The pressure has been mounting for some time without release to ease fears or quell the rallying calls for uprising. The movers and shakers have brought issues to the boardroom table, to be met with comprehension, a quasi commitment to restore and rectify but layered with the verbiage of a seasoned business spin doctor and political lobbyist.
Many would call for revolution for its own sake! Many would march for no better reason than a united demonstration of dissension against those occupying the ivory towers who have belittled and ignored the supporting masses for too long. However there are many who would act in proper manner and by ordered code to avoid chaotic scenes and misunderstood motives.
I was and I still am a staunch believer that the current West Ham United board…all of them and those non board members need to be held accountable for what they have done, how they have handled the club affairs and for the statements they have made that have alienated, vilified and confused the fan base to the point that all faith has been lost from much of the supporters.
I had become increasingly concerned that the issues were being ignored and repeated attempts to communicate these concerns to the club were met with less than sympathetic ears and limited desires to action any of them. When made aware of fan groups uniting to voice their concerns and to hold said owners to account, I was all for it.
I wanted immediate discussions with the club and owners on the key issues but I wanted the problems fixed without delay. When a march was suggested, I was all in favour of any peaceful demonstration and protest that would make our concerns public and would draw the club into active discussion.
The march was due to take place this coming Saturday, regardless if the original organisers have pulled out for reasons only known to themselves, prior to the Burnley game. The meetings that have been ongoing these last two weeks have proven that the ‘threat’ of a march and the subsequent negative public relations has been successful enough in bringing the club out of hiding and to face their accusers head on with immediate concessions being promised, if only we could believe them.
For many, the laments were laudable whilst the club responses have been lamentable too. If the fans had little faith in the ownership prior to the meetings, they certainly had less faith afterwards too. The fan groups have acted capably and in a professional manner during the whole and ongoing process. They have not resorted to vitriolic condemnation but have been vocal about their displeasure and the need for accountability and for the wrongs to be corrected quickly.
Unfortunately we also live in a world where social media hacks and trolls take pleasure in stirring pots, inflaming plots and exaggerating agendas to make all purpose uncertain and final agendas unclear.
I always had a clarity of purpose and after I had spoken to one of the organisers of the action groups some weeks ago, I was convinced that their intentions were as mine and their direction was to hold discussions but also hold conviction to march if all solutions were not forthcoming nor satisfactory. I still believe that to be the case however somewhere along the way, the message has become fuzzed at the edges and personal motives would fray the boundaries between what is acceptable and what is not.
Many would question whether the march would ever achieve anything? Would it force the ‘Board Out’ of office? Of course it would not. However, it would draw media attention to the fact that a large percentage of the fan base have become disillusioned and dismayed by how the club is being run. There could be no misunderstanding of purpose and the message would be crystal clear so the club and ownership would be under no illusions what they are being asked to do.
The broader question is whether any kind of protest or demonstration in the form of a march will ever have the impact that it was intended for? The answer to that is both yes and no! Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. A million people marched through the capital against the war in Iraq…but still the war proceeded. Women marched in the ‘Women’s Suffrage Movement’ which ultimately succeeded in bringing about equality and rights to vote.
Whilst discussions remained in session, there were those on both sides of the divide who would act from their domestic fortresses and tap bile from their computers or smart phones…all in an attempt to disrupt, inflame or belittle all the pressure and hard work that had got us this far. Do I feel the march should be cancelled? Absolutely not! Everyone who wishes to attend the march should be allowed to do so but also without confrontation and vilification from any others who feel they should not…and vice-versa too. The act of ‘cancelling’ the march has embittered those who thought the club had not answered the basic and major questions. The facts are the facts! Promises have been made to consider points but nothing has materialised, so most are confused why any notion of not marching was even considered.
Whilst settled in battle encampments, the protest lobby have worked with vigour to achieve their goals…to get the issues resolved, whilst the club have rallied to address them also…if only paying lip service. The meetings have taken place hoping for a positive outcome but also each side have not wanted to appear unwilling to enter discussions and negotiations.
Within divided opinion, pseudo splinter groups would appear to have been formed…if you pay any credence to any social media posturing that is, that would act to jeopardise the peaceful protest intentions as laid out by the march organisers. Much has been said about the purpose of the march and the manner in which it ‘will’ proceed…properly, peacefully but vocally too. All approved by the authorities and properly organised so that all demographics, both young and old can attend if they so wish…you would hope!
However, confusion hangs in the air. Should a march continue when there are ongoing discussions? Can the march be properly controlled and policed by those organising it so that it is safe for everyone…especially any children, elderly or disabled who might be in attendance? Many would try to muddy the waters by linking the original march organisers with hooligan transgressions of yesteryear, however this is not on the ballot paper in anyway shape or form. After all, all fans from all backgrounds and persuasions are entitled to be as passionate for their club as the next fan…however recent decisions have caused rifts within the supporting base which has only clouded the agenda even further.
This has been a long road and the fight is not done with and the energy is not yet spent…however there are circumstances and mutterings that may give us pause for thought whilst the pressure mounts and the headaches take hold. This is a case for the ‘Anadin Extra’ and the singing Ultra…who are just like you and I…from different tacks and tracks but should all have common purpose and share the same passions for our club. West Ham United…we are! We should be! We must be!