West Ham Refusing to Engage Supporters Bodies

West Ham's Refusal to Engage Supporters Groups

Today we start our campaign in earnest to get West Ham round the table.

Remember, only West Ham and Hull out of the 91 league clubs refuse to meet their supporters.

We have written similar letters to The Premier League and UEFA as West Ham are also ignoring their laid down guidelines.

We have the full support of the Football Supporters Association and already two MPs have promised support. We will get support in the Press and on radio.

We really need the support of the West Ham family. Success would not only mean Hammers United at the negotiating table but would lead the way for other democratic West Ham fan’s groups. Perhaps then we could look at some sort of umbrella group to raise issues with the club and hopefully work together to improve things for West Ham supporters.

We ask our members to please support in every way. Those who haven’t joined yet it would be great to have you alongside us. You can join on facebook, use the joining form on our website at hammersunited.com or by e-mailing us at membership@hammersunited.com.

Thank You.

Below is our letter to the government.

Department of Culture, Media & Sport
100 Parliament Street,

13 September 2019

Dear Sir/Madam,
Complaint to DCMS regarding West Ham United FC.

We write to formally complain about our Club, West Ham United FC, acting in breach of the Football Governance guidelines as set by the DCMS select committee response (HC792-1) in 2011.
We write in good faith, in lieu of approaching an MP and asking that the matter be referred to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, and we therefore politely ask for your consideration.

We write as Hammers United (HU) www.hammersunited.com an independent supporters group representing some five thousand West Ham United supporters. In so doing we have the support of The Football Supporters’ Federation, with whom we are a fully affiliated member.

Our complaint is that the Club has repeatedly and continues to refuse to engage with any supporter body outside of one of their own making, namely the Official Supporters Board (OSB). We have been asking the Club to engage in direct dialogue with our group seeking to represent our members to discuss matters of most relevance to them and the broader attending fanbase. To date they have repeatedly refused such, explicitly stating that representations can only be made through their club mandated OSB.

We attach copies of correspondence with the Supporter Services Manager, Mr Jake Heath, which you will note conclude with him repeating on behalf of the Club that the OSB is the only organisation that they will have any dialogue with.

West Ham are bound by Article 35 of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations https://www.uefa.com/MultimediaFiles/Download/Tech/uefaorg/General/02/26/77/91/2267791_DOWNLOAD.pdf as well as other requirements and guidance with regards engagement with independent supporter groupings. Article 35 obliges affiliated Clubs to have ‘proper and constructive dialogue’ with fans and was designed to allow them to have an insight into affairs that affect them.

UEFA’s Regulations were further enforced in the UK by way of the Football Governance guidelines https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/78395/Football_governance_15427_Cm_8207_2.pdf

The recommendations of the DCMS’ Select Committee’s response (HC792-1) to the initial committee enquiry headed by Professor Richard Giulianotti (FG 29) in 2011 is explicit in its support of football club engagement with relevant supporter groups in its guidance to the Premier and Football Leagues.

The wording and intention of these Government guidelines are clear, expressing recognition of the problematic and avoidable challenges caused by recalcitrant attitudes at Football Clubs whose choice to disassociate and not properly listen to their supporters and the solutions offered by having open dialogue.

At paragraph 38 they state:
‘The Government believes that every Club should officially recognise the relevant supporters groups or trusts and keep an open dialogue with them. They should hold regular and annual general meetings at which these groups are invited to take part and at which appropriate financial and other information can be shared and consulted upon’.
West Ham have specifically refused to engage in such dialogue, hold such meetings, share such information or properly consult with independent formal groups and the OSB is inadequate for these purposes.

The OSB consists of representatives chosen by Club appointees. It is not democratic; no member is elected by supporters and significant issues that concern and affect attending fans are either unspoken or pass without transparency. The Club has experienced well publicised problems in the recent past with issues such as the management of the stadium, stewarding, fixtures, travel, price increases, waiting lists, ticket allocations etc all being prominent. Most recently the Club have announced a partnership with Socios, a company advertising supporter engagement in return for the buying of tokens, whilst at the same time refusing to engage in dialogue with independent groups.

The OSB and Club are inseparable from each other and the OSB does not constitute an independent, formal or democratic body as envisaged by the Regulations or Guidelines.
Instead it is merely a construct, a reincarnation if you will from the ashes of its previously failed and well documented incarnation, the Supporters Association Board (SAB), designed to give the appearance of compliance to the minimum terms. It is noted that it appears that it is only West Ham United FC and Hull City FC amongst League Clubs in England that are refusing to directly engage with their independent supporters’ groups. This demonstrates a seemingly intransigent attitude to their supporters and the independent supporter’s groups they have chosen to represent them, as well as demonstrating disregard to the Government guidelines.

We strongly believe the club should be embracing the guidelines and encouraging engagement, acting in an inclusive fashion rather than continually trying to shut down or wholly avoid more difficult questions in club-created and club-controlled forums.

Should they be needed we can give multiple examples of specific supporter issues that West Ham have not properly addressed and that either have not been raised by the OSB or, due to its structure, have been unable to be raised.

We would ask the DCMS to urge West Ham United Football Club to engage formally in open discussion at a senior level with our independent and democratic supporter group, in keeping with the spirit of the Government guidelines, rather than exclusively with their own informal and undemocratic body. We are willing to sit down together with other groups fitting the criteria to have a constructive dialogue and progress together the issues which most affect us as attending supporters.

We thank you in advance for your kind assistance in this most frustrating situation we find ourselves in and look forward to your formal response.

Should the Club continue to refuse to engage post your anticipated intervention, it is our intention pursuant to your formal complaint procedures to raise this concerning matter formally with an MP.

Yours faithfully,

Lee Rogers
Joint Secretary