In the wake of the Hillsborough disaster in April 1989, the Lord Justice Taylor Report paved the way to all-seater stadiums in the top division. With the aim of funding the necessary ground redevelopment, starting with what is now the Bobby Moore Stand, the club launched the Bond Scheme in November 1991.
The club offered supporters the opportunity to purchase bonds in three price bands - £500, £750 and £950, ownership of which would confer the right to buy a matchday or season ticket for a designated seat for 150 years. The initial take up, although way below target, was sufficient for the Club to secure the underwriting of the scheme.
It is fair to say that the scheme was something of a public relations disaster for the club. Many longstanding supporters were affronted by the implication that unless they purchased a bond, they may lose the right to renew their season ticket.
In response to the initial hostility, and following negotiations with representatives from the new group of bondholders, the Club softened the lines of the scheme and improved the benefits - not least by introducing a ten year discount on season ticket prices for bondholders (expiring at the end of the 2001-02 season).
For the 808 supporters who took up the Club's offer, the investment has been rewarded not only by the discount but by way of priority for the purchase of away match tickets. In addition, the Executive Committee of the Hammers Bond Company meets the Board of Directors regularly to discuss issues that are of concern and interest to bondholders and to many other lifelong West Ham supporters.
Either by post to:
Hammers Bond Company
c/o West Ham United
London E13 9AZ
Or by email to:
Buying and selling bonds
The Bond scheme itself closed in 1997 - since when no new Bonds have been issued and the number of Bonds held will henceforth remain fixed at 808.
From time to time, Bondholders decide to sell, and in those circumstances the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Hammers Bond Company will generally be prepared to assist to the following extent:
· By maintaining a waiting list of prospective buyers
· By putting prospective sellers in touch with prospective buyers
· By advising on the administrative process
Any transaction is between the seller and buyer. Once a price has been agreed (the amount of which is purely between the seller and purchaser) the Secretary will always advise that the Club holds the cheque for the seller pending formal transfer of the Bond certificate.
It is fair to say that there remains a healthy demand for Bonds when they come to be offered for sale, despite the expiry of the season ticket discount.
Hammers Bond Company
Chairman - Alf Wilkins
Vice Chairman - David Parish
Secretary - John Walker
Treasurer - David Playle