Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Were you ever inadvertently dropped into a situation that just made you feel uncomfortable and increasingly embittered? This last week we have seen more duplicity from a certain king at Casterly Rock, who claims seniority but acts more like a boy monarch with a vicious streak. Our recent history is being dragged through the mire and insurrectionists are rallying and gathering to affect change and hold our Lannisters to account.

We have been drawn into a feuding couple, one drunk with power and the other sober with dissension. Polar arguments that have many rallying the fans and a few causing a rift for holding alternative views.

The issues surrounding the move to the London Stadium are well documented and the commentary, media outbursts and mistruths have been absorbed with little sympathy and much embarrassment. There has been little in the way of committed and honest assessment, nor has there been any kind of apology for actions and failures along the way.

The crux of the dissenters’ argument is that the vision of a move to the new stadium would be matched by greater ambition in the transfer market. There is no denying that whilst there have been signings that have failed to impress, the overall level of investment has been nowhere near what most were expecting, much less what many were led to believe.

The questions amass and the once open eyed in wonder stance has narrowed to squint with closer scrutiny. The fans want answers, the players and manager want support and even the media have begun to take greater interest into our mismanaged affairs.

Calls for, “Where is all the money?” and chants of, “Lies, Lies, Lies” ring around any venue where fans view upon hopeful performances. Not a dereliction of duty in support of the team…as some would have you believe, but merely a platform to ask questions of the club owners and make those views public.

As the rows continue, many of the fanbase have been left in the middle ground unsure of which direction to lean and where is the truth? Truths and facts are what many are seeking, irrespective of what others would say to impose their will or opinions. Increasingly over the last couple of months there have been shouts and cries for, “Board Out! Board Out!” Initially it was a bandwagon to voice anger against failings all over the pitch and within the corridors of power. However the meaning was soon clarified as most acknowledged that there lacked the mechanism for any fans to affect any change at the top, however it was a final act of displeasure and anger, a plea for the owners to either step up or leave…thus a demonstration of the fans views…simple and succinct!

There are of course many fans who go the new stadium who do not share the same views. Who are not necessarily pro or anti owners but are relatively content with our position in the league, our  transfer dealings and are happy with the stadium. One cannot belittle anyone else for their opinions regardless if we do not agree with them, but we also have to acknowledge that regardless of the state of the viewing experience, especially in the lower tiers where the perspective is at a greater distance, for many this has been their only chance to view regular games or even gain a season ticket.

 

There is no quibble over any West Ham supporter wanting to support and view the team from both near and far. Those who cannot attend regular matches for the various reasons of finances, life commitments, work or distance may have a greater opportunity to see a game in the new surroundings. Some never experienced Upton Park, some welcome the modern experience and many have not been angered by the rhetoric before the move and since our occupation.

This does not make any of these fans less loyal or less passionate, however it simply means that they do not share the same opinion or do not have the same experience as other fans do. There will never be 100% agreement amongst any mass of people, however there can be greater understanding and communication of the issues and as yet unresolved problems from within the club.

For many fans, the bridges between the owners and the fanbase has been permanently scorched…never to be recovered. They do not believe in the owners, they do not believe there is enough ambition and there have been too many outbursts on social media and perceived lies…indeed too many to mention. The “Board Out” masses have been vociferous in voicing their opinions but some would also impose their opinion on others who sit on the fence or whom do not share their point of view.

“Are You Board In or Board Out?” has become a charging call across many a social media platform and the Twitterati vehicle has been going into overdrive. Many have been subjected to hostile advances or accusations of, “You’re Board In?” when in actual fact most share the same frustrations. Many have questioned the validity of even such a statement when there lacks any process by which any fans can force any change of ownership.

It simply will not happen unless the owners themselves decide they will wish to sell. The shouts of “Board Out!” will only let the owners know that a section of the fanbase and many on social media do not want their presence at the club and will be vilified until they leave.

Like many fans, I have rolled with the punches over the many years of supporting West Ham. The good, the bad and some plain ugly! There have been many average seasons and successes I am lucky to remember when I was in my boyhood years. I have seen our previous owners who have manipulated and failed us fans and I have vented my frustrations to any who would besmirch our club and disrespect the fanbase.

The Cearns and Brown name will be synonymous with older West Ham fans as owners and board members who lost favour with certain sections of the support. The Icelandic consortium with Eggert Magnusson and Bjorgolfur Guomundsson led us down a path that few will want to remember. They had high aspirations and succumbed to the global financial crisis, but there had been little conservatism about their approach that would have steered us away from financial peril.

My greatest aspiration is for our team to perform well, bring us some quality and entertaining football and progress in line with our ambitions. I am not fool enough to think that success is ever guaranteed but I would like to think we are in the fight at least and always in the hunt for better times.

My expectation of the club and the owners is that they are always honest with and respectful of the loyal fanbase. We have a global support but we are still…or rather should be…a family club that holds onto its traditions and never cut ties with its heritage. I want to be communicated with effectively, I want to share in aspirations but also in the reality of where we are and what it will take to keep our position and build on from there.

I want our views to be respected and for the wrongs to be corrected, for the issues to be resolved and for the owners and club to be wholly transparent about the financial situation and explain the apparent lethargy in successive transfer windows where the club should have had greater fortitude and bulging coffers to match their desires.

I am not Board Out…but I am not Board In either. I hold a holy disregard for any ownership that does not openly value and respect the fanbase, which is not transparent about club affairs and which does not resolve many issues that have been repeatedly raised. However, whilst the current owners have been in post, they have ruled in absurdity and have alienated many who were sold a dream or whom accepted change with clenched teeth in order to move the club forward, upwards and onwards.

Above all else, I want the problems fixed at the stadium and I want the fan experience to be improved. I want the traditions and heritage of the club reconnected with the new abode and I want the financial clarity to match the ambitions that were promised. If that is not possible, if there are new developments that we need to be aware of, if there are external pressures that prohibit such cures, then communicate that with us. If there simply isn’t any movement to address the issues and barely any acts of contrition, then it is imperative that the current owners plan an exit strategy to bring in new owners who can deliver on the failings of the current administration.

I want to hold the current owners accountable and I want them to fix things both physically, spiritually and emotionally. I want them to accept their failings and apologise. I do not want them to wash their hands in dirty water and escape with profits only to leave us in the dubious arms of more profiteers and self serving transients whom we cannot hold accountable for the current issues.

I want this battle of wills to reach a conclusion that everyone can be satisfied with. I do not want to be drawn into choosing between two parents, no matter how bitter my feelings have been and I do not want anyone to bankrupt their interests whilst leaving us to feed off incredible and regrettable morsels. They need to do more, they must deliver on promises and ambitions, but if not, then it is time to hand over the reigns to responsible debutants who will share their ambitions with the faithful. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?…I am!

 

By Alf Gasparro

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