THE SAB PAST, PRESENT AND…FUTURE?

W.H.U.I.S.A. will be attending the SAB meeting tonight after 87%, of just over 200 members who responded, advised us to go.  Thank you.

The huge response covers all topics in the agenda and really shows how strongly you feel about the move to the new stadium. There is a cross section of views and solutions from members in all parts of the ground (except the away end!), the majority of our members are season ticket holders while responses have been received from New Zealand, Australia, U.S.A. and a number of countries in Europe.

WHUISA is looking forward to this opportunity and to that end shall be speaking directly on your behalf this evening.

The SAB was had a very mixed press over the years and this a topic now taken up by one of our committee members.

My name is Nigel Kahn and i am a member of the interim committee of W.H.U.I.S.A,

In the first of what i hope will be many blogs, written by members of the committee into the workings of W.H.U.I.S.A and our own personal thoughts on the club I have written the following as I spent 5 years on the SAB dealing with the club officials.

As you all know, W.H.U.I.S.A has been invited to attend the clubs Supporters Advisory Board and as a member of the W.H.U.I.S.A committee and a former member of the SAB i thought i would use this blog to try explain the workings of the SAB. It has, in my opinion, a bad impression amongst fans who have been tainted by the use of non disclosure orders (N.D.A’s) during the Olympic stadium consultation process.

I was present from the first SAB meeting held, just after relegation in 2011, attended by approaching 120 fans, it was hosted by David Sullivan with his son Jack sitting next to him. As it was the first meeting, it mainly consisted of short presentations by the club with question and answer by the supporters in attendance.

I have possibly attended 12 SAB meetings across the 5 years formats inception in 2011 to 2016 when i felt with the move to the OS i had fulfilled what i wanted as a member.

One thing that has haunted the SAB was the use of N.D.A’s that all members had to sign prior to entering the meeting, this was to enable the club to control the flow of information from attendees to the general fan base and basically make sure that no commercial sensitive information would be revealed to possibly their competitors for the stadium. Problem is that many of the supporters thought this stopped them from revealing anything they had seen in the meeting, which wasn’t true. The club in my opinion though did not clarify this as perhaps they preferred the non information coming from the meetings.

To many fans though they felt the fans were not actually representing the very people we were supposed to be representing.

A typical SAB meeting starts with a short speech by the club official hosting the meeting, then they go to pre sent in questions with some limited scope for further questions on that subject from the floor.

The fact that questions had to be pre submitted again raised suspicion amongst the general fan population that the club was cherry picking the questions, i myself never pre submitted any questions preferring to raise questions on the day.

The first SAB lasted 2 years and met proximately 5 times in that period, this covered mainly the bid for the Olympic stadium, while the fans though felt gagged by the NDAs, Karren Brady though would reveal snippets in her Sun column, which in a way flew in the face of the secrecy the club wanted the SAB to work under. While i disagreed with the NDAs personally, i did sign them as it was better to be inside the meeting knowing what was said, rather than outside, complaining without knowing what was going on. I stood against the move from the Boleyn and used the SAB to put across that direct to the club, including directly to David Gold and Karren Brady.

I was in the minority though in that stance, a fact that Brady revealed in one of her Sun columns when crowing that in a vote, over 100 voted in favour of the clubs plan to move, 11 abstained and just 2 voted no. She then added if it was gold plated and free they will still would’ve voted no, which i don’t deny.

After the move was rubber stamped, the SAB was dissolved and then relaunched with a smaller more defined remit. 60 members would be split into groups, including stadium migration, media, and Farewell to the Boleyn.

I chose with 11 others the Farewell to the Boleyn. The group met a couple of times only in late 2013 and early 2014, we then put out to the fan base what they would like to see happening that season.

I wouldn’t say the club wasted our time, or ignored what the group came up with, but a year later after a full detailed report had been submitted of themed games, entertainment, ways of recognising the leaving of the ground that had been our home for 112 years and to what last kit we would want to see worn, the club then repeated that request to the SAB. In fact in 2014 the club asked members of the SAB to bring their favourite west ham shirt to a special meeting, to gain ideas of the last kit to be worn.

Great in theory, except that it seems that clubs plan their kits 2 years in advance with the manufacturers to allow for designs and the kits to be made. Yet the SAB, just a year before we would wear that kit, were being asked to engage with the club and other fans what they would like. I’d just like to point out that i personally think the kit worn in the last season of the Boleyn may go down as one of the best they have done, after the 1976-80 kit and the 85-87 kits, yet, not 1 fan in the consultation process asked for a remake of the 1904 kit. So if the SAB had any effect i fail to see what it was. Infant id go as far to say that the club basically wasted the attendees time, they must of known already what kit they were having yet went through a charade of asking the fans.

When taken at face value, it is another reason that while i was a member of the SAB for the first 5 years of its existence, i never took it to be anything of substance nor can i think of anything of note it achieved.

So here we are again, another relaunch of the SAB, now slimmed to a more manageable 20 fans with W.H.U.I.S.A being afforded 1 seat at the table. I hope they club have learned from the mistakes of the past and that this version of the SAB will be able to really help shape the fan/club relationship. I do have my doubts though. Those doubt’s were highlighted by the secret meeting of the club and those that run the main social media outlets a week before the SAB meets.

I have watched the videos put out by the vloggers, and the articles by the bloggers and they have revealed some details of their meeting with Karren Brady. Stewarding was a big topic of the meeting, the ticketing exchange, the pouring of the beer in advance and shelving to put your drinks on around the concourse. Also the disabled bus was spoken about and it seems, looking at the West Ham Fan TV tweet, where they revealed Karren Bradys email to the meeting attendees that showed she had acted on many of their concerns raised. A good move by the club, but where does that leave the SAB, what do they get to discuss and resolve as it seems all the major fan concerns have been raised and dealt with. West Ham Fan TV in their post meeting video pointed out that Brady was keen to keep meeting the social media protagonists regular, again, the past of the SAB showed meetings were very irregular so will they be afforded the same courtesy ?

As W.H.U.I.S.A are the only attending members that are answerable to the fanbase, and specifically you our members, you will be fully kept up to date with what happens in the SAB and its outcomes.

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, W.H.U.I.S.A nor its committee.