Ten years on: the ten point plan

It has been announced that supporters group Hammers United intend to stage a static protest prior to West Ham United's next home Premier League fixture against Everton on 18 January.



According to representative Paul Colborne, speaking in a video released on behalf of Hammers United, the group intend to protest as a result of the board having failed to deliver upon a ten point plan announced shortly after they took control of the club.

"This protest is about the board. It's about the board and nothing but the board," he said. "The date is highly significant as Messrs Gold and Sullivan took power on 19 January 2010 and will have been in power for exactly ten years.

"We protest to hold them to account for their failure over ten years and the failure of their ten point plan - and the disastrous move from Upton Park to the new stadium, a move that's seen thousands of West Ham supporters fall by the wayside."

The ten point plan was announced shortly after David Sullivan and David Gold purchased a majority share of the club in January 2010, ten years ago this month.

But are Hammers United right to suggest that the board have failed to deliver? Let's examine the ten aims as published back in 2010, one by one.


Point 1: To appoint a new 'high-calibre' manager

At the end of the 2009/10 season the board fired Gianfranco Zola, who had kept West Ham in the Premier League, in favour of Avram Grant, who promptly relegated the club. West Ham finished bottom of the table following Sullivan and Gold's first full season in the boardroom and it was no surprise when he was swiftly replaced by Sam Allardyce.


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Allardyce took West Ham back into the Premier League at the first attempt


Big Sam's tenure came to an end at the culmination of his four-year contract whereupon Slaven Bilic became West Ham United's 16th full time manager. Within two years Bilic had gone, to be replaced on a temporary basis by the out-of-work David Moyes.

When Moyes was considered to be surplus to requirements - co-chairman Sullivan stating at the time that, "having taken stock of the situation and reflected now the campaign is complete, we feel that it is right to move in a different direction" - Manuel Pellegrini was hired.

However the Chilean, who was dragged back to England from a lucrative contract in China proved to be an ill fit for West Ham and, like all those before him bar Allardyce, was outed less than two years after being handed the managerial reigns by the current adminstration.

With Pellegrini paid off, the club turned to Moyes once again - despite the former Everton manager not being considered good enough to be offered a permanent contract in 2018 - who landed an 18-month permanent contract.

When Grant was hired, he had just taken Chelsea to a Champions League final. Allardyce was considered by many as a necessary appointment given the club's perilous situation having been relegated under the Israeli, whilst Bilic - a former player - had previous management experience at international level with Croatia.

Six years before he was hired by West Ham, Pellegrini had won the Premier League title with Manchester City - before being ousted by Pep Guardiola. So it could be argued that the managers appointed had indeed been of a high-calibre - even though it could just as easily be argued that few if any had been given the necessary backing by the board in the transfer market or in the media to succeed in their roles, an argument backed up by the short spells each bar Allardyce enjoyed.

Verdict: PASS


Point 2: Sign new players 'hungry to do well'

It could be argued that Sullivan and Gold took this point rather too literally when signing Benni McCarthy during their first year at West Ham - the South African forward being vastly overweight and unfit - both physically and for purpose.


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I just don't think you understand: Dimitri Payet


A glance back at the players purchased during the last decade shows a shocking disregard for continuity or any semblance of a coherent strategy. There are few who were purchased and later sold for reasonable profit - the most notable of those being Dimitri Payet, the outstanding purchase of the last ten years and a player who realised a profit of nearly £20million.

A quick glance at their transfer record highlights a steady stream of mostly unremarkable players (your Hitzlspergers, Maigas, Nordtveits and Downings), ageing former stars (the Arbeloas, Borriellos and Evras) and those complete punts (think George John, Wellington Paulista and Jonathan Calleri).

Prior to the anti-board demonstration during the Burnley match in March 2018, only one player - Andre Ayew - had attracted a transfer fee in excess of £20million, since when the club's transfer record has been broken four times.

Of course the "hungry" tag is essentially meaningless, so in order to assess whether or not the board can claim to have achieved a successful transfer record whilst signing ambitious players really needs to be judged on their performance as a whole.

More than 170 players have been signed on Sullivan and Gold's watch yet the only player from the top ten most expensive signings to have won a Player of the Year award is Marko Arnautovic - whose stay at the club was brief.

Additionally, the decision to halt the flow of funding to the club's Academy - that Sullivan once told KUMB costs in the region of £3.5million per year to support - has minimised the graduation of home grown players. However the policy of taking punts an Academy stars from other clubs such as Nathan Holland, Martin Samuelsen and Declan Rice has paid off via the capture of the latter alone, who is currently valued anywhere between £50-75million.

Verdict: FAIL


Point 3: Further invest in the Academy

As referred to towards the end of the previous summary, the Academy has taken a major hit under Sullivan and Gold with funding having been minimised in recent seasons.


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Tony Carr spent more than 40 years as Academy coach at West Ham before he was released


Tony Carr, the former doyen of Academy Directors was shambolically treated when removed from his position after having his contract details splashed across social media by one of Sullivan's sons.

The co-chairman later supported his decision to part company with Carr by accusing him of having failed to produce any first team players since the emergence of James Tomkins (conveniently forgetting the likes of Junior Stanislas, Freddy Sears and others who more than paid for their development in respect of ensuing transfer fees when sold on).

Carr - who was partly responsible for the club's golden era of producing young stars such as Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand in the late 1990s was succeeded by Terry Westley, who worked with player such as George Moncur and Danny Potts - not forgetting his son Sam, which led to charges of nepotism. However his only major success was Declan Rice, who only came to West Ham after he was released by Chelsea.

At one stage the Academy was being funded by donations from sponsors and one off Cup competitions, such was the apparent disdain in which it was held by Sullivan and Gold. And it wasn't until 2019 that the Academy's Chadwell Heath HQ received much needed refurbishment, although it has been argued that the £4million spent was wildly insufficient.

While Declan Rice's eventual sale could effectively fund the Academy for the next decade or more, it cannot be argued that Sullivan and Gold have treated the club's once-famous Academy with a certain degree of contempt and it cannot be argued that it remains underfunded in relation to West Ham's competitors, both domestically and abroad.

VERDICT: FAIL


Point 4: Further reduce club debt

The easiest point to answer. Unequivocally, the debt has, without question been reduced from the £100million-plus level it stood at when the club was purchased in 2010.


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In whose interest? Sullivan and Gold have been criticised for charging high rates on their loans


However there is more to this than meets the eye and certain aspects that cannot be ignored. Sullivan and Gold, in moving the club's outstanding debt from the banks to themselves has absolutely worked in their favour, given their policy to charge four per cent interest.

That figure used to be seven per cent until the fans expressed uproar at the policy. Even still, the co-chairmen charged the club in the region of £16million in interest payments during the last financial year for which details are publicly available, according to the club's most-recently published accounts.

For some unknown reason Sullivan chose to be economical with the truth when pressed about the interest rates charged during an exclusive interview with KUMB.com back in 2013. Responding to a question asking whether his and Gold's loan was "interest free", he stated - and I quote: "We're not allowed to, but it's rolled-up interest and there's no pressure to pay."

Further scrutiny proved this claim to be entirely false. Mike Ashley, who is hated by fans of Newcastle United has provided more than £100miliion of loans to the Magpies interest free, as have other prominent figures - such as Everton's majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri.

VERDICT: PASS


Point 5: Freeze season ticket prices with further member benefits promised

Early on in their reign Sullivan, Gold and Brady attempted to renege on promises made by the previous (Duxbury and Starumur) administration regarding season tickets. A 20 per cent discount was only granted following an outburst on KUMB and other sites, whilst a decision to double the cost of disabled fans' season tickets was also reviewed and eventually halved following a similar storm.


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Season ticket sales have rocketed since leaving Upton Park


Season ticket prices were cut by ten per cent ahead of the 2011/12 season, although it should be noted that the club were playing in the second tier at that stage following relegation from the Premier League. At that point, adult season tickets started at £515.

Upon promotion that were increased again, but only to 2010/11 levels. The following season (2013/14) they matched the rate of inflation - 2.8% for those renewing although new applicants would pay an 8% increase. The next year - 2014/15 - prices were once again frozen as "a special 'thank you' to our loyal fans" (according to a statement from the co-owners).

A five per cent increase ensued for the final season at the Boleyn Ground (2015/16) as demand unsurprisingly outstripped supply. But it was for the first season in Stratford that a policy of "affordable football" was introduced, with season tickets - admittedly in the upper reaches of the Olympic Stadium - being made available for as little as £250 (£99 for minors).

Although those sitting in the lower tiers saw their season ticket prices increased much was made of "affordable football" and it cannot be argued that this didn't prove to be a hugely successful policy, with the club finding thousands of new season ticket holders - many of whom remain today.

What is often overlooked however is that many of those who were season ticket holders for years, sometimes decades, at the old ground failed to follow the club to Stratford - and a further 6,000 season tickets (on average) per season have since failed to renew.

VERDICT PASS


Point 6: Build the status and image of the club both domestically and further afield

Despite doubling the number of season tickets and footprint of the club's stadium, it can be argued the status of the club has barely changed since 2010. In football terms, when Sullivan and Gold first purchased their majority share West Ham United FC lay on the cusp of the relegation zone, pretty much where it is now a decade later with no significant improvement noted (more on that later).


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Reissue, re-package re-package: Karren Brady's rebranding exercise has not been universally welcomed


The rebranding of the club's badge was meant to herald a new era but only served to cause friction amongst those who held the club's traditions and heritage in great regard. The addition of 'London' to the club crest was pretty much universally panned and the image of 'West Ham London' is considered to be less potent than 'West Ham United'. "You're not West Ham any more" is frequently chanted by supporters of visiting teams.

West Ham, in percentage terms in comparison to their competitors, can count on no more support in growing football territories such as China, the Far East and North America. Tours to places such as these have not made any significant impact in the depth of support worldwide, and bursts of growth in places such as Israel and Mexico ended as soon as players such as Eyal Berkovic and Javier Hernandez moved on.

Karren Brady, the brains behind West Ham's marketing operation in the last decade may sit in the House of Lords and be one of the in-house business moguls on TV's The Apprentice but there is little evidence at West Ham to show that she had delivered any great improvement to the club's image during her tenure.

VERDICT: FAIL


Point 7: Make the football enjoyable - including changes to pre-match and half-time entertainment

The changed to pre-match and half time entertainment largely focused on a desire to bring back the Hammerettes during the early years of Gold and Sullivan's reign, although there were no great improvements in the fayre offered at The Boleyn Ground between 2010 and 2016. Now of course, there are far more options available to supporters in terms of food outlets, varieties of beverages and local shops (in Westfield) since the move to Stratford.

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Farewell Boleyn: a fitting send-off for the old girl


But here's the thing: that West Ham are currently battling against relegation, having recently been forced to sack the previous manager for abject failure, after having achieved just one top flight finish above tenth place in the last ten seasons, following one relegation, several near misses and one pitch invasion in protest at the quality of football suggests that Hammers fans remain as frustrated as ever at the club's inability to resemble a genuinely footballing force domestically.

And let's not forget than in more than 25 years of football administration, Sullivan, Gold and Brady are yet to deliver a single trophy to either Birmingham or West Ham fans.

There have of course been sparks and hints that a general improvement is coming - many fans count the 2015/16 season as one of their most enjoyable campaigns ever - but one swallow does not a summer make and one outstanding or successful season in ten doesn't really cut the mustard - especially when we were all sold the Stratford dream. West Ham remain no closer to breaking into the upper echelon of English clubs as they ever have - or at least since the glory days of the 1960s and 1970s, when the Irons featured in seven major finals in 16 years.

VERDICT: FAIL


Point 8: Ensure closer ties with the local community - both inside and outside of football

West Ham's ties with the local community have always been well regarded and it's fair to say that that this has continued under Sullivan and Gold's reign. Schemes such as Any Old Irons and the work carried out via the West Ham Foundation have delivered real change and lasting benefits to the lives of East End folk.


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Working in the community: West Ham have a great track record


Meanwhile all first team players are contracted to undergo community work on behalf of the club (although this is standard policy for most professional clubs). That aside, it is heartwarming to read of players visiting local hospices and care homes and supporting local causes and charities. David Sullivan, too, has also donated considerable sums to charity appeals and rarely seeks recognition for this. David Gold regularly opens his home to the public in order to raise funds for charitable concerns.

However the club have also been accused of forgetting supporters, many of whom still reside in the local community, that failed to renew their season tickets in the years since leaving Upton Park; Hammers United estimate that up to 20,000 longstanding fans have fallen by the wayside.

VERDICT: PASS


Point 9: Build towards a move to the Olympic Stadium

Again, there are no arguments here; the board had clearly outlined moving from Upton Park to Stratford as one of their key strategies upon purchasing the club (was there any other reason for buying it?) and succeeded in this. And here we are today - for better, or for worse?


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But was it worth it? The move to Stratford has divided opinion


Well, the move has allowed West Ham to increase their stadium capacity to 60,000, to become one of the biggest in England. But the benefits of this have been minimal, in terms of finances and reputation. The move is said, by David Sullivan himself, to have elevated the club's annual income by no more than £2million per season - that's less than six months wages for a top-earning player.

The club essentially pay a peppercorn rate - just £2.7million per annum - to use the stadium annually. But West Ham cannot use the stadium outside of the allotted 20 days per year without the permission of the owners and have little-to-no say in its internal design; the protracted arguments over the installation of a claret carpet being testament to this.

West Ham's image also suffered hugely following the stadium move, with the club being labelled 'Taxpayers FC' by some as the OS operates at huge cost to the public purse; United's contribution barely scratches the sides. And the ground is hated by many fans who dislike the design intensely and the enormous distance between the stands and the pitch.

David Gold's pre-Stratford insistence that he would not entertain a move unless the stands were as close to the pitch as was the case at The Boleyn Ground is regularly used a a stick with which to beat him. And Karren Brady "ambition" of a "world class team" playing in a "world class stadium" looks every bit the false carrot dangled over the noses of supporters that it probably was.

The vast space between pitch and stands which is partly covered by carpet, has served to destroy any hope of generating an effective atmosphere inside the stadium which, given the close proximity of the stands to the pitch at The Boleyn Ground, has only been intensified. Visiting fans, shunted behind the goal and up in the gods routinely pan the stadium's layout then complain about the journey from stadium to station, which is frequently interrupted by stewards with 'stop' signs.

However the stadium in not without its positive aspects; international visitors can travel to Stratford directly from main European cities, Westfield is a nice diversion (even though its presence appears to have prevented any more home games being staged on Boxing Day) and the stadium is aesthetically pleasing, cleaner and offers more in terms of variety as far as consumables are concerned. And many fans prefer the stadium and Olympic Park to the Boleyn Ground and Green Street.

That said, the club has a long way to go yet in order to convince the entire fan base that the move has had a positive effect on the club.

VERDICT: FAIL


Point 10: Listen the the supporters

The final point, almost certainly the biggest failing of all and the main reason why the board now find themselves at odds with much of the fan base and preparing to face a protest.


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Preparing to protest: Many fans feel they have no voice


In order to satisfy Premier League requirements Karren Brady launched the Supporters Advisory Board (SAB) prior to the move to Stratford - a group in which supporters were invited to represent their fellow fans. However it soon became clear that this was little more than a box-ticking exercise.

Insisting that attendees left their mobile phones and any other potential recording devices at the door - and forcing group members to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to avoid being denied entry - made a mockery of what was initially marketed as an open platform on which the club could liaise with its fans.

When the SAB folded in the wake of heavy criticism the club turned to independent content creators to provide fans' feedback; KUMB were present for all of these meetings, as were other prominent groups and media organisations.

However this kind of representation ended following meetings in February 2018 in which the club negotiated the cancellation of a planned protest, which was to be led by the now defunct Real West Ham Fans Action Group (RWHFAG). Numerous promises - or 'pledges' - were made; few have been fulfilled.

In 2018 a replacement for the SAB, the Official Supporters Board (OSB) was announced. Yet like the SAB, this was similarly derided and charged with being undemocratic, with the members elected by a cabal of the board's close confidants.

Further, the club refused to deal with any of the club's independent content providers - a complete 180-degree turn from their previous stance. In 2017 the Editor of KUMB.com, the only independent West Ham-based media organisation that employs full-time staff was banned from attending media events at the club having previous enjoyed access since 2004.

The reason given for this, by media officer Ben Campbell, was that KUMB were responsible for publishing "unnecessarily negative" content. (We called it "the truth".) The club also cancelled a long-standing advertising contract with Knees up Mother Brown, another consequence of the website failing to toe the company line and (failed) attempt to limit KUMB's influence in West Ham circles.

In the last 12 months, despite repeated attempts to gain an audience with the board, Hammers United have been told the only way this could happen is if they accept an offer to join the OSB. However the OSB has proved to be a toothless organisation whose only notable achievement since its inauguration has been to delay the season ticket renewal date by two weeks...

VERDICT: FAIL


Conclusion

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So in summary, it is fair to say that the board have succeeded on some levels - yet it is equally viable to suggest that they have failed in a number of key areas and may be responsible for what amounts to serious corporate mismanagement. This has led us to a position whereby a sizeable group of supporters, several thousand strong and under the Hammers United banner, feel it is an appropriate time to stage a visible protest against their stewardship of West Ham United FC and the perceived lack of progress both on and off the pitch.

Upon reflection, it seems the board have been the architects of many of their own problems: the falsehoods told prior to the move to Stratford; the lack of coherent transfer policy; the dismissive attitude towards thousands of loyal and longstanding supporters; the creation of non-independent supporter groups; the stubborn refusal to liaise with independent supporter representatives unless they can control the narrative. All wholly avoidable actions, for which they will now be held to account.

And so we begin the new year, the board's second decade in control of this famous and beloved institution of ours with the club's administrators preparing to go to war with their fans. And it really didn't - it still doesn't - have to be like this.

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