Football’s staying home! Upton Park Champions Statue campaigners celebrate World Cup victory

Campaigners celebrate in front of the Champions Statue. Pic: SJR Womack

Campaigners celebrate in front of the Champions Statue. Pic: SJR Womack - Credit: Archant

The Champions Statue will stay in its historic Boleyn home.

Junction of Green Street and Barking Road, Upton Park - Champions statue at the junction.

Junction of Green Street and Barking Road, Upton Park - Champions statue at the junction. - Credit: Archant

Campaigners waved flags and blew bubbles on a victory march celebrating after Newham Council decided against moving the statue to the London Stadium on the same day England played Colombia in the World Cup.

West Ham fan Cecilia Welsh said: “It is such a relief that we can keep our beloved statue. The club played in Upton Park for 112 years and it was a huge wrench to see it go.

“We have something to remember our heritage by.”

The future of the statue, unveiled in 2003, had been under discussion since December 2015, with opinion divided as to whether it should move with the club to Stratford or remain at the junction of Green Street and Barking Road.

Hundreds of neighbours wrote postcards to former Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales explaining why they wanted the statue to stay. Thousands signed petitions.

Businesses in the area displayed campaign posters in their windows.

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Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said: “I have been massively impressed with the community’s strength of feeling about this issue. The statue has been instrumental in forging identity in Newham.”

To campaigners, some of whom were at Newham Town Hall for the decision, she added: “I want to convey my thanks for your passion, commitment and tenacity.”

The council dismissed a last-minute appeal from the club’s vice-chairman Baroness Karren Brady to hold a public consultation.

In a strongly worded letter, Baroness Brady said she was disappointed the club and fans had not been in on the decision.

She accused the council of going back on a decision to move the statue claiming a deal had already been made with former mayor Sir Robin Wales’s previous administration.

“We have made promises to our supporters that the statue would sit outside our new home. Your decision to keep the statue at Barking Road will result in what will be perceived as a broken promise.

“You should consider this as a risk... in the context of events at London Stadium in March this year”, the letter stated.

Speaking at the meeting, deputy mayor Cllr Charlene McLean suggested the mention of events in March referred to trouble at the ground which she claimed came about as a result of how the club had been managed since its move from the Boleyn ground.

Newham’s legal officer said there was no binding legal obligation to move the statue.

Mayor Fiaz added: “The council position is there is no legal obligation to undertake a public consultation. We have clearly expressed views from the public.”

On scoring a victory, Boleyn ward’s Cllr Veronica Oakeshott said: “I am thrilled. The Boleyn community cherish the statue. I’ll never forget first learning when I had just been elected that it was to be moved.

“I was totally determined not to let it happen. The statue is there because Bobby and the boys played in Upton Park. You don’t go carting off with history.”

The bronze statue shows footballers Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson celebrating England’s World Cup victory in 1966.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms said: “I am delighted the stature will be staying where it belongs, at the Boleyn, as a permanent reminder of our area’s contribution to England’s greatest football triumph.”

The campaign was also supported by West Ham MP Lyn Brown along with a number of former players and season ticket holders including Clyde Best and BBC University Challenge brainbox Bobby Seagull.