Talking Point

A plea to fill those empty seats in the London Stadium

The next two home games at the London Stadium have already sold out meaning that season ticket holders who can’t make the Swansea or Everton games can relist their seats on Ticket exchange or share them using the new Ticket Forwarding function.

Thousands of seats remain empty each league game depriving thousands of Hammers the chance to watch their club.

The real number supporters recorded through the electronic turnstiles for the West Ham v Stoke City game last November was 48,391 compared with 56,970 tickets sold and published as the official attendance. The number supporters recorded through the electronic turnstiles in the West Ham v Arsenal game in December last year was 51,122 compared with 56,980 tickets sold and published as the official attendance.

A Club spokesman told me at the time “In line with other Premier League clubs, the attendance figure we announce at home matches reflects the number of tickets sold. We understand that there are always a number of Season Ticket Holders who are unable to attend specific matches for various reasons and we are working hard to ensure we fill as many empty seats as possible via our Ticket Exchange facility. West Ham United encourage all Season Ticket Holders who are unable to attend matches to offer their tickets for resale on the Ticket Exchange, enabling their fellow supporters who wish to purchase tickets for matches to be able to do so.”

Both upcoming home games are category B and season ticket holders will get 90% of their ticket face value back for either game you can’t make. The remaining 10% goes to Ticket Master as an admin fee to fund the scheme. Any profits the club make reselling your ticket at general admission price goes back to the transfer budget.

Full details of the Exchange functionality, how much credit you will get and how to use it can be found at http://www.whufc.com/ticketexchange

Also now available is the new Ticket Forwarding function which allows you to forward your season ticket on to friends, family or strangers free of charge or you can even donate it to Charity to allow those less fortunate to enjoy a West Ham in your seat. The receiving supporter just pays a £1.25 booking fee to print off the ticket at home.

Full instructions on how to forward your ticket to someone else can be found HERE

Both Chelsea and Leicester City visiting supporters have sung about our empty seats despite each game being a sellout with every single ticket sold. Let’s not give Swansea on 8th April and Everton on 22nd April the opportunity to do the same.

In my view this is not down the club, the board, the manager or the players, this is down to the season ticket holders to make it happen, it is our own control to fill every season ticket seat at the London Stadium and we have only got ourselves to blame if we don’t!

Ticket exchange is already open and available for the Swansea and Everton home games with ticket forwarding available ten days before each game.


Financial

Whatever happened to Financial Fair Play?

We hear very little about Financial Fair Play these days from the West Ham board for one very good reason.

Clubs have now been allowed to increased their wage bills by £7m per season – up £4m on the previous three-year scheme.

Last year Premier League clubs quietly voted to continue the self-governing Premier League FFP scheme which will run for a further three years including this season.

The Hammers published a total wage bill of £84.7m in their 2016 accounts for last season but this includes non-playing staff which aren’t included in the FFP cap. That was an increase of £12m on the 2015 wage bill of £72.7m which saw a £9m increase from 2014 when the wage bill was £63.8m

A financial source close to the club told us:

“For 2016-2017, we elected (along with the most other clubs) to take our actual (player wage) spend from 2015-2016 and add our annual allowance of £7.0m plus our Club Own Revenue Uplift (CORU) to give us the maximum amount we can spend on players plus NI. We remain well within this cap and will comply with the STCC rules. We did not go back to the 2013 base year as it was not in our interest to do so as we have generated CORU each year and if we went back to the base year it would limit our spend.”

“For next season, 2107-2018, we will again elect to take our actual (player wage) spend in 2016-2017, and add £7.0m, plus CORU, to give us our maximum spend. We will comply with the STCC limits as we have for the last four years.

“For 2018-2019, we will take our actual spend in 2017-2018, and add £7.0m plus CORU to give us our maximum spend.”

“Rest assured, we know our obligations and we know that the Premier League looks at this closely, and we would never risk breaking the rules.”

“We have complied every year and will continue to do so. Suffice to say we operate within the rules and have sufficient headroom when required.”

A source close to club said on FFP:

“Suffice to say we operate within the rules and have sufficient headroom when required”


Talking Point

The £140,000 London Stadium investigation

At the end of February, the Mayor of London quietly announced that accountancy firm Moore Stephens had been appointed to write a £140,000 report about the mistakes made in the London Stadium transformation and what lessons could be learnt.

The purpose of the investigation is listed by the Mayor’s office as:

• To provide a narrative explanation of the history of the London Stadium, including all relevant construction, financial and operational arrangements, with a particular focus on the stadium’s conversion into a multi-use arena and the subsequent negotiations and arrangements

• To confirm the key decision points and contractual commitments made, including the financial and operational projections that informed the significant investment of public money into transformation works and who was responsible for them

• To assess whether the work leading to the decisions and commitments made was sufficiently robust and subject to appropriate levels of due diligence and negotiation to ensure that value for money was achieved for the taxpayer after taking into account the legacy objectives and expected benefits

• To report on the stadium’s financial viability in terms of an assessment of the ongoing and future operating costs and income of the current working arrangements

• To identify any lessons that can be learnt

• To work with all relevant organisations to obtain evidence for this work, reporting any lack of co-operation to the Mayor’s office

• To produce a report for publication.

The investigation and its resulting report will cover three distinct phases in the genesis and life of the Stadium:

1. The Olympic bodies’ original decision making in determining the design and nature of the Stadium built for the Games and what thought was given to how the Stadium would be used post-Games

2. The decision making of LLDC and its forebears in the tendering for and delivery of the Stadium transformation in light of the original design and its legacy objectives

3. Decisions pertaining to the current operational arrangement for the Stadium, including those made by LLDC, LB Newham and E20 Stadium LLP, and those taken by Her Majesty’s Government and the GLA such as hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the 2017 World Athletics.

Moore Stephen’s project plan is for a draft report to be presented to the GLA in June 2017. The report will then be finalised and a public report made available to the public later in the summer.

Whether £140,000 is a good use of taxpayers money to tell us what we already know is a valid question but Moore Stephens seems an odd choice as they have been regular auditors for the LLDC and were involved in the stadium transformation itself.

In 2013 they audited the LLDC for change control, project management and business cases in relation to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and these reports are still in the public domain. In 2015 they were involved with the Mayor’s office to audit the London Stadium transformation project. They gave a green light to the project in
April 2015 in another public document which is still online.

It all seems rather strange but then again it is politics at the heart of this investigation.

The Stadium operators budget and business case has been shot to pieces, they under estimated the number of stewards, the cost of policing and extra security costs. The lack of a Stadium naming rights partner for the first season has cost them big also. Budget projections from the LLDC suggest they will lose £8.4m in operating costs in the stadium 2017/2018 with a loss of £5.4m in operating costs in 2018/2019. They are predicted to lose £35m this year.

Gone are the days of a business plan which suggested a £250,000 profit each year to the taxpayer. At the time there was an outcry it was only £250,000!

As a side note, the stadium owners are thought to be on the brink of announcing paying London Living Wage for all sub contractors working the London stadium which increase running costs yet again by at least another £250,000 per year.

We shall wait and see the outcome of the report but I could have saved them the money as I can almost guarantee what the report will say.


Talking Point

The West Ham Season Ticket Renewal Scenario

West Ham proudly announced had a record breaking day in the Ticket Office with over 9,360 supporters renewing their season tickets at the London Stadium for next season. That is a new record for the club and accounts for eighteen per cent of the current fifty-two thousand season ticket holders. A club insider said that previous renewals at the Boleyn Ground amounted to around three hundred on day one of the renewal window.

The announcement followed the confirmation that season ticket renews would be frozen in price but I am guessing that new season ticket will slightly rise when they become available as the club has made it clear the price freeze refers to renews only.

There is a little bit of marketing spin in these record figures. The 52,000 season ticket holders include up to 3,600 corporate Club London members all of which have signed up for three years so their automatic renewal was contractually obliged. Next was 3,000 band 5 season holders who paid two years up front when we increased from 54,000 to 57,000 capacity. They were renewed automatically too last Monday without lifting a finger.

Don’t get me wrong, the renewal of over 2,760 season ticket holders in one day was still an impressive feat considering that just a few hundred would renew on the day on before the move. Many of these early renewals are being driven by the promise of priority of relocation within the London Stadium on a first come, first served approach.

The logistics of how this mass migration will be completed is still unclear but it is potentially a logistical nightmare with thousands wanting to move seats.

On the financial side Interest-free credit for four months subject to a £30 admin fee and a low-interest loan at 6% over ten months (down from 19.9%) are also helping to spread the financial pain to supporters which is always welcome.

Reports that current away season tickets will not receive priority have been dismissed by the club as simply not true. I have been told that current away season ticket holders will receive priority if they sign up before the May deadline with the remaining allocation being sold on a first come, first served basis. However, the club do say the allocation of five hundred in the away scheme has never sold out in reality.

Season tickets holders will be able to both upgrade and downgrade bands in the relocation window subject to availability of seats elsewhere. You will first need to renew your season ticket at the current price and if you are successful with your band downgrade you will be credited back the money to you.

Upgrades from any of 10,000 junior season tickets to adult will be permitted but upgrades from junior to adult will not be allowed. The Under 16 season ticket holders will undergo an identity verification process before the beginning of September.

In twitter poll on social media of 400 season ticket holders 61% said they would renew their season ticket with 39% claiming they would not.

KUMB also ran a poll on their forums with nearly 300 voting. 41% said Yes 39% No with 18% Unsure

The London Stadium survey published yesterday had 4,392 supporters who claimed they were active season ticket holders.

2,546 fans say they will renew their season tickets which is around 58%, just 17% claim they won’t renew their season tickets which could account for as many as 8,840 seats if they really mean what they say! 1,082 were undecided which account for the remaining 25%; again history tells us many of them will bite the bullet and renew as the deadline gets closer so renewals could be as high as 83%. With a doubling of season ticket holders from 26,000 to 52,000 last season we were never going to get 100% renewals and not all of the reasons for non-renewal will be down to the London Stadium.

With the club claiming there are now 55,000 on the £10 waiting list for a season ticket holder we will soon see how many of those non-renewed season ticket seats are snapped up by the waiting list.

The club is keen to stress that this year the May deadline is the absolute deadline and you will lose your seat if you don’t renew in time. In previous years we have seen extensions for absent minded fans.

Key Dates

Friday 14 April Deadline for online Monthly Payment Plan applications. Applications can still be made before the renewal deadline but they must be made in person or by calling the Ticket Office.

Wednesday 31 May Renewal deadline. Make sure you renew by 5pm as, following this date, your seat will be made available to Season Ticket Holders wishing to relocate and offered to the 55,000-plus supporters on the Waiting List.

Thursday 1 June Priority relocation window opens. Seat relocations will be subject to seat availability at the end of the renewal window. Relocations will be prioritised by how early you renew your Season Ticket, and the priority window slots will be communicated to supporters nearer the time.

Thursday 15 June Priority relocation window closes.

Friday 16 June Season Tickets on sale to Waiting List.


Talking Point

Remembering Danny

I know there have been many requests for a minute’s applause at the London Stadium this season. A week doesn’t seem to go by without some tragic news of a West Ham fan life ending far too soon.

The club has previously insisted these tributes must be fan led rather then club led but they were always ready to put up photos on the London Stadium big screens if the crowd break into spontaneous applause at the allotted time.

I was touched to hear another tragic tale of one of our own who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of twenty-five last Thursday. His good friend Grant contacted us asking to promote a minutes applause on the 25th minute on Saturday while telling us about his mate Danny.

Grant told me:

“I was a friend of Danny’s – we were very close, speaking daily and seeing each other most times at least once a week. Danny’s first Hammers game was in November 1998 at the age of 6, with his dad, Jeff and brother Steve. West Ham played Leicester City and won 3-2."

“Danny had just turned 25 years old on March 3rd. Danny and I have been going to West Ham together for just over ten years. Our first season tickets were in 2007 at the age of 15, but we had been going to games before this too. We have been season ticket holders on and off since, and I’d estimate we’d been to about 200 games together (including some away) – our last away game together was up in Liverpool in December 2016 where the score finished 2-2.”

“Danny and I both agreed our favourite away day was Goodison Park in March 2016 (Dan’s birthday weekend) where we were 2-0 down in the 79th min and won 3-2. We stayed for half hour after the game with hundreds of West Ham fans singing in the stadium. It was a great day. We also were able to use the trip to visit his girlfriend in Liverpool, so it really was the perfect weekend for him.”

”As for our Match day ritual on the weekend, we would often meet a few hours before the game for a fry-up in Hornchurch or Elm Park. We would then head up to Stratford and go to a pub near the ground (we were in a period of trying different pubs every week because of the recent move, but at Upton Park, we used to go into Queens or The Boleyn regularly. We would also meet Danny’s brother and friend for pre-match drinks, and sometimes family on my side. We would go into the bookies and get our score casts on for the game.”

“Danny had no illness. He had gone to the West Ham v Chelsea game Monday night and dropped me off home after this, which is the last time I saw him before receiving the terrible news Thursday. We were all talking on the group chat on a Wednesday night about the Barcelona v PSG game – Dan was talking about some of the bets that he’d seen people had won, and sent his last message at 23:07. We were told that he passed away in his sleep around midnight. Danny was a current season ticket holder sitting in block 130 at the London Stadium”.

Grant asks you please remember Danny on the 25th minute by joining in a minute’s applause.

However today the club released a statement calling a limit to these regular events due to sheer volume of requests.

WHUFC.com have published a new policy saying:

“Every season, West Ham United are sadly informed of the deaths of many supporters, young and old, from all over the world. Club staff never fail to be moved when a message is received that a member of the Claret and Blue faithful has passed away. Many of the messages received by the Club are accompanied by requests for tributes to be paid on a matchday, in the form of a minute’s applause during a first-team match.However, due to the sheer volume of requests, it is regrettably not possible to formally hold these tributes at every match. The Club will now honour those Hammers no longer with us with a montage of tributes being shown on the big screens at home matches twice a season.The next montage of this type will be displayed at the Premier League fixture with Tottenham Hotspur at London Stadium on Saturday 6 May”

If you haven’t completed the London Stadium Survey there is still time before it closes at midnight thsis Sunday.

Over 6,185 macth going West Ham supporters have completed the survey already. Have you?

It can be completed at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/7QC93Q2


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