Report from succesful EGM

The Extraordinary General Meeting held on Saturday was calm, businesslike and orderly with a small but engaged and quorate group of members fully contributing to several positive outcomes.

The new committee were fully ratified under Section 4.8 of our constitution which states:

Committee members shall be entitled to co-opt Association members to fill any casual vacancy to the Committee provided such action does not mean the Committee exceeds the number agreed at the AGM and is subject to ratification at the next General meeting.

The committee now comprises: Sue Watson (Chair), Terry Land (Vice Chair), Kevin Hind (Treasurer), Debbie Donovan (Secretary), Jack Hart and Natalie Morgans.

A new constitution was ratified following changes from a previous administration some of which fell into conflict which each other. Likewise, a new code of conduct was agreed. That suggestions from the floor were proposed and agreed was tribute to the thoughtful tone of the event.

Two motions arose from the floor. Both were discussed fully and passed unanimously.

The first from Andy Ellis (seconded by Jim Kearns) made a very clear statement around the disregard the club have for independent supporters’ groups and outlined the reasons why this association will never join the Official Supporters Board.

The second, shorter motion came from member Eamon Quinn and was seconded by Mike Casagranda. The Association were congratulated on their work on the Socios app and urged to continue apace.

Under Any Other Business questions rained in from the assembled with several now being considered by the committee for further action.

WHUISA would like to thank everybody for their attendance. We felt it was a good turnout for an out of season meeting on a warm July Saturday.

If we may, we would like to finish with a quote from member Kim Perryman made on Twitter. She said: “Reassured by what I saw and heard at the @WHU_ISA  EGM. They can now move forward with a strong committee and clear purpose.” Thanks Kim!

Issues around stewarding

With the players embarking on pre-season training in Switzerland and the first game of the season only a few weeks away now might be a good time to talk about one of the issues fans are constantly bringing up with us.

Many clubs have problems with stewarding – but the situation at the London Stadium with West Ham leasing the ground from E20 is all but unique as far as we are aware, in that the club aren’t responsible for their own stewards.

Whether this was by design or happy accident (for the club, not the paying supporters) we are not sure but it puts further premium on cost on an activity hardly known for clubs financing it thoroughly, especially as E20 are losing around £10million a year.

Given the management structure at West Ham it isn't unreasonable to suggest that members of staff, even senior ones, have little to no jurisdiction over stewards who do not report or answer to them. It is a great shame given our location lessons weren’t learned from the hugely successful Olympic Games Makers.

It is probably important to note most fans won't experience poor stewarding – although the author of this piece has witnessed some appalling instances of heavy-handed stewarding at away grounds around the country. The majority of stewards do an adequate job

The role is pretty poorly paid with many workers on minimum wage despite effectively being the club’s front of house staff. 

West Ham are very proud of their stadium and news is breaking just today of an attempt to increase the capacity of the London Stadium to 62, 500.  Yet in terms of the approach to customer service and attitude of matchday stewards towards paying fans is less than it might be.

We wonder if many of the stewards on a match day will be there to fulfil guidelines on numbers required rather than fully trained operatives able to take ownership of their role. Also moot is if the club are fully satisfied all stewards are familiar with the stadium and would be effective in the event of an emergency

In many stadiums excessive force has been an issue. Equally, a complaint we often received in the early days following the migration was of stewards standing around watching as fights kicked off around them.

As has been mentioned away fans are often treated not as paying customers who can have travelled a long way but solely as potential public order problems. We cannot think of another arena in which this behaviour would be tolerated.

Since the move the identity of stewards at Stratford have changed from those at Upton Park. On a walk up to the stadium it is not uncommon to pass stewards standing around talking to each other and making no effort whatsoever to engage with people who are obviously Irons. This lack of customer engagement could be seen as a trigger for dissatisfaction. We don’t blame the stewards themselves – we doubt they get any worthwhile training in this area but bridges need to be built, not walls. A hello, a smile or similar could go a long way in building mutual respect. 

 Many thanks must go to Amanda Jacks of the FSA for her help with this report.

Motions for Saturday's EGM

We have received two motions ahead of the Extraordinary General Meeting at Stour Space on Saturday at 1pm.

Motion One:

Motion 

WHUISA calls upon the Board of West Ham United (’the Board’) to review fundamentally and reverse its policy towards communication with independent supporters’ groups, so that it accords with the guiding principles behind Article 35 of the 2010 UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations (‘the Regulations’), as set out in the UEFA Supporter Liaison Officer Handbook (2011 Edition) (‘the Guidance’).

 Background

In the last published minutes of the West Ham United Supporters’ Board (‘the OSB’) in February 2019, Karren Brady confirmed that ‘the Club does not officially communicate with any other [supporters’] groups’ and ‘reaffirmed … that the Board was not in contact or dialogue with any other group’.

The OSB is not independent, either by its own terms of reference (‘the Terms’) or by its conduct. OSB members are appointed by the Club and their media communications are controlled by the Club.

One of its stated aims is to be ‘the official conduit between the supporters and the Board of Directors’, whereas the Guidance suggests that the Supporter Liaison Officer (‘SLO’) should ‘mediate between the fans and the club’ and that the Club should, as one of the minimum requirements, ‘make provision for regular meetings between the SLO and the various fan groups’ [my emphasis].

Even if WHUISA had been prepared to enter dialogue under such constraints, collectively and individually, it would have had to complete an application form clumsily cobbled together for independent supporter groups. The qualifying information the Club sought to elicit was mostly irrelevant, inappropriate and intrusive. 

Also under the Terms, discussions are effectively censored by the restriction upon each member to raise ‘a maximum of two questions’ at each meeting ‘on behalf of their key areas of interest’. On the evidence of the listed areas of special interest and the published minutes, subject matters selected for discussion fall exclusively within the consumer category.

It is notable that OSB members are consulted solely for their views as consumers, whereas the Guidance calls upon clubs to engage with supporters on a wide range of matters ‘because they are the major long-term ‘cultural investors’’.

Sometimes it is helpful to state the obvious, and the Guidance does so at page 10: ‘When it comes to decisions made by the club management, it may often be preferable for these decisions to be communicated to the fans by the SLO rather than fans simply reading about them in the newspaper or on the club website.’

We know that the OSB was not consulted on the selective increases in season ticket prices for the forthcoming season.

Another example cited in the Guidance of effective communication is especially germane to recent events. It states at pages 21 and 22: ‘Improved transparency should also result, as the SLO is better able to communicate decisions by the club management, for example, on ticket pricing. Consulting fans in this process can also improve the quality of the decisions made and help to avoid costly mistakes. It is always advisable for fans to have the reasons for decisions explained to them rather than decisions simply being imposed from above.’

We also know that the OSB was not consulted about the Board’s commercial partnership with Socios, and, like all of us, had no notice of the Board’s intention to monetise supporter engagement. There can hardly be a starker example of the Board flagrantly undermining its own consultation vehicle.

Unless and until the Board is willing to engage meaningfully with the independent voices of West Ham supporters, the increasingly truculent relationship with key stakeholders will continue to worsen, and I commend the motion to the EGM.

Motion proposed by Andy Ellis. Seconded by James Kearns. Submitted 3 July 2019

Motion Two:
We commend WHUISA for bringing the Socios App to a wider football audience. Both the motion and speech given by Sue Watson of our Association at the recent Football Supporters’ Association Annual General Meeting were of the highest order. What is the significance of the FSA motion being carried and will WHUISA continue to protest against Socios? 

Motion proposed by Mike Casagrande. Seconded by Eamon Quinn. Submitted 4 July 2019