West Ham refusing to engage with Supporters bodies. We write to the Premier League.

West Ham's Refusal to Engage Supporters Groups

We continue our campaign to get West Ham round the table. Remember, out of the 91 league clubs, only West Ham United and Hull City refuse to meet their supporters.

Below is the letter we have sent to The Premier League. We have written similar letters to UEFA and DCMS as West Ham are also ignoring their laid down guidelines.

We have the full support of the Football Supporters Association and already 2 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 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 us in every way. Those who haven’t joined yet it would be great to have you alongside us.

You can join on Facebook, using the join form on our website ( www.hammersunited.com/join ) or by e-mailing us at membership@hammersunited.com

Thank you.

Katherine Allen
Head of Policy & Supporter Relations
The Premier League
30 Gloucester Place

Dear Katherine,

Re: Formal Complaint to Premier League regarding West Ham United FC

We write to you formally to lodge a complaint about our Club, West Ham United FC, acting in breach of Article 35 of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations as well as other requirements and guidance by refusing to engage with independent supporter groupings.

As you will be aware, UEFA’s Regulations have been further enforced in the UK by way of the Football Governance guidelines and Premier League’s own supporter liaison requirements. All echo the importance attached to members listening to their supporters’ concerns and having right and proper systems of engagement in place.

The wording of UK Government guidelines is also very clear and with paragraph 38 they clearly state:

‘The Government believes that every Club should officially recognize 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.

The Premier League has endorsed and supports the Supporters Direct Europe (SDE) 2013 report ‘Improving Football Governance Through Supporter Involvement’ and West Ham’s current coercive model of engagement fails to comply with either the letter or the spirit of these measures.

We write to you as Hammers United (HU) an independent supporters group representing over five thousand members, to make this complaint. In so doing we are supported by the Football Supporters’ Association, (the respected UK wing of SDE of whom we are a fully affiliated member), and a host of other West Ham fan sites, TV channels, podcasts and bloggers.

All of us agree that our Club should hold constructive dialogue with independent formal groups and that the Official Supporters’ Board (OSB) the Club have created is inadequate for these purposes.

The Premier League requires all its affiliated Clubs to follow the spirit and intention behind Article 35. It was designed to allow football supporters insight into affairs that affect them and to have a voice – ‘proper and constructive dialogue’. West Ham’s board refuse to engage directly with ourselves or indeed any other fan grouping outside of their OSB.

We have on file copies of communication with Mr Jake Heath, the Club’s employed Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO), which expressly states that the Club will only hold discourse with the OSB and through himself as the chair of such.

The OSB consists of representatives chosen by Club appointees with no member democratically elected by supporters. More so, the 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 stewarding, fixtures, travel, price increases, waiting lists, ticket allocations etc. all being prominent. Yet we have seen the Club announced a partnership with Socios, (a company with interesting associations in the gambling space and with Andrea Agnelli’s Juventus) advertising supporter engagement in return for the buying of tokens, as well as raise season ticket prices, whilst choosing to bypass its own vehicle, the OSB, and in tandem continue to refuse to engage in dialogue with independent groups.

We believe these, and other important issues should be at the forefront of supporter engagement and are matters that warrant constructive discussion between the Club, its loyal supporters, and their independent and democratically elected representatives.

The OSB and Club are intrinsically linked, and the OSB do not constitute an independent, formal or democratic body as envisaged by the Regulations. Instead it is a coercive construct designed to give the appearance of compliance to the minimum terms.

It is noted that it would appear only West Ham, amongst Premier League Clubs in England that are refusing to directly engage with their independent supporter groups. They should of course be encouraging positive engagement and acting in an inclusive fashion rather than continually trying to close down or avoid more difficult questions.

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 politely request your support in this matter and would ask the Premier League to urge West Ham United to address what is an unacceptable and untenable position and formally engage in open discussion at a senior level with our independent and democratically elected supporter’s group, rather than exclusively with their own informal and undemocratic body.

We are willing to sit down together, with other independent groups fitting the criteria to have a constructive dialogue and progress together the real issues which most affect our members and all attending supporters.

We have great faith in the global brand that is the Premier League and look forward to your formal reply, remaining hopeful that your intervention will enable our members, and all West Ham United fans to have their voices heard.

Yours sincerely,

Lee Rogers
Joint Secretary
Hammers United