Independent Supporters’ Committee hold final meeting of 2020/21 season
West Ham United met with the new Independent Supporters’ Committee (ISC) for the final meeting of the 2020/21 season on Thursday 3 June.
Interim Chair and Pride of Irons Co-Chair Jim Dolan chaired the meeting, held virtually. The meeting was also attended by interim Vice-Chair Sue Watson of the West Ham United Independent Supporters’ Association (WHUISA), Andy McConnell of Hammers United, Cathy Bayford representing the Disabled Supporters’ Board, Don Adams of Any Old Irons, Lee Vehit from Inclusive Irons, Paul Christmas representing the Official Supporters’ Club and Steve Applebee from the Bondholders Committee. Senior representatives from the Club, led by Vice-Chairman Karren Brady, were on hand to answer any questions.
The ISC submitted their own agenda, with discussions on the 2020/21 Club survey and wider approach to supporter engagement, Ticketing, ISC representation with the Safety Advisory Group, a review of the last home match of the season and plans for the upcoming 2021/22 campaign, including European ticketing and travel arrangements.
During the 2020/21 season
The 2020/21 season saw the creation of the ISC, formed independently by several supporters’ groups, working with the Club and the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) as part of the Hammers’ enhanced approach to fan consultation, with the aim of improving the experience for all supporters. Club representatives meet with the ISC four times per season, with the Club continuing to meet individually with each supporters group on the ISC on matters of specific interest to them.
The Club and ISC continued to meet and consult regularly throughout the 2021/22 season, with nine formal meetings taking place, supplemented by dialogue and informal meetings between various members of the ISC and senior Club staff. The Club, ISC and FSA have worked hard together to embed a new relationship and processes for consultation, which were formally agreed via a Memorandum of Understanding.
Besides the formation of the new relationship, the most notable subject matter for 2020/21 involved the long-awaited return of supporters to matches, with discussions focused on ticketing operations and communications as we prepared to welcome fans back to London Stadium. As part of the most recent discussions with the ISC, the Club has taken on board feedback and also agreed to refund the booking fees for the Southampton home match.
As a result of the continued dialogue between both parties, we launched the Hammers Hub, a central place on WHUFC.com to host all of the important safety and matchday information for Hammers fans. This was supported further by the Club communicating any updates personally with all Season Ticket Holders and match attendees, consulting with the ISC on our communications.
In addition to continuing to consult on key matters of interest to supporters, the Club and ISC have also committed to working together to deliver the following immediate priorities:
Tickets for the NHS
The Ticketing Subcommittee - one of four subcommittees formed by the ISC – suggested that supporters are able to join the Club in its efforts to support the NHS, with fans being able to voluntarily use some of their Club Cash to purchase and donate tickets for NHS staff, via the West Ham United Foundation. The Club has committed to supporting this fan-led initiative, accompanying the support and access to tickets that the Club currently provides to the community – which includes tens of thousands of tickets each season. This show of unity is another example of the Club and supporters working together to support the community throughout the pandemic, following our joint work to support the Irons Supporting Foodbanks initiative.
During the pandemic, the Club made a pledge of support for the Club’s local NHS trusts across East London and Essex, by committing to a range of new positive community initiatives which will help the NHS to provide vital support for patients and staff and see a total of £28million be invested by the end of 2021 across local communities, with the purpose of motivating, inspiring, educating and responding to local need. So far, these programmes have created more than £1.4million of annual savings to the NHS. The Club worked with Barts Charity and King George and Queen’s Hospitals charities to ensure our support was focused on addressing the things that frontline NHS workers needed, which included promoting awareness of their critically important charitable appeals and fundraising initiatives for equipment and staff wellbeing, with Club Captain Mark Noble playing a leading role in the NHS charity campaign. In addition, the Club made an initial donation of 1,000 shirts for West Ham supporting patients, and provided special experiences for patients, their families, and NHS workers, including supplying tickets to matches and morale boosting messages from players including Declan Rice and Aaron Cresswell, helping to raise the spirits of those who have been through so much during the pandemic.
Full information on this new initiative will be communicated to Season Ticket holders in advance of the new season.
Safer coach travel drop-off locations for supporters
The Club agreed to explore the provision of a safer drop-off location for supporters returning to the local area after using the official club coach travel for away matches. The Club welcomed the ISC’s suggestion to look at this and will be trialling a new location for supporters to arrive back to the local area in order to support the safety of our supporters and our continued commitment to equality and inclusion.
Supporting former Boleyn Ground and local sellers
The Club and ISC both discussed their shared desire to see further opportunity for former Boleyn Ground/local sellers to be present close to the stadium on matchday. The Club has previously assisted the Rib Man in discussions with the stadium catering partner and welcomed his arrival at London Stadium. We will continue to explore this opportunity with the ISC, with both parties making a commitment to work together with a united aim in supporting the presence of former Boleyn Ground and local tradespeople on matchday in any way possible.
ISC Interim Chair Jim Dolan said “When this new relationship between club and fans was launched, I asked that you judge us on our results and the announcement of these initiatives shows that working together, the Club and the ISC can deliver for the supporters.
"There are many more things we can and want to achieve together but in the short time that the ISC and West Ham have been working together, these agreements show that there is the willingness and ability to get things done.
"Community is at the heart of what makes West Ham supporters special and with agreements to help provide tickets for our brave NHS staff, drop-off points to keep fans safe when returning from away matches and working to bring about a return of local sellers, I hope fans can see that we are working to strengthen those community bonds and build an enduring relationship that delivers on the proud traditions of West Ham United and its loyal fanbase.”
Looking to 2021/22
West Ham United’s expanding approach to supporter consultation
“We’re delighted to have established a brand new relationship with the Independent Supporters’ Committee this season which we hope will benefit the experience of supporting West Ham United for all of our fans. We’re looking forward to continuing and growing our relationship with the ISC who play a key role in our wider structure for supporter consultation, working alongside the Club’s multiple channels of supporter engagement, including our dedicated Supporter Services team, 50-strong Matchday Supporter Liaison team, the Hammers Help Twitter handle @westhamhelp, Hammers Help Centre, Disabled Supporters’ Board, Junior Supporters’ Board, and West Ham Women’s Supporters’ Board, as well as regular surveys, personal communication, points of contact, and the recent addition of the Hammers Hub, created in direct response to ISC feedback.” Vice-Chairman, Karren Brady
Supporting independent and democratic fan elections
The Club understands the importance of our fans having an independent voice and process in meetings and through dialogue with the Board and senior management staff at the Club. Following fan feedback, the Club is in the advanced stages of facilitating a partnership with one of the UK’s leading election services companies who will be responsible for providing an independent and democratic voting process for the positions of Away Season Ticket Holder representative, Claret member, and ISC Chair/Vice Chair. The process will be created working alongside the ISC and the Football Supporters’ Association, with full details to be shared with supporters in advance of the 2021/22 campaign.
Continuing discussions and European football
The Club and ISC look forward to working together throughout the close season, with sub-committees formed on Ticketing, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and the Return of supporters to matches, as well as continued discussions on European ticketing and travel arrangements and all elements of the home and away matchday experience. We are keen to hear from supporters who want to share their constructive ideas, suggestions and input to improve the supporter experience and further inform discussions between the ISC and the Club as we prepare for a new season and the exciting prospect of European football.
Full, independently reviewed, minutes of the final ISC meeting of the season will be available in due course.