won the play-offs to go up to the Championship. After two campaigns of just about avoiding the drop, this season may well see Rotherham exit the second tier. At the time of writing they sit bottom of the table and nine points away from safety.
*The Don Valley Stadium is actually in Sheffield, and Rotherham were forced to move there in 2008 following a dispute over ownership of Millmoor, their home since 1907. There were questions raised about the agreement, and the Football League stipulated that the club was obligated to move back to Rotherham within four years. The Millers did just that upon the completion of the New York Stadium in 2012.
Brighton & Hove Albion – 2011 – From the Withdean Stadium (38,850)* to the AMEX Stadium (30,750)
Brighton’s move to the AMEX Stadium came following their promotion to the Championship as League One winners, so that should also be considered when comparing the stats at the two grounds. Of their last 10 games at the Withdean Stadium, the Seagulls won eight but, perhaps surprisingly for a team in-form, lost their final two. In the process they scored an impressive 26 goals and conceded 13 (GD+13). Adjusting to life in the second tier, they won five of their first 10 games at the AMEX, drawing three and losing two – 15 goals scored and 11 conceded (GD +4). In that first season in their new home, Brighton finished 10th. In the four campaigns since, the South Coast club have finished in the play-offs in three of them but failed to go up, but this season could finally see them earn promotion – they are second in the Championship at the time of writing with a game in hand over leaders Newcastle.
*The Withdean Stadium is actually an athletics stadium and was only Brighton’s temporary home for 12 seasons whilst the AMEX Stadium was being built. The Seagulls previously played at the Goldstone Ground between 1902 and 1907, and ground-shared with Gillingham at Priestfield in 97/98 and 98/99.
Morecambe – 2010 – From Christie Park (6,400) to the Globe Arena (6,476)
Finishing fourth in League Two in their 89th and final season at Christie Park marked Morecambe’s highest league finish in the club’s history, and it was hoped that a move to the Globe Arena would help the Shrimps kick-on even further. This however has not proven to be the case – they won nine of their last 10 games at Christie Park (drawing the other), scoring 19 goals and conceding seven (GD +12). In their first 10 games at the Globe Arena, Sammy McIlroy’s side won just twice, drew five times and lost three times, but still had a +2 goal difference after scoring 12 and conceding 10. The campaign on the whole though was a failure as they finished 20th, leading to McIlroy’s departure. Under Jim Bentley since, Morecambe are yet to challenge the top seven again and are currently 17th in the fourth tier.
Chesterfield – 2010 – from Saltergate (8,504) to the Proact Stadium (10,400)
In their final 10 games at Saltergate, Chesterfield won four, drew two and lost four, scoring 11 and conceding 14 (GD-3) as they finished 8th in League Two and missed out on the play-offs by just two points. Then a move to the Proact Stadium saw them earn promotion as league winners in a superb first season at their new ground. In their first ten games at the Proact Stadium, the Spireites won seven, drew one and lost two with a very impressive 29 goals scored and 17 conceded (GD+12). They were then relegated in their first season back in the third tier, but earned promotion again in 2014 and also won the Football League trophy in 2012. At the time of writing, Chesterfield sit 22nd in League One, in danger of becoming a yo-yo club between the two leagues.
Cardiff City – 2009 – from Ninian Park (21,508) to the Cardiff City Stadium (33,280)
Cardiff City’s seventh place finish in the Championship in their final season at Ninian Park was in itself their highest league positioning since 1971. In their final ten games at the ground, the Bluebirds won six, drew two and lost two, scoring 19 goals and conceding 12 (GD+7). But a move to a new stadium saw their fortunes increase even more, as they finished in the top six in each of their first three campaigns at the Cardiff City Stadium (reaching the play-off final once) before finally earning promotion to the Premier League in 2013 to play top division football for the first time in 51 years. They did however spend just one season in the promised land, and their fortunes haven’t been as great since relegation – they currently sit 18th. In terms of their first 10 games at the new ground, Dave Jones’ team won five, drew two and lost three, scoring 19 and conceding eight (GD+8).
So the statistics certainly suggest that moving grounds has been beneficial for four of our five case study clubs. In total, five promotions have been achieved between them, with another imminent if Brighton keep up their impressive form in the Championship. Comparing league position to when the teams moved ground to the present day, Rotherham have moved up 34 places, Brighton have moved up 23 places, Morecambe have dropped 13 places, Chesterfield have moved up 10 places and Cardiff have dropped 11 places. That’s an average of nearly nine places gained.
The average win percentage of the five teams in their final 10 games at their old grounds is 66% compared to an average win percentage of 52% in their new homes, suggesting that in the short term it does take clubs time to adapt to new surroundings. However, if you look at the goals scored it implies that teams actually score more in their new homes (average 19.4 in first ten games) than they do in their old homes (average 17.6 in last 10 games). On the other hand, they also concede more goals in their new home (average of 11.8 in first 10 games) than they do in their old homes (average of 10.8 in last 10 games). This gives an average goal difference of +7.6 in the new stadiums compared to a goal difference of +6.8 in the old stadiums. So really it’s relatively similar.
West Ham’s win percentage of 40% in their first 10 Olympic Stadium games puts them below the average, as does their goals scored (9 – less than half the average and less than any of the five teams), whilst their goals against (16) puts them above average. However, this is only the short term and the case studies show that in the long term, a stadium move is usually beneficial. Hammers fans will hope that this is the case and that they will see European football at their new home again before too long.
In part two, find out how the fans of these five clubs think the stadium switches have worked out for their teams, allowing us to see whether these stats tell the whole story!