I attended the SAB meeting on 24/01/2017 at London Stadium and the attendees were as listed on the minutes (https://www.whufc.com/sites/default/files/inline-files/SAB%20meeting%20minutes%20270117.pdf) .
Over 200 people from our 600 strong membership took the time to send their points of view. The documents filled 2 A4 files and I took every response into the meeting.
On your behalf and as promised I made a number of your points during the meeting with examples to hand on each topic which are listed in the minutes. I was able to speak on to your behalf but had a huge amount of information.
Twice I was asked to hand over all documents from the membership which I did not do. I was not going to provide the club with your personal data. Further the consensus of opinion amongst our members was that many people had previously written to the club and had not received a response at all. I include myself in this as I sent a registered post letter to the chairmen in late December which has not been acknowledged. On this basis what is there to say there would be no response to our evidence? I was not prepared to pass everything to the club without a check and balance being made on your behalf.
This is supported by the club admitting they had problems handling correspondence from fans from the start of the season and had now changed their system. However this should not have happened in the first place and the club should have been ready from day 1 in the new stadium to cope with queries. That damage has now been done and is one of the reasons why WHUISA was formed in order to take fan’s complaints direct to the club and get answers relayed back to them without them being lost or left unanswered. West Ham is one of the few major clubs in the country that did not have an official supporters association or Trust. We now have one.
WHUISA are pro-fan and not anti-board. We want to help the club with the issues raised but with the large volume of paperwork and the ‘devil being in the detail’ I was not able to get all points across in the meeting. To this end I have requested a meeting with the club to present our evidence in a formal manner which can be fed back to you by WHUISA and the club working together in an agreed and appropriate way. I await their response.
This was my first SAB meeting and I was left wondering for the future of the SAB. It is well known that a week earlier there was a meeting between the club and West Ham oriented websites / bloggers and internet TV. If, as we were told the SAB ‘is the forum for going forward’ why is there ongoing direct contact between the club and this group? Surely they should be part of the SAB? By being separate and having first chance to meet the club surely this undermines the credibility of the SAB and what it is meant to stand for.
Further a meeting between the club and this group has been earmarked for April a full month before the SAB are due to meet again at the end of May. I questioned this and requested that the SAB meet monthly to get a firm grip on the issues but this was not forthcoming. It was stated at the meeting the intention would be to merge the 2 groups but with separate meetings already planned it seems this will not happen until next season which seems too late.
Further due to firmly established nature of the association WHUISA politely requested but were not afforded a 2nd representative at this SAB meeting. Taking an active part in the meeting and taking notes is not easy for 1 person at all. This will be why there is a delay in getting this to you as I work full time and have other responsibilities. However as can be seen from the minutes Bondholders had 3 reps while Club London, East Upper, East Lower and Bobby Moore Upper each had 2. Disability supporters were rightly represented by 2 people due to the differing nature of disability. It is understood some groups attending the website meeting in the previous week also had 2 or more representatives.
The SAB is the club’s primary form of direct correspondence with its fans but I was unsure on behalf of whom a number of SAB members spoke. The group has come from previous meetings and being hand-picked. During the meeting the gentleman representing the BML made a point about the outer coverings around the pitch which was very commendable. However as a season ticket holder in the BML I, and indeed anyone in the group of 40 who I go to the matches with, did not know in advance he was representing the BML. There had not been any chance prior to the meeting for us to meet / put forward any views or opinions we may have had.
I shall state very clearly now that I am not singling this man out at all for any criticism and he was not at any fault in any way. He has been put in this situation by the club.
This also applies to other members of the SAB, for whom I have the utmost respect for, at the meeting. For the majority at such a high profile meeting it was unclear exactly on whose behalf and under what mandate they speaking for during the meeting. I, on the other hand, have 600 people I represent and had sought their opinion and received over 200 replies. I thought that the new SAB would be about people speaking on behalf of a significant number of fellow fans. To this end I can understand the 2 SAB members speaking on behalf of fellow disabled people and I think it is disgraceful that there is not an official disability supporters association. I encouraged all other SAB members to join WHUISA so the fan’s voice could be heard in the correct and proper way through official channels with openness and transparency. WHUISA have asked for more people to come forward to represent other groups in the West Ham family and have been contacted by a disabled person while we would be happy to have the 2 reps at the meeting on board.
WHUISA has structure and integrity. We are a new association but are ready to work on the issues facing us all in the new stadium through open, honest and productive channels of communication with West Ham United Football Club as well as to foster a relationship of accountability.
WHUISA shall update you when we have further news but in the meantime your feedback on the above issues is most welcome.