The West Ham United Supporter Advisory Board is to undergo an exciting transformation in the coming weeks, as the Club seeks to revamp its supporter consultation strategy.
With an ever growing need to involve supporters in the Club's decision making mechanisms, it was felt that the time was right to take a fresh look at supporter consultation as a whole, of which the SAB is naturally a pivotal part.
Originally founded in May 2011, the SAB has been instrumental spearheading all manner of high-profile campaigns, not least the hugely popular partnership with adidas. Among their many other telling contributions, they paved the way for the introduction of a new digital platform, the digital matchday programme and helped to revitalise the Boleyn Ground's matchday entertainment line-up to the benefit of their fellow supporters.
Most recently and perhaps most significantly the group has played a vital role in informing new Stadium policy, as well as helping to steer the Club's commemorative plans for the final Boleyn Ground season.
The Club are determined to build on those strong foundations and are confident that, with the appointment of a dedicated Supporter Liaison Officer (SLO), a new-look SAB can have an even more meaningful impact on the most important matters.
Vice-Chairman Karren Brady was a key driver in establishing this fan initiative three years ago and is rightly proud of its evolution.
"We are enormously grateful to the SAB for all their hard work over the past three years and I personally want them to know that they have made a considerable difference to this football club," the Vice-Chairman confirmed.
"I am proud of all that we have achieved together and their input is going to be more important than ever as we continue the exciting transition to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It's imperative to us that our supporters are comfortable with and understand the process, so there will be much to discuss in the coming weeks and months."
As has always been the case, the SAB will continue to be a key sounding board on core issues, while also advising on strategy, not least where the new Stadium is concerned. Additionally, for the first time ever, the SAB and its members are now to be called upon to represent the Club at major external meetings, for example at the Premier League and the like.
A modified selection process will see the formation of a slightly smaller overall group, but one that better represents the diversity of the Club's fans. Though membership has previously been restricted to Season Ticket Holders and Members, match attendees are now also welcome to apply.
The Club are actively seeking applications from across the supporter base demographic, so that all ages, genders and backgrounds have appropriate representation.
Additionally, the Club is calling upon representatives of all independent supporter groups from the many key sectors of the wider West Ham family to add to the offers of official representation from groups such as Bondholders, Corporate Members, wheelchair and ambulant fans, and other representative groups that have already approached the Club.
Crucially, in order to ensure that the SAB's reach extends far beyond its membership, the most pressing topics will be communicated via Club channels, as and when they are discussed during meetings. While supporters can certainly still channel their feedback through SAB members, they are also encouraged to share those comments directly with the Club's newly-recruited Supporter Liaison Officer, James Rutherford. Himself a former SAB Member, James is enthused by the Club's fresh approach to supporter consultation and is looking forward to hearing from fans from far and wide.
He explained: "As a long term fan and a previous SAB member I know from my own experiences how valuable the Supporter Advisory Board can be, and I'm excited about what the future holds. This is a massive period in the clubs history and its important we understand every supporter.
"I'm here to listen to the West Ham fans, and intend to make that process as simple and effective as it possibly can be. Fans have an unique insight into this football club and it's important that our voice is always heard."
A meeting of the existing SAB has been convened for Tuesday 21 October, during which the aforementioned new proposals will be set out. While it is only fair that existing SAB Members are the first to learn of the revamped process, we ask that supporters keep a lookout on Tuesday evening for extensive details of how to apply to join the 2014/15 SAB.