West Ham United co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold, together with vice-chairman Karren Brady, have been urged to rethink the club’s season ticket renewal policy and the handling of their London Stadium reconfiguration.
Sullivan, Gold and Brady were the subject of fan protests before the coronavirus lockdown and the behind-closed-doors restart during which West Ham narrowly escaped relegation from the Premier League.
The absence of fans and social distancing rules spared the West Ham board of further protests during the final months of the season and the club believe positive dialogue has taken place between themselves and supporter groups, including those who organised and supported the demonstrations.
But questions have been raised over West Ham’s season ticket renewal process for 2020/21 at a time when it is still not known when fans will be allowed back into stadiums.
Fans have been given three options, two of which involve them paying for the entirety of their season ticket up front and receiving funds on a match-by-match basis for the games they are not allowed to attend, in return for being entered into ballots for any reduced capacity games. The third option allows supporters to pay 30 per cent of their season ticket up front, but only allows them into a ballot for seats when 70 per cent or more of the stadium is reopened to supporters.
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West Ham’s London rivals Tottenham Hotspur allowed fans to renew their season tickets and enter a ballot for tickets when reduced crowds are let back in by making a payment of 20 per cent of the full price before August 7.
West Ham initially placed an August 28 deadline for fans to decide whether or not to renew their season tickets, but consideration is already being given to extending that date. The club insist they are happy to answer all questions on the process and are yet to announce their full plans for supporters who are shielding.
The West Ham United Independent Supporters Association and Hammers United (WHUISA) were part of the talks regarding the club’s renewal process, but both groups believe a number of their concerns and suggestions have not been addressed.
A statement from the WHUISA read: “WHUISA is disheartened with how the season ticket renewal process has been carried out to date and question how reflective of current circumstances, both health-wise and financially, the decisions made, to date, have been.
“We feel how those with specific health needs, those shielding, older supporters and those who are facing financial challenges need to be further addressed.
“Whilst WHUISA has been assured other options are being considered we have been contacted by many members who are confused, aware the final date for renewal is coming up and are still unsure or unclear of their options, many are feeling panicked and pressured into making a decision when the future around supporters returning to games is unclear.”
West Ham are moving two stands closer to the pitch in time for next season as part of London Stadium reconfiguration plans, but the club have been accused of moving supporters’ seats without consultation.
The WHUISU statement added: “The whole process around season ticket renewal combined with those affected by the reconfiguration needs to be urgently addressed.”
Hammers United, the group that organised the protests against Sullivan, Gold and Brady, released their own statement that said: “We find the clubs approach to season ticket renewal in the current climate extremely disappointing.
“We are trying to work with the club in an effort to improve things, but our tabled suggestions focused on improving communication on this and other matters, urging the club to consider its social responsibility as well as its commercial objectives and to make specific provision for our financially challenged and older supporters are yet to be implemented.
“We’re advised work continues behind the scenes and these proposals and others are under consideration, but our members want answers now and feel pressured without them, believing they have no option but to make a a financial commitment, in many cases having to borrow money to fulfil it, without anybody really knowing what the future actually holds.
“All this amid another debacle regarding the new seating-plan-to-increase- capacity that has seen friends and families that have been watching West Ham together, often for decades, split up all over the stand.
“This is no way to treat loyal, time served fans, who season in season out financially and emotionally support the team. It makes the club look detached from its supporters and behind the times, which of course leads to protest. They could and should be doing a lot better here.”