Guest Post by iRoNcOrK
I write this as a deeply concerned fan, in an effort to be constructive rather than critical. I have thought many times recently that the club really needs “sorting out” and currently everything is pointing to the need for a root and branch review of the whole organisation, top to bottom.
We all know there is a team management issue which has taken up miles of column space on here but I believe we have deeper problems so I don’t want to discuss the merit (?)s of Sam. One of the challenges in any organisation is keeping it fresh and competitive and there is every sign that our club not only has this challenge but is also at a turning point. The question is, will things turn for the better and make us a regular top half club capable, in time, of challenging for a place in Europe or do we face a future of being a regular bottom half club with the inevitable bouts of fighting relegation which the law of averages dictates that you will lose every once in a while?
A perennial problem for shareholders or CEOs is competitiveness. Good, solid performers in any organisation do get stale and though they may do nothing wrong, they often reach a comfort level where they stop driving the organisation forward. Sometimes they also get complacent, where they also start making mistakes, or less than optimal decisions, and the organisation goes into decline.
In the context of West Ham, let’s start at the top. The owners are the chairmen. They can do what they wish with the club and whether they stay or go is their choice. Whether we like them or not, that is probably how it should be in most circumstances. However, Karren Brady needs consideration. She is a very smart and capable lady who the owners have worked with for many years, but is she performing to her best ability now? If I owned the club, I would have to ask myself whether she has become involved in too many outside activities to be able to perform at her absolute maximum level in the interests of the club. If the role was perceived as a part time one in the past, it is certainly not now. A proper full time CEO is needed to get to grips with all the off-field issues which are affecting on field results.
Clearly too many contracts, playing and non-playing, have been entered into without full consideration of the likely effects in differing scenarios. Hence Sam’s compensation is too expensive to sack him, we will never afford Nolan or Carroll, given their contribution levels, in the Championship, together with players who seemingly hardly play. We also have players on contracts with “interesting” clauses,….interesting but not in our interest. A firmer strategy with scenario planning is needed for all contracts and older players.
Looking at some of the comings and goings over the last couple of years we should be forgiven for thinking that we have been regularly manipulated by agents and/or our own manager in the signing of new players. We have brought in far too many who have not played enough games, either because they were simply not good enough anyway or because they were not given a chance. Some of these have played but been paid far too much for their ability level and contribution. It has to stop. The manager, assuming he chooses the players, needs to be held accountable for those he signs. We need a review of our scouting organisation (do we have one to speak of?), so that we may successfully compete with (often smaller) clubs who seem to regularly discover relatively cheap but outstanding performers from both inside and outside the UK. At the very least we need to know much more about players before we sign them.
The club has three training facilities, Chadwell Heath, Rush Green and Little Heath. There needs to be a long term strategy in place to consolidate these in one location and bring the facilities up to modern Premier League standards. This is not visionary and it is not optional if we want to thrive and be successful. After all, the club’s business is the performance of professional athletes. Our performances, injury record and ongoing advances in technology dictate that we should regularly review our facilities, support personnel and treatment regimens. The Andy Carroll debacle alone indicates that. Obviously there is a serious debt issue to resolve before we could take on the costs involved but there should be a plan and there should be a measure of urgency.
We have one of the best academy coaches in the land but the throughput of young players has slowed dramatically so this is another area crying out for a review and new strategy, also linked to scouting, support personnel, facilities and actually giving the youngsters opportunities at the appropriate time.
The club has become something of a laughing stock in terms of its public relations and communications strategy, or lack thereof. The puerile nature of the club’s emails has come in for a lot of criticism recently. Also, delegating implementation of information dissemination to a dyslexic thirteen year old is not the hallmark of a professional organisation and it is quite clear that the club’s relationship with its fans is adversely affected by this on a regular basis.
If you will pardon the pun, these issues are not indicative of a CEO with her eye on the ball and there are no doubt other matters of serious concern. Often, and I would venture in this case, it is better to bring someone from outside the organisation to review current practices with fresh eyes. Maybe it needs a small team with both football and non-football experience to be brought in, for a limited time, to examine everything the club does – and how it does it – and then come up with recommendations to improve. Maybe it just needs a full time, hands-on CEO who is not trying to juggle too many balls at once in the wider society.
There will be many good things going on inside the club and these need to be not only reinforced but improved upon as well. However, it is quite clear that there are too many areas of the club not performing as they should and the organisational structure is a long way from optimal.
We have too many pressing issues. Karren Brady needs to refocus her attention on West Ham or step aside. The club desperately needs leadership, and leaders must be accountable.
Perhaps Messrs. Gold and Sullivan should appoint a competent and full time CEO to run the club and become less hands on themselves, sit back and enjoy being fans. It may increase their objectivity as their current approach is not working.
If we were flying high it would not be a problem. When we look at all the challenges that are now arising, together with the potential turmoil and indeed opportunities of the Olympic Stadium on the horizon, something has to change, and change fast.