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Meeting with the West Ham Utd Board

Filed: Tuesday, 20th February 2018
By: The Pink Palermo

On Monday, 19 February, myself and KUMB Editor Graeme Howlett attended a meeting that had been called between the club and the Real West Ham Fans Action Group at the London Stadium, to which ourselves and other WHU supporters' social media outlets such as Hammers chat, West Ham fans TV, and WHUISA had been invited.

My first point is that everyone in attendance was on the same page, all were supportive of the RWHFAG. The meeting was attended by club representatives Karren Brady (Vice Chair and full Board member) , Tara Warren (Executive Marketing Director and full Board member) and Ben Illingworth , Match Day Operations Director.

Apologies for non-attendance came from co-chairman David Sullivan due to illness. Karren stated towards the end of the meeting that David Gold was unaware the meeting was going ahead but when challenged, immediately contradicted herself and said she had spoken to him about it the previous morning.

You may draw your own conclusions as to why someone with 35 per cent of the club's shares would not attend. As for Mr Sullivan, I'll give the benefit of the doubt to him, but understand fully why others may not be so generous in spirit.

The meeting covered a number of points, and I'd rather stick to the issues than "who on the supporters side said what"...

1. Who's running the show?

Given the illness to Mr Sullivan and Mr Gold's age, a question was asked as to who would run the club in their absence due to a sustained period of illness? The point was made that our manager is out of contract in four months' time and we have recently parted company with our head of recruitment. Karren had already admitted she has no involvement with transfers.

Karren's reply that she felt sure the owners had made their wishes known to the appropriate people as to where their shares would go obviously did not answer the question. We had to explain it again and in truth never received a satisfactory answer.

2. Request for financial results

A request was made for a copy of the club's financial results for the period ending May 2017 (eight months ago). The request was refused by KB and when pushed on the matter, with it being pointed out they would be a matter of public record in 10 days time anyway, KB admitted it was more a case of won't share the information rather than can't - we made the point that was hardly about building trust.

At the heart of the request for the financial data was to explore the club's increases in revenue since the move in three specific areas - match day income, sponsorship and commercial revenue and profit on player sales.

These three areas are vital when understanding how much leeway the club has when paying wages under the PL short term cost control measures ( financial fair play rules). The club is restricted to staying within a player's salary cap of a 7m season-on-season increase plus whatever additional money it makes from its own revenue streams ( the three listed above) .

We pushed for the finances because the whole point of the move was to allow us to make more money and sign the better players we were led to believe would be joining us - the absence of which is a major bone of contention for supporters.

The only concession KB would make in this area is that all revenue streams had grown, but the specific numbers would not be shared. We'll have them on March 1st regardless.

The point was made to Karren that given the general lack of investment in the club by the two major shareholders which she confirmed at 48m in equity - a number not dissimilar to what the Icelandics put in - that they should set a realistic price for their shares and sell the club .

This point was made a few times throughout the course of the meeting. KB repeatedly stated they have no desire to sell. KB made the point our owners were UK taxpayers. Good for them.

3. The badge

A long discussion took place concerning the badge and in particular the word 'London' which has caused significant upset to some of our supporters, who maintain that the club have abandoned our east London roots and heritage.

TW spoke at length about all sorts of surveys and exhibitions of different designs that they had gone through as part of the consultation process and that 56 per cent had voted for the new badge.

Nobody in attendance had any recollection of ever being asked / shown a different design, but TW was happy to share the data etc. Either way the club agreed to look at it again. Progress made.

4. Our history

Numerous complaints were made about the cavalier way in which the club's history appeared to have been abandoned, in particular the museum and memorabilia.

KB stated a considerable amount was in storage and that a temporary display was being set up in the lower part of the club shop to honour Bobby Moore. The point that we have nowhere to appropriately display the club's history was not answered adequately.

A discussion took place concerning the commissioning of a new statue/s rather than move the current one on the Barking Road but KB informed us they were incredibly expensive. Seemingly the junction of Barking Road and Boundary Road is getting redesigned and the WCW statue will have to move (somewhere) anyhow.

The discussion continued with how the ground can be more WHU in terms of large graphics featuring the likes of Ron Greenwood and John Lyall, as well as former great players. The practicalities of getting even large banners donated by supporters laid out was also discussed, with the clear issue being the agreement with the LLDC making it a sea of red tape to get anything done.

Given the revelations made by the LLDC that they had spent 3.5m defending litigation against WHU, the club were asked how much the club had spent and KB confirmed a figure of 0.5m. Happy families.

Numerous comments were made by the supporters groups as to the unsuitable nature of the deal and the fact it should never have been signed. The specific question as to why we moved was asked and the answer given by KB was "the opportunity" , without explaining who or what for.

5. Stewarding

There was a lot of discussion about the stewards. The comments generally regarded their lack of experience and lack of empathy with our supporters, whilst it was reported that one of them seemingly wears a Charlton shirt under his jacket. I prayed for his soul last night.

KB stated the club had tried to get the Boleyn stewards back offering to pay for their NVQ training etc but one of the issues was there are 1,200 stewards at the new place compared with the 285 or so we had at our ground.

The on-going issue of fans from other clubs wearing colours in our parts of the ground was discussed and a firm commitment was made by Ben Illingworth to ensure that will not be allowed to happen again. There was one report of a 65-year-old man wearing a Chelsea baseball cap recently.

6. Boxing Day fixtures

KB denied emphatically that we would be unable to ever host a boxing day fixture ever again, but it all depended upon how the fixtures fell and on what the Met Police had to say about it.Given the fact there were WHUISA representatives in the room and they have good links with the FSF that will be an easily verifiable comment.

7. The memorial garden at the Boleyn

Representatives complained bitterly and vociferously with regards to the state the memorial garden had been allowed to get into.

Whilst it has since been tidied up, the point was made that was as a result of supporters' complaints and action and that it was a dereliction of duty by the club to have allowed the gardens to become unkempt once the bulldozers moved in to demolish our home of over 100 years.

8. 'Amnestys' for those ejected but not charged

Attempts were made by representatives to get supporters who have been arrested, ejected but not charged to have away travel points reinstated and any bans etc to be lifted. This in the main related to supporters in 114. Ben Illingworth insisted that only supporters had been ejected from block 114 all season, and KB gave a commitment that each case would be judged on its individual merits .

9. Ticket prices

KB stated that ticket prices for next year would be frozen.

10. Social media

The representatives asked that greater care be taken in the discussion of club affairs by the Sullivan family, to which KB replied that Mr Sullivan's children had significantly scaled back their involvement.

Karren made the statement she would do anything to make WHU fans happy, to which we asked her to give up her column in the Sun which she refused point blank to even consider.

Representatives were able to illustrate that her comments with regards the Leicester City Chairman prevented us from signing one of their players in the recent transfer window. Despite this, KB refused to stop writing her tabloid column, which she has had for 14 years. She stated it was her decision to make which begs the question as to the terms of her employment contract at WHU.

11. Stadium surroundings

The point about how the soulless walk past pretty much nothing to get to the stadium was a major problem was made, and again the discussion ended up concerning what the club could and could not control. KB gave a tentative indication they may be able to discuss it again but frankly, look at the new buildings opposite the Cow pub - are they likely to want a hot dog stand there 23 days a year?

12.David Sullivan and Jim White

Strenuous complaints were made by several representatives as to the recent comments the Chairman made to Jim White concerning the alleged jostling at Wigan. There was considerable annoyance that our own club Chairman was painting our supporters in a bad light. It was also pointed out how strange it was that he was well enough to talk to White, attend the Liverpool match this coming Saturday (which he is expected to do), but not well enough to meet with supporters.

KB again repeated how ill DS was, which takes us back to point 1... although given the statement from Karren that prior to buying the club they undertook no due diligence, maybe that shouldn't worry us particularly.

Overall, some progress was made and it's for the RWHFAG to decide whether there has been enough of it, but at the time of writing the march on 10/3 proceeds as planned.

A big thanks to Andy Swallow, Micky Morgan and the rest of the RWHFAG, Mark and Paul from WHUISA and to all the other reps there yesterday - apologies for not mentioning you all by name but everyone did the supporters proud.

If I've missed anything , or anyone else who was there feels I have got something wrong, feel free to PM me (via the KUMB Forum) and I'll amend this post, but it was a long meeting and I can't remember everything!

We are United.

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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