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Is this enough from the board?


Filed: Tuesday, 27th February 2018
By: Paul Walker


So we have seen the whites of their eyes, certainly not the colour of their money but we do know where they draw the line in the sand over discussions with angry fans.

Intentionally or otherwise, when Karren Brady turned up at last week’s five-hour meeting with the fans’ alliance without David Sullivan (ill) or David Gold (too old or ill-informed), and with communications executive director Tara Warren and head of match day operations Ben Illingworth, it became clear very quickly what the board were not prepared to negotiate on.

Brady declined to consider questions about club finances, ownership and shares, plus transfer policy, because it was not her remit. So immediately, the core reason many will be marching for - a change of ownership - was not up for discussion. Frankly, it was never likely to be.

But that, and last night’s (Monday) 5,000 word response from Brady to the previous week‘s lengthy debate, is hardly going to appease the rank and file who are marching on March 10 for change at the top. Full stop.

In the end it was always going to be this way. Brady has handled all the peripheral stuff; the badge, the memorial gardens, the legacy and museum, stewarding, retractable seating etc, etc but to drag our ownership into any meaningful discussion about their control of the club and the future, is a totally different matter.



The Real West Ham Fans Action Group, who have 16,000 plus on their books and have done a remarkable job getting the club to even this stage of negotiations, plus the associated groups like ourselves and other fans’ organisations on the committee that met Brady, must, in all, speak for over 20,000 of our fan base.

The vast majority of this united front want an end to Sullivan’s regime and will march ahead of the Burnley game under a banner of ’no confidence in the board.’ So what was in Brady’s letter is not going to solve the core problem, the anger of many is now too entrenched. This looks like a long, painful campaign.

Will Sullivan and Gold eventually get fed up with the hassle and sell. Who knows? Will they wait until the taxation levels drop on their profits on the stadium move? More likely. But with the club worth something like £500m now, they are going to want a lot of cash to walk away. Russians, Arab nations, the Yanks, please form an orderly queue because it is only you in the ball game now.

Frankly I expected more from Brady than what has transpired. I expected a large carrot to be dangled in front of fans to try to stop the march. A new badge now, maybe or other promises. But you know what us fans think about promises from this board!

Brady’s letter took a long time last night to digest. But it is what we expected, hugely professional, a very political dialogue and complex. This lady has run rings round a Prime Minister, a Home Secretary, a London Mayor/Foreign Secretary, she doesn’t do Sullivan’s negotiating for nothing.

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So what did we get? A list of what the club could do easily, what it couldn’t do because we are tenants, what it blames the owners for and what the owners won’t do.

There’s a decree that no fan wearing other club colours (apart from our opponents that day, I assume) will be admitted to the stadium. There will be themed match day experiences, Westfield's might be a bit more assessable. Everybody gets the London living wage, our employees and those who work for the dreaded owners.

There will be another attempt to get ex-Boleyn stewards on board, and one on the senior supervisory team in each of the four areas of the stadium will be ex-Upton Park. Catering has improved, accessible shuttle buses are more frequent, stewards will be educated in the ways of football fans. The memorial gardens back at the Boleyn will be properly maintained long term (as if this even needs to be an issue).

Now our legacy. Historic club crests will be on show, significant moments in our history will be celebrated, club heroes (Moore, Hurst, Peters, Brooking, Bonds, Noble) will be honoured with permanent tributes. Billy Bonds especially. I await that with baited breath. The East Stand should be renamed, how difficult is that?

Flags of our 16 'core' crests will be on show for the Burnley game. They are going to ask someone if they can rename the main walkway from Stratford as the West Ham Way. Keep with me everyone, it gets better!

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There’s going to be a Fan Zone, much like the excellent one at West Brom and the one some of us experienced at Anfield. Heineken will install a 40ft-long mobile bar as a social hub, with legends on a stage and lots and lots of signs and flags letting us know this is the home of West Ham United. Just why the board didn’t think ahead and sanction this sort of stuff 18 months ago, you can only guess.

And someone is going to ask someone in authority if the old stalls and food vendors outside the Boleyn can be re-integrated. E20 and Newham Council have to OK that, so don’t hold your breath.

And the museum. The club have 1,000 items in store, they will put on occasional displays but look for a permanent site for a new museum. Seeing as we own doodle squat at the LS bar the club shop, your guess is as good as anyone’s on that!

Now the badge (for me the least important item, sorry, try not to shot the messenger). There’s been 16 since our formation, various colours, some with castles, some with just hammers, some with gold. Some that horrible yellow. The reason folk hate the current one is that is the symbol of the move, the Board.

The club explained away the consultations that got us this far. The voting etc. That 56 per cent wanted the current crest. But of how many votes? About 12,000 I was once told, so the new badge was wanted by about 7,000 folk out of 56,000.

Yes, I know, you don’t vote you lose any right to complain but I always thought we were being rail-roaded here, and the ‘London’ tag was all about marketing abroad.

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Anyway, the club are only prepared to talk again in 2020 ahead of the plans for our 125th anniversary, they’ll want a new badge to flog for that, obviously, and will talk about a new permanent one after that. What else? Oh yes, ticket prices will be frozen again, we have been told (AGAIN) that our fixtures will always have priority at the OS (stop laughing at the back).
 
What next? Oh yes, retractable, removable, rebuildable seating. That’s the owners' fault, of course. The club were given videos by the LLDC back in 2013 to pass on to us "in good faith". Hope you all got that, not our fault guv, sorry.

We now know that even with state-of-the-art retractable seating gliding in on golden clouds at the flick of a switch (like in Paris), it would get the fans no nearer to the action than we are now. The stadium configuration, shape, sight lines, roof cover, precludes that.

The club cannot be blamed for the retractable seating contractors going bust and the current cheapo scaffolding option we now have. But I would love to know just when the Board knew about that problem, and how long they continued to sell season tickets claiming they would have real retractable seats rather than ones that are torn down, dumped in a local goods yard and then refitted at laughable cost.

The solution is that the whole place is shut down for a year, we move to a temporary stadium (Orient, Dagenham maybe?) and the place is torn apart and refitted at even more laughable cost. Not going to happen with these ground owners and why would our Board offer to spend so much without getting people behind the goals any nearer to the action?

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Of course the club will look at ways of tarting it all up, to get some seats (how?) closer to the pitch after discussions with E20 (and the new London Mayor I assume). Don’t expect much change there any time soon then.

So how about any chat with Sullivan about the transfer policy debacle? Well Karren has covered that one… "My chairmen has also asked me to re-affirm their commitment to the re-structuring of our recruitment policy as David Sullivan outlined in his message to our supporters on the club’s official site recently". Well that’s OK then.

Oh, and she added: "They have also requested I reiterate their full commitment to ensuring a better match day experience. We have listened and want to work with you to rebuild a sense of belonging and unity." As long as you lot don’t 'belong' much longer, I can hear you all cry. Ever get the feeling we are being 'played' and kept at arms length?

Finally, I would just like to add my thanks and congratulations to all those who have given up hours, days, months of their lives to get this campaign off the ground. Proper West Ham.


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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