Fortunes always hiding, but will we ever find them?
Supporting West Ham United isn’t always an easy task. In my lifetime we’ve been through two relegations, a play-off final defeat and an unforgettable FA Cup final heartbreak. But for some strange reason, we always come back for more. Why? Because supporting our club is a passion, some would even say it’s an addiction. No matter what heartbreak may be around the corner, we absolutely love supporting our boys in Claret and Blue. But given exploits on and off the pitch over the past two seasons, many supporters’ love and passion is beginning to turn sour, and blame is being placed directly at the owners’ door. Many people who read this will be ‘board out’, some may even be ‘board in’. The purpose of this article is to try and give what I hope to be a balanced and critical view of the situation regarding Sullivan, Gold and Brady.
It’s very hard to deny that they clearly have their faults. But before pointing them out it is important to recognise where we were before they took over. If we cast our minds back to 2006 we remember the infamous Icelandic takeover. Backed by billionaire Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, things were truly looking bright for the club. However one global financial crisis later and the downfall of our main sponsor XL Airways, things didn’t exactly pan out financially as planned. We were passed over to assets management business CB Holdings and with severe amounts of debt, the club may well have been dangerously close to administration. The reality was that we needed to find a buyer or things could have got truly horrifying.
Now there were a few offers for the club. Among other less serious offers, we could have had Tony Fernandes or indeed Massimo Cellino but it was David Sullivan and David Gold who bought the club and claimed to inherit £120m worth of debt from the previous regime. Now I may not speak on behalf of all West Ham fans, but I genuinely thank the Davids for what I feel is saving us from extinction at the time. Fast forward seven years and we’re in the Forbes top 20 list of Europe’s most valuable football clubs. Business-wise, it’s a remarkable turnaround. However is this new found profit coming at a cost for the board? Absolutely. They’ve lost their relationship with the fans. The ones who are the lifeblood of our club.
It’s hardly surprising that a large percentage of the fans are fed up with the owners. They have done many things that we are all livid about. They bulldozed our home. They fed us false promises before moving into the new stadium and since we’ve moved in, to put it bluntly, it has been a shambles. They treat fans purely as customers. They have disrespected the clubs history and tradition. They have sold our identity to try and make the club a brand. They build our hopes up before every transfer window by making ludicrous claims about which players we are ‘trying’ to sign (Lacazette, Giroud, Bacca, Carvalho all spring to mind). They seem to penny-pinch at every given opportunity, and they are downright embarrassing on social media.
This can’t continue. Very few fans are happy with the status-quo, we want change. Many are on the ‘board-out’ brigade, and understandably so. But let’s accept that not only will this not happen, it can’t happen due to the terms of the London Stadium lease agreement which states Sullivan (the majority stakeholder) can’t sell his stake in the club for another four years. So if ‘board-out’ can’t happen, what can happen? Well, it’s quite simple, change. Listen to the fans, try to fix the broken relationship and bring back the days where it was fun to support West Ham United.
When we get genuine effort and desire on the pitch it’s easy to get behind the players. So let’s see if we can get genuine effort and desire in the boardroom and maybe, just maybe, there may be hope yet in the broken relationship between the board and the fans. For those planning to protest, let your voices be heard as loud and as proud as you can. We need change, but we also need to get behind our players, they need us more than ever if we’re going to get out of this relegation battle.
Let me make it clear, I am neither ‘board in’ nor ‘board out’ because there’s no point in being either. They’re not going to leave for at least another four years. But I do believe in ‘board change’. It’s time to rock the boat a little and make some noise. Sullivan, Gold and Brady it’s time to listen, sit up and take note, you need to act and act fast. We want OUR West Ham back.