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Did Sullivan say that?


Filed: Friday, 15th March 2019
By: Paul Walker


Sometimes it seems a little harsh to drag up things people said in the past; sometimes it does no harm to remind them of what they said.

So with the season ticket hike controversy still in the spotlight, a look back at a David Sullivan interview with the Guardian around the time of the move from the Boleyn is very illuminating, words that should not be forgotten.

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Sullivan, who rarely talks to the media, gave the interview to Jacob Steinberg, a trusted and respected journalist, a West Ham fan.

You must remember, he was the guy so many supposed Hammers fans heaped shocking anti-Semitic abuse on after the Nic Tucker affair, when the newly-elected Official Supporters Board member was removed for having allegedly racist content on his website.

Now Sullivan and the board are engulfed in criticism after price hikes between 9 per cent and 90 per cent were announced this week, with the real problem being the way those cheap tickets for kids have been targeted, along with those 'Founders' - the fans who bought season tickets in that first season at Stratford.

But here is what Sullivan said at the time: “We haven’t taken the stadium and tried to bleed the supporters for every penny we can get.

“We’ve gone in there and thought we have to make football available to the average family man. A man or divorced person can bring two kids with them for under £500 a season.

“We’ve got 10,000 under-16 season ticket holders because they’re £99. We’ve got the best community department in the country. We’ve ploughed money into the ladies team. We are a football club with a conscience.

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“We have the second cheapest season ticket behind Huddersfield (in the Premier League. So we have a social conscience.”

I wonder how he views those objectives now? It is the way these increases were announced, and the total by-passing of the new Official Supporters Board, that has bemused and annoyed many.

It was only on Thursday, two days after the announcements, that the club held talks with the OSB. Their chairman David Baker, tweeted on Thursday evening.

"(I have) raised concerns regarding the new season ticket pricing structure, and revised renewal timing in direct face-to-face meetings with the club at Rush Green," he wrote. "Dialogue to continue up to our ticketing sub-group meeting next Thursday."

The words 'horse' and 'bolted' come to mind there. These price rises must surely have been planned weeks ago, so the OSB have had two meetings now without a word from the club. Which is not acceptable.

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There may be many fans who feel such words from Sullivan mean very little as the club have opted to make changes to season ticket prices in all areas bar the band five tickets, the cheapest in the stadium.

There has still not been any official explanation from the club, who declined to respond to a statement from the West Ham United Independent Supporters Association.

Now there are many fans who are not surprised at the rises, and do not consider them excessive. It is a valid argument. But there are others who see specific targeted sections of West Ham support as a classic divide and rule approach. And targeting kids is very poor PR.

If you can afford it, lucky you. If not it looks like families, fathers with a couple of kids, are taking the brunt of this. Over a year it is felt that the rises will bring in about £3.6m, if you look at, say, a 15 per cent increase - roughly the average increases across the board - on £24m, the figure the club revealed as their ticketing revenue from the last accounts.

You wonder if it is worth it from the club’s point of view, with so little financial return. Some fans may well say enough is enough. When the club moved from the Boleyn they lost 10,000 season ticket holders who did not renew. Last season the figure was about 5,000.

In the industry this is called churn, and not considered alarming. But say another 5,000 fans opt not to renew this summer. That would mean 20,000 people have turned their back on the club since arriving at Stratford.

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Is that West Ham‘s form of social cleansing, or a way to fill those seats with more affluent fans who are more likely to accept higher prices?

I do feel, though, that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the club’s working class roots. It has happened at many clubs, I have personal working experience of the changes at Manchester United, for example. The game, it seems, is going that way.


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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