Drew Goodsell samples the cut-price football gear on sale in Green Street.
Busy Green Street greeted me as I stepped off of the Tube at Upton Park station, an hour before West Ham’s kick-off.
At first glance, there were no obvious signs of sports merchandise trading, only the sights and sounds of Queen’s Market, with fishmongers yelling at top volume about their low-priced catch.
But as I approached the stadium, the crowds thickened and market stalls started to spring up. Not in their hundreds, but a new one perhaps every 50 yards along the pavement.
The merchandise was varied, ranging from old match day programmes at high prices – collectors’ items, to scarves and badges resembling the official products on sale at the club megastore, but considerably cheaper.
There were no replica football kits on sale here – you are more likely to find them in the ‘tourist shops’ on Oxford Street. But there were T-Shirts, in a variety of different colours and prints, priced from £10 for children up to £15 for adult sizes – about £5 less than the megastore equivalent.
I noted a number of stalls that just sold T-shirts and nothing else. Meanwhile one of the stalls closest to the stadium, next to a burger van on the corner of Castle Street, sold all sorts including T-shirts, scarves (£8-10), pin badges (£2) and beanie hats (£7).
Each match day, half-and-half scarves are sold with the names of the two teams playing. If you purchase the scarves before the match, you’re charged £8, but if you wait 90 minutes until the game is finished, you’re only charged £5.
I asked Trevor (45) and his son, Charlie (12), if they come here often to buy West Ham memorabilia. “We have done before,” said Trevor, “but nothing expensive. I’ve bought hats and scarves because they’re pretty much the same as the official version, and I haven’t had a problem with the quality.”
But Trevor also explained that the more expensive items can turn out to be more expensive than you bargained for.
“I’ve had friends buy some of the T-shirts and either the design washes out in a couple of months, or it rips. I’d rather pay £50 for mine, and £30/35 for the boy’s as it needs to last through football training. You either pay £85 once a year, or £25 every couple of months. It’s a no brainer for me.”
On the other hand, season ticket holder Stanley (53) reckoned that the whole range of unofficial gear is well worth the money. He said: “In the past I’ve bought the whole lot from the stalls here, and honestly I would again. Hats, T-shirts, scarves – I still wear some of the T-shirts I bought five years ago. Price is definitely something I consider, and it’s a joke that when I’ve paid upwards of £500 for my season ticket, I would still have to pay between £50 and £60 for an official club shirt.”
On this outing, the sceptics outnumbered the converts, but not by the kind of margin you’d risk your shirt on.