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