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A ten point pledge of our own: update

Filed: Monday, 27th November 2017
By: Graeme Howlett

News that West Ham have finally agreed to sponsor the official Hammers Supporters Club is thoroughly welcome - even if the timing is perhaps a little cynical.

Coming as it did in the wake of talks of anti-Board demonstrations, it's easy to see why some fans will view Mssrs Sullivan and Gold's sudden change of heart as reactive, rather than proactive. However regardless of the reasons, the move is a welcome one and guarantees the future of this particular deeply-loved institution for another few months, at the very least.

Back in January of this year, I attended a meeting of various websites, blogs and YouTube enterprises. Some of us have been writing about the club for 20 years or so, whilst others have been airing their views for no more than a matter of months. It was planned to be a regular occurrence but there was to be just one more meeting, three months later in April.

During the initial meeting with Brady and Marketing Director Tara Warren I presented a ten point plan on behalf of KUMB.com readers, with view to improving our lot at Stratford. Nearly a year on, here's how the Club have thus far responded to our plan.

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1. Surround the ground with local vendors
Our readers felt it was vital to 'West Ham-ify' the long walk from Stratford station to the stadium. This has never looked like happening - indeed, we have heard several tales of merchandise sellers being arrested and fined for not holding the appropriate license (which is impossible to obtain anyway).

2. Make a concerted effort to re-employ as many former Boleyn Ground stewards as possible
A letter was sent to all former Boleyn Ground stewards a matter of weeks after our plan was presented urging them to contact the club with view to returning to their previous position. Very few opted to take up the offer, amidst claims of low pay (below the London living wage) and poor working conditions.

3. Install genuine, retractable seating, as promised in pre-move communications
The temporary scaffolding that was erected instead of the retractable seating promised by vice chair Karren Brady costs up to £8million to remove and re-install every summer, ensuring that the stadium runs at a loss for owners E20 LLP. There are no plans at present to abide by Brady's previous promise.

4. Offer the Supporters' Club a new home close to the new stadium
On Friday, some 10 months after our plan was presented, and in the wake of threats of anti-Board demonstrations, West Ham confirmed that they would be bankrolling the club at its new Stour Space home for the remainder of the 2017/18 season. However what happens after that is anybody's guess - presumably the Club will be back to square one.

5. Re-house the occasional visitors and day-trippers in the upper tier
Occasional visitors are still offered some of the very best seats in the house over genuine West Ham United supporters although seating concerns are fewer and far between.

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6. Put the home fans first! Ensure away fans leave the stadium last, if necessary
The club continue to monitor and amend their policy with regards to stadium ingress and egress, although the issues prevalent a year or so ago have largely disappeared.

7. Provide singing and family enclosures and an accurate, up to date, seating plan
When challenged on this issue, Karren Brady insisted that the entire stadium was "family-friendly". There are currently no plans in place to introduce specific family orientated areas of the ground, nor singing or standing areas, despite this being a mandatory requirement for Premier League member clubs.

8. Provide additional shuttle buses from Stratford for the benefit of those experiencing difficulty with the lengthy walk
The club doubled the number of buses ferrying supporters from Stratford to the stadium in the wake of our plan - however the number available (doubled from six to 12) is still woefully insufficient to cope with the sheer number of fans requiring assistance, whilst we've received complaints of some disabled fans being left in the rain for up to 90 minutes waiting for a bus.

9. Employ additional Supporter Liaison Officers to act as fan representatives
The club have employed a very approachable liaison officer in Jake Heath adding several volunteers to assist with support enquiries on match day. However this still pales into insignificance compared to clubs like London neighbours Arsenal, who employ up to 20 full time staff to deal with fan enquiries.

10. Treat the fans with respect and agree to engage with us on a regular basis
KUMB's ten point plan was delivered to vice chair Karren Brady last January during the first of what was planned to be a quarterly meeting between the vice chair and representatives of online supporter groups. That was followed up by a further meeting in April, since when the planned July and October meetings were cancelled by West Ham. The club finally announced a third meet for November in the wake of the appointment of David Moyes - although insist that no recording equipment can be used and demanded to know what questions would be aired beforehand.

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So as you can see, even though the majority of our ten points were reasonable and easily achievable within a short period of time - excepting perhaps the installation of retractable seating, which would require major investment and some considerable time - few have been fully acted upon, despite nearly an entire calendar year having passed.

Meanwhile other promises made by Ms Brady during our meeting last January, such as the installation of shelving around the entire concourse (some areas have it, others still don't) and free wi-fi for all have likewise have similarly failed to come to fruition.

All of which leaves the impression that, as was the case with the much-maligned original version of the Supporter Advisory Board, we are merely being paid lip service by a Board who have little genuine interest in actively engaging with and working alongside the fanbase - or possibly even worse, are precluded from being able to do so as a result of the terms they struck in order to land the stadium.

The natural consequence of which is further fan unrest, which looks set to manifest itself in the shape of anti-Board protests in the coming weeks.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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