As you will be aware, Hammers United met with representatives of the club last Thursday, where we and others were invited to contribute to a discussion on the return of our fans to football, for the up-coming season.
This is a very fluid situation, reliant on guidance from the Chief Medical Officer via the government, which is subject to change dependent on the COVID-19 status the country finds itself in.
The current guidance becomes complex as early as the second paragraph, where it states that ‘individual groups and individuals entering the premises should not interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending the competition venue with. Those operating competition venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines should take additional steps to ensure the safety of the public and prevent uncontrolled large gatherings from taking place’.
To even achieve that, before digesting any of the next fifteen pages, will take a tremendous amount of effort and seems a very tall order.
Two of the other topics raised in the discussion last week were season ticket renewals and a potential process of balloting season ticket holders in an effort to make it as fair as possible for all to get a chance to attend games next season.
Some good points were raised across the meeting.
Hammers United voiced the concerns listed below: –
- The charging of full value for season tickets upfront in the knowledge that, given the current climate, it would be impossible to realise at least 60% of the season ticket value.
- An inability to provide viable options for those season ticket holders who currently and / or who may, over the next twelve months, find themselves in financial difficulty resulting from the post-COVID 19 economic crises.
- An inability to provide a safe-zone for our time-served older fans who may be concerned with their vulnerability and the risk posed, should they wish attend in the current climate.
- An inability to provide a suitable process by which any season ticket holder who wishes to “opt-out” of season 20/21 given the current climate, will have an assurance that they will be able to return in 21/22 without incurring any penalty, in line with the FSA issued guidelines.
Although we do appreciate that getting things done is not easy in our COVID19 affected world, disappointingly an announcement was released by the club on Monday that failed to address any of these key points, despite assurances that they would be considered.
Hammers United (also in dialogue with the club on other issues) cited our frustration in correspondence that immediately followed Mondays announcement and requested an urgent audience with the club.
In the discussion that followed Hammers United suggested that, as a minimum, the club might offer a token gesture type holding fee. This fee would then guarantee those fans, who did not want to attend the 20/21 season, an unabated option to renew their season tickets for the 21/22 season.
As our members will be aware communication has, historically, not been great between Hammers United and the club. However, in this instance, with a tide of negative responses on social media and swathes of our membership demanding we protest at the first game of the season we were pleased that the clubs SLO (who to his credit was on holiday with his family) facilitated calls with senior members of the clubs management team, with whom we once more raised our members concerns.
The club did recognise that it’s messaging to our supporters here wasn’t great. The club also confirmed it was now working on an ‘option three’ which was explained to us, and that it was also working towards further options regarding a provision for our elderly fans and those demonstrably financially impacted by the crisis, as per our previous suggestions.
We were advised that those further options would not be explored in time to make the cut for the ‘option three’ release.
Hammers United made their advice to the club clear in that ‘option three’ is obviously an improvement on no option, but given that it was being issued belatedly, would most likely not resonate well with the fan-base. Furthermore, without the other options, it really doesn’t go as far as it should, all in a moment when supporter satisfaction sits at an all-time-low under the stewardship of the current regime.
We expect to hear back from the club regarding progress with reference to the remaining options by the end of the week and, as always, will keep you updated.
Thank you for your continued support.
Hammers United Committee