08 Mar West Ham have positive meeting with fans’ group representatives
West Ham say the club and supporters have a collective aim to improve the experience of fans at the London Stadium after reports of intimidation and threats were alleged.
A protest march ahead of this Saturday’s Premier League clash with Burnley has been postponed following a meeting of representatives from 15 supporters’ groups, known as West Ham Groups United, last month.
After the meeting, Hammers vice-chair Karren Brady published a lengthy open letter to supporters seeking to address concerns about the club and fans’ experience at the London Stadium.
The Real West Ham Fans Action Group, which was established in late 2017, were among the groups represented.
And last week they dropped the word ‘Action’ from their name – they are now known as Real West Ham Fans – before calling off the demonstration following the dialogue with the club.
The West Ham United Independent Supporters Association (WHUISA) continued the plan to protest at the running of the club.
But that “peaceful, lawful” protest has been postponed following a request by Newham Council over safety and disruption.
There are reports of friction between supporters’ groups, with one fan writing on his blog, the H List, of a “pressure cooker atmosphere among fans”. The blog post also alleged WHUISA chair Mark Walker said he had been “physically threatened”. Walker was not available for comment on Thursday.
West Ham say they hold regular meetings with their supporters advisory board, set up in 2011, and are determined to improve relations.
A West Ham spokesperson said: “West Ham United met with representatives of 15 fans’ groups to try to work together to give our supporters a better match-day experience at the London Stadium.
“In our talks we agreed a number of action points and we are working to deliver them.
“All the groups chose their own representatives which we accepted in good faith.
“All of those who attended expressed a desire to achieve the same ambition. The meetings were cordial and constructive. Many of them had travelled long distances to meet with us.
“We will in future be working with the long-standing supporters advisory board to achieve those common aims on behalf of all supporters.”
The fractious situation was highlighted in a report by The Independent.
The Football Supporters’ Federation, of which WHUISA is an affiliate, said in a statement issued to Press Association Sport: “There are many layers to this disturbing story and it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that this highlights exactly why the Government’s expert working group recommend structured dialogue with supporter organisations and the work of the Football Supporters Federation in promoting that dialogue with our affiliates, including the West Ham United Independent Supporters Association, who are transparent, properly accountable to their members and more importantly democratically organised.”
David Gold, co-owner of West Ham with David Sullivan, admitted the move from Upton Park in May 2016 had its challenges, with segregation, seating and atmosphere issues.
Gold told The West Ham Way podcast: “We have made mistakes but I don’t think the stadium move is a mistake.
“It’s been difficult but it was the right thing to do. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity we had to grasp.
“I wish I could turn the clock back, we would have done a much better job. But there are no regrets about moving.”
The Hammers are 14th, three points above the relegation places, with nine games remaining.
Gold added: “We have had a dreadful season. We thought the four players bought over the summer would propel us forward but sadly that has not worked out. We had budgeted for eighth place.”
The Hammers are seven points behind eighth-placed Leicester in a congested table.