National supporters group backs Irons fans in Socios row

The opposition of West Ham fans to the club's new controversial link-up with Socios could now be discussed at Premier League level.

Over the past weeks more than a dozen of the main West Ham fans' groups have come together to condemn the club's 'pay to have your say' agreement with the Malta-based block chain platform, Socios, who use unregulated crypto-currency to allow fans to engage with the club.

Now the West Ham United Independent Supporters' Association, the only group representing Hammers fans who have full affiliation with the Football Supporters Association, have take the matter to it's AGM, held on Saturday at the Royal National Hotel in London.

And through WHUISA's new 'chair' Sue Watson, they were allowed to table an emergency motion condemning the scheme, which was seconded by the powerful Manchester United fans' group, MUST.

The motion was passed by a big majority and will now be discussed at national committee level, and it could also now be raised by Association chairman Kevin Miles through the FSA's channels of discussion with the Premier League.

The motion put down read: "The FSA notes with concern the new partnership between West Ham and to provide an on-line supporter engagement tool that among other services provides for supporter opinion to be gathered based on 'votes' that supporters who want to participate are required to purchase.

"In launching the platform, West Ham has expressly ignored collective representations from their independent supporter bodies.

Also.."That the FSA agree a policy position that re-iterates the engagement role of recognised independent supporter groups and opposes any form of consultation with supporters that requires the payment of a fee to participate, and mandates the FSA executive team to take appropriate actions to deliver this position."

Apologies for repeating this in full, it can be a bit dry for fans, but it needs to be explained exactly what the WHUISA want and what the FSA have accepted.

Only last week West Ham opted to ignore the opinions of the array of independent fans' groups regarding the Socios deal by formally unveiling the scheme, which allows fans to vote on specific issues if they own tokens.

In the launch ,season ticket holders were told they would get one token free, and the rest will initially cost ?1. Although there is no guarantee that figure will stay like that.

Fans groups, including Hammers United, KUMB, WHUISA and Hammers Chat, to name a few, see the system as a way to introduce a two-tier scheme for fan engagement, with the club still refusing to engage with the independent fans' groups and insisting they will only talk with the Official Supporters Board, set up by the club last summer.

There remains the prospect of the Hammers United-WHUISA initiative now taking the matter further with formal complaints to the government and UEFA, who have regulations insisting clubs engage with independent fans' groups.

The role of the OSB in such matters has been called into question with them not being consulted over recent season ticket price rises and the Socios scheme.

But a newly launched, vibrant WHUISA, have now taken the Socios matter further at the FSA's annual meeting.

This is eight weeks since WHUISA's shambolic AGM, where many were worried by the involvement of OSB members, and there was a real fear that the fans' group could disappear altogether.

Since then there has been a 'save WHUISA' campaign, a newly elected chairman whilst the stand-in chairman has resigned and several committee members have left. It has left a new group of members to rally the troops.

The end product is the decisive action take at the FSA meeting, a group that the OSB have wanted to be involved in for over a year, but who don't ,in the eyes of the FSA, have an independent and democratic core.

Now WHUISA have sidestepped OSB and raised the Socios issue with the country's biggest football fans group, that has support and encouragement at government level.

If the Socios issue is eventually raised with the Premier League and the relevant government department, it will be an embarrassment at the least for the West Ham board, one of only two clubs in the country who refuse to engagement with independent groups.

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