WHUISA Meet With David SullivanWHUISA Meet With David Sullivan

Minutes of meeting between WHUISA and David Sullivan

 

Present were – David Sullivan (DS), Jack Sullivan (JS) Representing WHUISA: Mark Walker (MW) Paul

Turner (PT) and Amanda Jacks (AJ) from the Football Supporters Federation

 

After formal introductions, ground rules of the meeting were established. It was agreed that prior to publication  of  these  notes,  we  would  gain  Mr  Sullivan’s  agreement  that  they  were  a  fair  and accurate reflection of our discussions prior to distribution among our members.

 

Given that it is the ideal of virtually all supporter organisations to have representation at Board level, MW asked DS for his views on this.  DS was immediately agreeable to exploring this idea although offered a compromise solution of co-opting a former WHU player accountable to supporters. MW suggested that the selection of a player could well be an alternative, however experience of playing for WHU is a dramatically different one than being a supporter, and that an elected accountable supporter would be a better solution. DS did not disagree although made it clear that any Board member would have fiscal and legal responsibilities and cautioned us to get professional legal advice in this regard.

 

ACTION It was agreed that WHUISA research the proposal of a Fan on the Board in more detail and consult with our members (including the option of having a player instead).   AJ suggested it would be sensible to seek clarification on exactly what Board members responsibilities were and potential financial & legal implications for them.

 

We then moved on to questions;

 

  • How will we bridge the gap from where we are, to where you‚Äôve said before you want the club to be, and what is your timetable?

 

DS started by saying he is massively disappointed with what has happened this season. He starts each season with ambition to win the league, hopes to have a a miracle season like Leicester but

 

always sets the realistic ambition to be finishing in the top 8 and nudging the top 4. However he stated that he has given himself 5-6 years to turn it around and if not will then step aside.

 

  • What does success look like to you with regards footballing matters? Define it and quantify it?

 

DS said we need to buy better, giving the example of Dele Alli of Spurs, but also said that we need to sell ¬†better. ¬†He¬† stressed ¬†his ¬†disappointment¬† of¬† the¬† Payet ¬†situation, ¬†comparing ¬†it ¬†to ¬†Mahrez ¬†at Leicester and wanting to hold on to him until the Summer. DS said he was desperately disappointed with the cup form, adding we have been unlucky with the away draws (drawing Man Utd after beating Liverpool in 15/16) and that the odd cup final would be success. PT put to DS statements made ¬†by ¬†David¬† Moyes ¬†and ¬†his ¬†assistants ¬†before ¬†the ¬†Shrewsbury ¬†and ¬†Wigan ¬†cup ¬†matches ¬†that seemed ¬†to ¬†indicate ¬†that¬† WHUFC ¬†did ¬†not ¬†prioritise ¬†winning ¬†or ¬†competing ¬†in ¬†cup ¬†competitions properly. DS responded by stating that David Moyes put out ‚Äúthe strongest side possible‚ÄĚ in trying to beat Wigan and reiterated that he wants to see WHUFC win a cup.

 

  • Do you feel that the relationship between you and the supports is reconcilable?

 

DS said that he hoped that it was. That it’s a small minority that want him removed but fully accepts that it’s a results business. It was noted that DS grasped that WHUISA were potentially in a position to assist in bridging the gap, hence offering us a meeting.

 

 

  • Is there ¬†a ¬†realistic ¬†prospect ¬†of ¬†material ¬†changes ¬†to ¬†the ¬†stadium, ¬†if ¬†so ¬†what ¬†are ¬†the timescales?

 

DS referred us to an answer prepared by ‚Äúthe club‚ÄĚ which is at the end of these minutes (footnote i). However he did elaborate on some points including a desire to move the seats closer to the pitch but ¬†was ¬†aware ¬†that ¬†the ¬†Sports ¬†Grounds ¬†Safety¬† Authority ¬†Green ¬†Guide ¬†advises ¬†that ¬†it ¬†is¬† not considered good to have seats that are exposed to the elements. It was agreed that the stadium has generated a good atmosphere at times. ¬†DS raised that Spurs were close to securing the stadium. PT pointed out this was seen as many as a bargaining chip used by Tottenham with Haringey Council but DS said that Spurs were ‚Äúgutted‚ÄĚ not to secure the stadium. He added had we not won the bid for the OS, it would have been Spurs. The thought of having Spurs in our Borough, with a new stadium, just 2 miles from Upton Park was unthinkable to the board. I still believe it was the correct decision to move, please be the judge in ten years. There really is no going back and we have to make it work.

 

MW said that a major issue of what is missing was the intimidation factor that was generated at times at the Boleyn Ground, recognised by opposition players and fans alike.  That this atmosphere, due to the distance between the pitch and stands, is now missing is a source of real discontent among fans. DS said we would not resort to generating an artificial atmosphere with clappers and JS stressed  the  same  about  a  drum.  However  DS  said  that  he  was  open  minded  to  a  formally recognised singing section and a family section, was prepared to listen to our suggestions but that we’d have to move very quickly in this regard.

 

ACTION: WHUISA would consult on this with our members & feedback the outcome to DS.

 

  • There are ongoing issues with the stewarding at the London stadium, what steps have the club taken to assist the stadium operators get a better solution?

 

DS referred us to an answer prepared by ‚Äúthe club‚ÄĚ detailed at the end of these minutes (footnote ii.). AJ raised the potential issues ahead of the Southampton fixture and suggested that more needs to be done to address the attitude of stewards as an already tense atmosphere could be added to by over zealous policing and stewarding. DS immediately checked with the club and was reassured that two additional training sessions where in place for the fixture. DS recognised the benefits of having regular stewards working regularly in the same areas. ¬†He regretted that this was not possible at the London Stadium, and that stewarding in the stadium had been below a commercially acceptable standard.

 

PT raised the issue of privately hired security personnel who‚Äôd filmed blocks of supporters previously and who wore stab proof vests at the Stoke City match (2016/17 season) who apparently were directing stadium¬† security to eject people from the stadium. PT asked if those private security people had been hired by WHUFC or LS185/E20. DS clarified that the private security teams had not been hired by WHUFC and WHUFC had only hired staff for directly underneath the director‚Äôs box. AJ asked for reassurance that there would be no ‚Äėsnatch squads‚Äô in place for the Southampton game. DS said no snatch squads were planned and that it was vital that the game went off incident free otherwise we would be playing games behind closed doors.

 

MW explained that WHUISA has met with resistance from Newham Safety Advisory Group to their being able to have a seat at the SAG meetings. He explained the merits of having a member of WHUISA ¬†at ¬†these ¬†meetings ¬†and ¬†pointed ¬†out ¬†that ¬†supporters ¬†sat ¬†on, ¬†among others, ¬†SAGs ¬†with Haringey ¬†Council, ¬†Liverpool ¬†City ¬†Council ¬†(among ¬†other ¬†examples) ¬†as¬† per ¬†recommending ¬†Sports Ground Safety Authority and FSF best practice.¬†¬† ¬†DS asked what the barriers to attending these meetings were.¬† ¬†AJ explained that many SAGs were resistant to the notion of supporter representation citing concerns around breaches of confidentiality and not knowing which supporter to ask. DS finished by saying whilst we’ll support a fan’s representative being on it, the ultimate decision is Newham councils not ours, But I would like to lobby & progress this point. I think it‚Äôs an important and constructive point that you have made.

 

ACTION:  DS recognised that a supporter could give a unique and valuable insight to SAG meetings and appreciated that they could make a helpful all round contribution to these meetings. MW will write to DS about the SAG so that the process can be started.

 

  • Have interviews been held for the DOF position and what is the scope of the role?

 

DS said that the club have hired a top, global sports headhunting company to identify possible candidates but it’s not possible to place someone at the moment and expand the role, as we don’t know what division we will be in next season. But even that appointment might not be a miracle cure and that player recruitment can be difficult. He gave some examples of players that have failed to settle in the Premier League citing luck as a contributory factor.

 

  • Is there a recognition that the current Chairmen need to take a step back and for a full time experienced CEO to be appointed to work alongside a DOF and Manager?

 

DS touched upon the points again that he gave to his previous answer. Adding again there is always an element of luck with any appointment. He said that he would take a step back over the summer;

 

he pointed to his track record at Birmingham and that the side he left went on to win a cup.  DS also

stressed that he didn’t like failure and genuinely wanted the club to succeed.

 

  • Are you ¬†aware ¬†of ¬†the ¬†embarrassment ¬†many ¬†supporters ¬†feel ¬†at ¬†reading ¬†unprofessional comments from either yourself, your children, your Co-Chairman and your Vice Chair on social media or national newspapers with regards to matters concerning the club?

 

DS accepted that not all the press interviews he had made were helpful and that both his sons had more or less stopped tweeting about the football club. PT raised some of the retweets of David Gold and it was agreed these were unfortunate. DS said that he no longer will give interviews to the press. He stated that Karren Brady has a contract with the Sun, independent of her contract with the football club, and that Karren’s contract with the football club allows her to write her weekly columns for The Sun.

 

  • Will you formally recognise WHUISA as the club’s FSF affiliated body and build a stronger two way relationship?

 

DS had a formal answer from the club (footnote iii) but stressed his keenness to meet and engage with WHUISA. MW explained that we are not a Facebook Group or Forum and that we work with all stakeholders including the Premier League, Police and other supporters associations and that we wanted to be a critical friend of the club.

 

Our ¬£1 membership fee sets an affordable distinction band and helps people feel more engaged with what WHUISA does. MW also stressed that there is no formal agenda as such and that we are the equivalent of a work place union for supporters. Our aims evolve in accordance with our members priorities.¬† ¬†That the entire board of WHUISA stands annually for re-election motivates us.¬† ¬†DS recognised the benefits of our structure and understood that that is what makes us unique in a crowded market place of fans ‚Äėgroups‚Äô.

 

JS raised the Supporters Advisory Board and MW made the point that it’s no longer elected in any way, which DS agreed needed to be looked at. AJ pointed out the fact that many members of the SAB  have  no  formal  mechanism  to  gather  the  views  of  the  supporters  they  are  supposed  to represent and it wasn’t unreasonable to suggest that the fan base were cynical about the SAB thanks to its undemocratic structure.   DS agreed to a point suggesting that he preferred a previous incarnation of the SAB where fans got the opportunity to vote for representatives.

 

  • It appears there are still approximately ¬£45m in shareholder loans owed by the club. Are you and ¬†other ¬†shareholders ¬†prepared¬† to ¬†cancel ¬†those ¬†loans, ¬†converting ¬†them ¬†to ¬†equity ¬†and thereby demonstrating a long term commitment to the club? We have recently seen a majority shareholder at Everton FC do just that

 

DS stressed there was no pressure on the club to pay off the loans and debts. That the extra money was first used to pay off the Icelandic debts but they (DS and David Gold) don’t have £45 million since they are asset rich and cash poor. He wanted the affordable family tag at West Ham and that the £289/£99 tickets where bad in the short term for the club. He also made clear that the money invested in West Ham is from his investment company and directly his. That company has a responsibility to its own employees etc.

 

Meeting with the Mayor (Sadiq Khan) was going to be an important step as the expansion of the London Stadium to full capacity will help. It was suggested by MW that DS should attend that meeting with the Mayor on the 26th March and that it would also be wise to reach out to Rokhsana Fiaz who will likely become the new Mayor of Newham in May. DS raised that the new Spurs stadium will be super but would West Ham fans be willing to pay the prices that Spurs have just announced? DS concluded that he and David Gold were British Tax Payers and that they were not drawing dividends from the club.

 

  • Would you sacrifice your ultimate controlling interest should a new investor appear on the scene and offer you a fair price for some of your shares?

 

DS reinstated he had no desire to sell the club but referred back to his stated timetable of 5-6 years for improvements. He highlighted the fact that the difference between finishing 7th  and 17th  is £22 million.  However he would step aside if the King of Saudi Arabia wanted to buy the club. He finished by saying the winner never quits and a quitter never wins.

 

DS finished by saying that it was vitally important that every supporter got behind the team in the remaining 5 games. Please protest, if you still feel it’s necessary, at the end of the season and not now and never inside the stadium when a match it being played as it does impact upon the players. That  he  was  pleased  to  have  met  WHUISA  and  was  happy  to  keep  an  open  channel  of communication between us and work on the agreed actions.   He had no issue with trust with WHUISA or any committee member. MW agreed he would email DS separately on each of the points agreed.

 

 

 

Footnotes

 

Footnote i

 

  • In answer to – Is there a realistic prospect of material changes to the stadium, if so what are the timescales?

 

A great deal of work was put into the transformation of the Stadium to begin with within the scope of the existing infrastructure.

 

The seats were brought closer to the pitch as promised and had a roof that covered them. There are no restricted views and all seats have a clear view of play.

 

We were and remain committed to constantly improving the Stadium where possible.  Unfortunately we  had  problems  with  our  landlords  which  has  meant  we  must  take  them  to  court  to  seek  a resolution to the impasse. I cannot discuss the details, but we are pushing for a host of changes that we are entitled to under our agreement with them. They have ignored our claims but we are hopeful things will move forward now the mayor has offered to step in.

 

You ask about timescales. The court case will be in the autumn and should we win we are hopeful we can instigate some clear improvements immediately.

 

We hope that this process will also mean we can build a relationship with them going forward to our mutual benefit.

 

We have announced we will commission architects to make some positive recommendations on what can be done to improve the stadium for us and E20, our landlords.

 

E20 are also commissioning studies in this regard and we have suggested that this would be better if we worked together.

 

This has been put to them and again we await their response. WE have made clear  to them that doing so in silo does not make sense when changes that would benefit that Club could also benefit E20 through shared investment in making them happen. However as you are already aware as it was requested  by  the  supporter  groups  at  the  meeting  which  you  attended  either  way  we  have committed to commission a study into what is possible in terms of the improving the seating this season.

 

It’s findings will dictate next steps. In reality the Club can commission studies to better understand what is possible but our landlord must work with us to implement our contractual rights and to discuss changes that can benefit us both which is why it is so important that Mayor has finally agreed to engage with us.

 

Even at the time of the agreement we did envisage that with the benefit of the platform the Stadium gives us to generate additional revenue over time that increased budget to re-invest would enable us to make some further changes.  It is for this reason that our contract has a clause within it around our ability to make improvements and alterations to the Stadium.

 

We  are  always  working  with  E20  to  explore  improvements  that  can  be  made  to  enhance  the supporter experience. Many of the improvements our supporters would like to see also benefit E20 as

 

they benefit all spectator pitch sports. For example we were already exploring some changes to improve some seats behind the goals.

 

Secondly, in terms of supporters raising the issue of material change, this was raised for the first time at the meeting of the West Ham Groups United and has not previously been put to the Club in correspondence or in meetings including those held directly with WHUISA ‚Äď either the previous or existing committee -it¬† this has clearly moved up the agenda.

 

We have also been pursuing the delivery of changes which will further enhance the look and feel of the Stadium as our home ground along with other improvements,  all of which are covered in our contract with our landlord.

 

Their failure to deliver these so far has forced us to pursue a legal route.

 

In terms of changes Karren’s letter to the West Ham Groups United is clear on what we have committed to and the matters that will require our landlord to engage with us.

 

  • There are ongoing issues with the stewarding at the London stadium, what steps have the club taken to assist the stadium operators get a better solution?

 

Footnote ii

 

  • In answer to: There are ongoing issues with the stewarding at the London stadium, what steps have the club taken to assist the stadium operators get a better solution?

 

This was covered in my/ Karren’s letter to the fan groups which you were included within as has been extensively covered at the SAB which you attend and is summarised below

 

  • The ground has upwards of 1,000 stewards per PL game whose roles are divided between the bridges, turnstiles, stewarding inner bowl and on ingress and egress routes.

 

  • We have progressed from using only one stewarding provider (OCS) to four to increase competition, assist with performance monitoring and provided us with a broader scope to attract better quality stewards to London Stadium

 

  • Of the four quadrant managers, two are ex-Boleyn stewards and both have been promoted to senior positions.

 

  • A new Head of Safety and Security is in post, Dave Sadler.

 

  • Additional new Deputy Safety Officer, Andrew Bracken.

 

  • We have previously written to all former Boleyn stewards to ask if they would like to return and this offer remains very much open – we would welcome them back.

 

  • The Club have directly employed 40 SLOs to provide directional assistance and take care of any supporter feedback, enquiries or complaints on matchday and to work with stewards and to observe and report back to the Club.

 

  • Two former Boleyn stewards are SLOs and we will be happy to speak to any others that would like to apply for a role.

 

  • Boleyn Stewards were actively encouraged to make the move to the Stadium on several occasions. And West Ham United and LS185 offered to pay for the necessary NVQ training for them.

 

  • Those that joined us were re-deployed to key areas.

 

  • The Club has worked collaboratively with LS185 on a number of initiatives to educate Stewards on the rich history and heritage of West Ham United and the importance of serving our fanbase and keeping them safe on a matchday including introducing a West Ham United section in the steward briefing notes and verbal briefing.

 

  • Ben ¬†Illingworth, ¬†Head ¬†of ¬†Matchday ¬†Operations ¬†for ¬†West ¬†Ham ¬†United¬† attends ¬†the ¬†senior manager and supervisor briefings to provide updates and discusses the importance of their role at West Ham United.

 

  • Yours and your fellow supporters‚Äô experience on a matchday is of paramount importance to us. In the event supporters wish to report an incident or experience relating to stewarding we do want to hear directly ‚Äď if possible straight away. SLOs are on hand on the day or you can email et. The majority of supporter report that this service is efficient. We can only act on the information we have but we assure you that if there is inadequate service, we will work with LS185 and are very much able to ensure that these individuals do not return.

 

Ultimately though we do not control the operation of the Stadium. We offered to buy the Stadium outright ¬†initially ¬†but ¬†that¬† was ¬†refused. ¬†We ¬†have ¬†done ¬†everything ¬†in ¬†our ¬†power ¬†to ¬†improve ¬†the Stadiums operation. When the issues occurred last season ‚Äď it was West Ham‚Äôs suggestions that ultimately addressed the issues. WE have offered help, advice and input at every juncture having successfully operated a Stadia for over 25 years, six of those at the Boleyn Ground and we feed into the SAG. We are working closely with all of the London Stadium Stakeholders as our primary focus is on ensuring that anyone attending London Stadium can do so safely. There will be additional security and police at the Southampton fixture.

 

Footnote iii

 

  • In answer to : Will you formally recognise WHUISA as the club’s FSF affiliated body and build a stronger two way relationship?

 

WE already recognise WHIUISA formally as such you have a seat on the SAB. Next Monday’s SAB will look at the structure and format of the SAB as you yourself suggested to ensure it can grow to be more effective forum but it must remain the inclusive forum that we engage with. WHUISA are important to us but we cannot engage with one group only we must recognise the views of all supporters and supporter groups but are certainly keen to build a stronger two way relationship

Jon Pope

By Jon Pope

Use to sit in the BML for 10 years, been a West Ham fan all my life, and my great grandfather was a founder member of the TIW. I also help run the Hammer Chat website.

2 thought on “Meeting With David Sullivan”
  1. I have no doubt that the board have the club’s best interest at heart but . . surely you do not firstly make sure the the meeting is fair and accurate?

    Should have been a open honest no holds bard response. The more open and frank the better solutions are achieved.

    I think time to hold hands up fans and board because both need to answer and just be honest … Club justs needs to be upfront on the questions supporters ask and not just hide behind ‘we would like’ or ‘we tried’ ‘ee hope’ and then tell them why or how honextly this is difficult to achieve.

    Supporters obviously need to listen to the money men and appreciate how hard it is to move any club forwatd. We are miles apart because cutrently honesty is missing between club and fans… bring that back and we have a club again… COYI

    Open and honest = Solutions = success… COYI

  2. What about the retractable seating solution?
    The scaffolding is a joke and is making us a laughing stock.
    More importantly as already witnessed this season, it has had a detrimental effect on fixtures and results.
    And more importantly it diverts funds away from the stadium owners/operators spending the money needed in order to meet their contractual obligations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.