Guest post by The Original Russ
I was disappointed last week when the march was finally called off. Not just because it felt as though by doing so the board had in some way won, but because I felt it was important for the fans to show that they could be united.
Andy Swallow, Mickey Morgan and others had done a great job in pulling together such large numbers of fans when they started the Real Fans Action Group and announcing the march. Other supporters groups joined forces and within a very short space of time we had a huge, united body of fans ready to tell the board what they thought. It was the large numbers and threat of the march that brought the board to the table and to make concessions on what the fans wanted, small numbers or splinter groups would never have got to where these guys got to in so short a time. The board had to divide the fans to win the battle which ultimately they did. Now we are left with fragmented bits, no cohesion and a board that are free to do as they wish once again.
So what is the way, for surely the fans need a voice and need to be heard. The promises and concessions gained by The Real West Ham Fans Action Group and the groups that joined together with it was in my opinion a great start and I never expected that to happen. But it is only that, a great start. My own view is that all of the fan groups have to come together again, to unite under one banner to again show strength to the board and let them know we aren’t going to go away and we will be holding them to account on the promises they made. The fan groups fell out, threats and allegations were made towards specific leading figures of those groups, it all became a mess, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be united again. Whether that is under a new name created and agreed by the relevant groups or whether that is under the WHUISA banner, the leaders of these groups have to start talking and it has to happen.
The reason I chose WHUISA as the united body is simply because it is a properly set up organisation with an elected committee, a stated constitution and is already affiliated to the FSF. Those things are important as it legitimises the organisation and can call on the FSF to help. In the minutes of the last meeting it was telling that Tara Warren said WHUISA `was hard to deal with and had no agenda`. That’s a bad starting point. In my opinion what needs to happen is for anyone on the committee of WHUISA that was involved with the meetings that were had with the board and has been tainted, fairly or unfairly by the allegations made during the fall out from the march to step down, a new head be appointed of WHUISA and then representatives from the other fan groups be invited to join the WHUISA committee. A clear agenda and aims need to be set and agreed by all and a plan formulated on how those aims with be achieved.
Its not going to be a 5 minute job and it will require dedicated West Ham supporters that want the best for the club and supporters. What we don’t need are personal agendas and egos. A new date needs to be set for a march, sometime early in the new season when the board can again see the strength of the united fans and also know that if they don’t fulfil their promises they will be held to account. This should be a peaceful march to show strength, not a protest march. With more time to plan even greater numbers could attend. Work with the media who seem to be very much `pro` the fans, get some support from celebrity West Ham fans, ex players, those that can raise the profile of the supporters group, give it a louder voice. The board aren’t going to sell the club anytime soon and if things carry on as they are, who in their right minds are going to want to buy a toxic club? Even if someone does buy it they are not going to knock it down and they aren’t going to build a new one. We have to be realistic, we cant go back to Upton Park, many will never forgive or forget what they have done but we have to move forward. We are at the OS and that won’t change. The fans need to unite, build bridges with the board and a make this club the one we want to support. Show how powerful we can be, show how formidable and intimidating we can be to the opposition, and not cause our team to self destruct.
Since the last meeting and the cancellation of the march the club have said they will only meet with the SAB – this is unacceptable. The SAB is a focus group of fans selected by the board, they do not represent the fans or their views. The club need to understand that this isn’t acceptable and that they have to engage on a regular basis with representatives from an independent supporters group. The fans must unite and once they have, the board must acknowledge them.