“You have to know the past to understand the present” (Carl Sagan)
Firstly I don’t wish to dwell on the past. However we must understand how we have arrived here.
So how far do we go with our trip down Memory Lane? Our Working Class roots & heritage in shipbuilding? The general strike? Football through the war? There is so much History. Then there’s the heady days of the 60’s 70’s and 80’s which saw a prolonged period of relative success (I raise a glass to all here who were there in those days) which led to the tag of “The Academy of Football” and saw WH become many peoples “other” team.
During this period when travel became widely available at football our fans reputation often preceded us wherever we travelled. The cheeky cockney wit, never say die attitude and loyalty to the Claret & Blue that was envied far and wide.
So we arrive then, via a period of limited success, through the Icelandic Takeover & the associated debt, to the arrival of our current owners. West Ham fans apparently , they would not have risked the takeover for any other club. They would stabilise the debt, and work towards the jewel in their crown, the newly built Olympic Stadium. The lure of increased revenue and attendance was used to promise “A World Class Stadium for a World Class Team.’
It was here that I, like many, lost the plot. We were taken in by the promises. I just wish we could turn the clock back and do things differently but sadly we didn’t.
We took our 30 pieces of silver and “endorsed” in some small way the move to Stratford. Cue broken promises, missed targets and the rest. We should have stuck together. We’ve done it before. Be it 50 at a grim Northern ground in the 70’s making ourselves heard and supporting the team, or the glorious days of the Bond Scheme Protests, we’re West Ham, it’s what we do. Only this time we didn’t.
So the game was lost. And we now see what I feel is the gentrification of football. This is a world where fans are replaced by consumers and customers. More Opera than Upton Park. And I don’t really like what I see.
That brings us to November 2017 and an upsurge in Fans who were willing to stand up and seek answers. With the threat of a large scale march in March 2018 on the cards the Club twitched. Bad publicity is a genuine fear for these people, damage to brand reputation. And it was on the way to their door, carried by many thousands of Fans who’d quite simply had enough.
A coalition was built, meetings were held and concessions made. Sadly this was where the bubble burst. Normal people up against a multi-million pound machine. Out manoeuvred by the Club the coalition broke down. Two smaller marches went ahead but for many, momentum was lost. And the anger turned to apathy.
Many have walked away, others may soon join them. A sad state of affairs. Then came Burnley and for me the hope that the spark was still there. To see the corner flag raised in protest, as we had so many years before was an iconic moment. Someone who cared enough, not about himself, as his actions earned him a lifetime ban (which he accepts), but for all fans. He could stand no more.
The rest, as they say, is History, and at that point we will leave the past behind.
“We can’t completely understand and build a better future without knowledge of the past. The past informs the future” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
In February this year I was contacted and being fairly outspoken on SM asked for my thoughts on starting a new Supporters group. I met shortly after with some other like-minded people and all agreed that we owed it to everyone to try once more.
To succeed we would need to gather large numbers and importantly attempt to heal our divided fan base. With this in mind, Hammers United launched in March 2019. We currently have aprproximately 5050 members. Not bad as we have only been in existence for less than 6 months.
We want to have dialogue with the club and help bring improvements to the match-day experience for all supporters. At the same time we must encourage the club to invest in the playing squad.
We have now established a committee, ratified by our members at an open meeting in Plaistow. We have a constitution , a website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram presence and members also have the ability to register via email.We are full associates of the Football Supporters Association.
Most of us are new to this but make no mistake. We are learning fast. We have written to the club requesting a meeting. This was, as expected, refused. They suggested we apply for a seat on the OSB which was declined by our members 9-1. And here’s the thing. Yes.. our members declined. Because they run Hammers United. We are on hand to do the day to day stuff but our Members dictate the strategy.
The club refuse to meet us and as such are in breach of Premier League,Uefa and Government guidelines, so we have sent formal complaints to all three.We have launched an initiative to assist our fans should they experience inappropriate stewarding.We have written to the club asking them to look into the many anomalies of their season ticket waiting list.We have written raising concerns at away fans in West Ham sections.
One by one we are addressing the issues important to West Ham supporters.These things take time but we are doing our best.
So what happens next? And where is the End Game going to take place? Honestly that’s a question none of us can answer. But I’ll say this. When we launched we all agreed this wasn’t going to be easy. Quite the opposite; I’m still stunned at the amount of work that’s involved so I tip my hat to all who do this on WH sites or groups and salute you.
One thing is clear. This will be a long campaign. I fully believe we will need to demonstrate “Fan Power” in whatever form it takes. But equally I firmly believe it’s worth fighting for. There are currently two options. Put up and shut up, or walk away. I understand why people have chosen to take each option but for me both choices are unpalatable.
At Hammers United we want to offer you option 3. Make a stand, Together. I will keep trying till the game is up, and beyond, if you will all stand with me.
We have some good people on and around our committee. We have the backing of many loyal supporters.We had both a show of support and also a fair grilling about our intentions during the open meeting we held. More will come this season. We’re not going away. And we will be visible if you want to come and see us on and around match days.
But, and it’s a massive but, our commitment will only carry us so far. We need the most important ingredient in all this to succeed. YOU…. THE WEST HAM FANS… without you we are just a group of people who want to change things. We can steer the ship but it’s YOU that will make it happen. All of you. When 10-20-30k people say no, the board will have to listen. But we have to make a stand. TOGETHER.
So who’s up for it? If you’re not a member join. Tell everyone. Friends, family & work colleagues. When you see Hammers in the pub or on the train to games, talk to them. We have 5050 members. If everyone signed up one person by the end of October we’d have 10,100. Do the same again in November 20,200. You can make this happen. It’s time to take back what’s ours.
Our tradition and heritage is being eroded. We are being gentrified. And what about the ‘world class team for a world class stadium’?
Make a Stand, Say “No More”.
We can do it, as Hammers… United…
Who’s with us?
Find out more and join us at www.hammersunited.com
The Hammers United Committee.