“Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”
If you think West Ham are in trouble, look across the Thames and see how Millwall are getting on. Despite their 3-0 FA Cup home victory against Premier League side Bournemouth, trouble off the pitch has threatened the club’s existence due to the area of Bermondsey being the new hotspot for swanky new homes.
The government has stated that funds of around £7billion is to be released to build new affordable homes in the country, where ‘housing providers’ can apply for a share of the fund. Lewisham Council are prepared to sell land around The New Den to these housing providers, which could force the South London club out of south London all together.
Wednesday 11th January 2017 is judgement day for the club, where the council will hold a meeting to confirm the fate of the land in question. Lewisham Councillor, Alan Hall, has warned that “Losing Millwall football club from the area would be a blow for the borough as the club would lose its cultural history of being a London Club.” Millwall fans will be gathering in numbers outside and a few inside to plea against the sale and persuade that Millwall Football Club is a community to the area of Bermondsey.
There is no doubt that South Bermondsey is an area in London, (like Tottenham) which is in need of investment. But is the movement of an entire football infrastructure the solution to the area’s problem? In my honest opinion, no. The council and city should be supporting recreational establishments and be planning to incorporate this into the investment scheme.
There are conceptual designs from Architects in Brazil to infill areas of voids created by the stadium structure with living ‘pods’ for the homeless. These homes could be fit around the stadiums, providing homeless people with a place to live. Plus, the plan argues that football matches and other events that are regularly held at these stadiums could still be put on. In fact, they would be a necessity in order generate the funds to sustain building maintenance and bills.
We could even come closer to home in London and look at Leyton Orient’s Brisbane road (below). Due to financial issues created by expanding one of the stands in the stadium, the club decided to sell the four corners of the land they owed to a property developer to create blocks of flats therefore incorporating the community to the football club.
As a West Ham fan, you are probably wondering why on earth am I talking about our greatest enemy. Millwall are just like us, a working class society born from the docks and being threatened by money making investment opportunities in one of the most fashionable cities in the world. This clubs needs our support, we are football fans after all, and if our greatest rival moves from south London to Dartford, Kent, where has the London derby gone?
There are plenty of high rise developments happening eastwards along the Thames. The biggest development of late is in Woolwich, London. How much longer will football clubs exist in London if they are being turfed out for new home owners? West Ham are VERY lucky to move from Upton Park to Stratford, two miles within the same London Borough where the area is growing with mass residential and educational developments.
Millwall could be the latest Wimbledon, and nobody wants to see a club change its identity. Wimbledon FC, when they moved to Milton Keynes, even had to give up their FA Cup success from 1988 because they moved outside of the borough. Thankfully AFC Wimbledon was born, and fortunate enough to rebuild from their original roots.
But where in Millwall/South Bermondsey can this club start again? They can’t. There is no land available and if they did they would have to take over a smaller club. Would Bromley be sacrificed for Millwall’s South London existence?
This decision by Lewisham Council will have a huge effect on the Lions, 132 years of London history could possibly end, and for what? An overpriced two-bedroom flat costing £450k?
That’s the real housing crisis – Millwall being evicted.