Chiswick 90 Minutes Away From Premier League On its Doorstep
Brentford play-off win would bring Liverpool and Manchester Utd to Lionel Road
The stands of Brentford FC's new stadium are visible from residential streets in Chiswick and the ground is just a few hundred yards away from the border with W4.
On Tuesday night the Bees face Fulham in a Championship playoff final at Wembley. This fixture is often described as the richest game in world football because the difference between victory and defeat is so wide. The winner will gain access to the vast TV revenues that accrue to Premier League clubs and a boost to income of around £170 million.
For Brentford the timing would be perfect as it would mean the last game played at their Griffin Park ground was the one that clinched the playoff spot and, were they to beat their west London rivals this week, the first competitive game at the Lionel Road stadium would be their first ever in the Premier League. The club did play in the old first division during the thirties and briefly after the Second World War.
Bankrolled by professional gambler and genuine fan Matthew Benham, the club have made huge progress by a carefully thought out transfer policy which has seen them buy low and sell high. Many of their former players are already in the top division and the squad will probably be dispersed if they don't win the playoff with stars like Said Benrahma on the shopping list of a host of clubs including Chelsea.
Chiswick has always formed an important part of their fan base and the team's shirt has become an increasing common sight on the High Road in recent years. With a big increase in capacity at the new stadium they will need to cultivate a new generation of fans. The club's sports trust's activities have already been introducing youngsters in the area to the idea of supporting their local team.
Former Chiswick resident Terry Munroe says, “When I took my son to Chiswick School to football training on Saturday’s, it was always disappointing to see so many blue and red shirts but no red and white striped ones. This was despite the fact that Brentford was supporting the sessions. I hope dads and mums in W4 realise the benefit of bringing up their kids to support a team they can walk to see and to join a crowd that they will hear from their gardens on a Saturday afternoon.”
On the other hand there is likely to be some trepidation in the Chiswick area about the impact of promotion. Match day at Griffin Park barely registered in W4 with the ground that bit further away and the 12,763 capacity often not full. The new stadium holds 17,250 and it is likely that, once social distancing restrictions have been lifted, most games will be sell-outs. Extra parking restrictions have already been introduced in nearby streets but traffic is probably going to be an issue when games are on.
It won't just be teams like Manchester United and Liverpool who bring significant number of fans to the area, most Premier League teams have travelling support numbered in the thousands. Public transport infrastructure may also struggle to cope, Gunnersbury station required crowd management to be introduced for daily commuters before lockdown and, even if passenger levels never regained these peaks on a regular day, if Brentford are hosting well-supported visitors the station gets extremely crowded.
With London Irish also playing their rugby union games at the stadium, there is likely to be a game there every weekend, and although the crowds normally won't reach the levels that would attend a Premier League game, it will mean little respite for locals from August to May.
Not every football fan in Chiswick will be hoping for a Brentford victory as many local Fulham fans enjoy the walk along the Thames Path to Craven Cottage but the wind has to be blowing in a very particular direction to hear the noise of the crowd from W4 so Brentford probably has the better claim to be the area's local team. Which one plays in the top division will be decided at Wembley on Tuesday 4 August kick off 7.45pm.
August 2, 2020