Filed: Wednesday, 18th January 2017
By: Staff Writer
Last night a group of representatives from various West Ham United websites, blogs and YouTube channels met with vice chair Karren Brady to discuss the ongoing situation at the Olympic Stadium.
During the three-hour meeting, which was staged in Stratford, representatives from the following organisations took the opportunity to question Brady and her team (including members of the Marketing and Media departments) about various issues regarding the stadium:
Knees up Mother Brown (KUMB); Claret & Hugh; Hammers Chat; West Ham Til I Die; West Ham Way; West Ham Fan TV; Sex, Drugs & Carlton Cole. Jack Sullivan, the son of co-owner David was also present (though not involved in discussion).
During the session, all of the ten key points outlined in KUMB's recent plan were discussed, along with several other important issues pertaining to West Ham fans' experience of the stadium...
1. Surround the local area with fromer Boleyn Ground vendors
KB explained that the main issue with implementing this particular suggestion is the stadium's close proximity to Westfield shopping centre (and their businesses) and that the club simply have no jurisdiction over the streets leading to the island. There are plans however to make the bridge/s leading to the Island more West Ham-ified.
2. Make a concerted effort to entice former Boleyn Ground stewards to return
It was acknowledged that KB had initiated this with a single tweet, posted last month, however she was asked if it was possible to do more to attempt to lure former employees back to the club. Paying the London Living Wage and the potential for stewards at the OS to earn the same as those at the BG (same overtime rates) were suggested.
I understand that, as of Thursday lunchtime, letters have been sent to all former steward employees and that a request has been made to LS185 asking for all stewards to be paid the London Living Wage.
Stewarding was perhaps the main topic of discussion during the meeting, with all parties agreeing that fewer issues had been observed in recent weeks - although a video highlighting a recent incident between fans and stewards in Block 114 was also discussed.
This is partly due to the club insisting that LS185 station stewards in regular spots so that they may build a rapport with those fans around them. The club will also ensure all staff are able to obtain NVQ certification (online if necessary).
3. Replace the temporary seating with retractable seating
Quite frankly, as long as we remain at a stadium owned by the state, this is unlikely ever to happen due to the vast costs involved. Although almost everything else here can be worked on, this is an absolute no-go as things stand, according to KB.
4. Rehouse the Supporters' Club
We learnt that preliminary talks between the two parties had taken place and it was stressed that a solution had thus far been impossible to find. The impression given was that the club had tried to help as much as possible without any agreement having been reached, including strengthening the links between the Club and Newham Council. We intend to clarify the position with the SC.
5. Rehouse the day trippers and occasional fans
KB stated that very few tickets were being allocated to Newham Council and other concerns, yet it was mentioned that anyone could book tickets via Ticketmaster's website for any home game this season. Notes were taken and further investigation suggested.
6. Put the home fans first!
Access to all local stations will be open permanently, including the new Pudding Mill station, with immediate effect. The general feeling is that LS185 are slowly getting to grips with the logistics of dealing with a large, often partisan football crowd. West Ham will increase their Match Day 'SLO' squad from 10 to 50, following favourable feedback from supporters.
7. Provide recognisable singing and family enclosures
KB maintained her earlier stance, insisting that there is a dedicated family area but that the entire stadium was designed for families (of which up to 10,000 currently enjoy ST status). She is also happy that (almost) everyone who requested to be re-situated has now been addressed. No issues relating to persistent standing had been reported in some weeks.
8. Provide an increase in the number of shuttle buses
KB promised to review the situation after it was revealed that some disabled fans had to wait for up to an hour, in the rain, for transport last weekend. It was suggested that additional buses could be laid on to affect waiting times and to extend their use to non-disabled supporters too during certain times (ie pre-2pm, to encourage fans to arrive at the ground early). The club confirmed that they had already increased the number of buses from seven to 12, for homeward journeys.
9. Employ additional Supporter Liaison Officers
Although their introduction was generally welcomed it was stressed that the request for additional SLOs referred to full-time staff, not part-time, match day stewards (as the new ones effectively are). This would bring West Ham in line with other PL clubs. KB is to investigate the possibility further, although the club confirmed this morning (Thursday) that they have already sanctioned the employment of one new, permanent SLO.
10. Treat the fans with respect and engage with us
It was felt by everyone who attended that this was an important first step in developing a relationship between the club and its independent media outlets. Now the onus is on Ms Brady and the club to deliver. Further meetings were suggested, at regular intervals (quarterly meets were mooted).
There were naturally several other points raised during the meeting, ranging from the speed at which pints of beer are served at half time (I can confirm action has already been taken on this) to the delays experienced when attempting to access the ground due to stop and search (LS185 have promised to purchase more search 'wands' to speed up this process).
One other small but important point, in terms of making the stadium feel like 'home', is that the club will now be actively encouraging supporters to bring flags to "brighten up" the inside of the ground, which may then be stored at the stadium.
Our thanks go to Karren Brady, Paul Cox and Tara Warren for arranging the event.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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