West Ham Supporters Club civil war after vote to dissolve club
PUBLISHED: 11:00 30 May 2018
Hammers fans threaten legal action after being denied vote
Civil war has broken out at the West Ham United Supporters Club after a controversial vote to dissolve the club.
With their Castle Street premises still closed since last year for health and safety reasons, the executive committee put forward the motion to be voted on at a special meeting in the Boleyn Tavern last Sunday.
But when a substantial number turned up to vote, they were turned away by security guards on the door, who told them they did not have the right to do so.
Supporter Paul Richman explained what happened that day.
“There were 43 of us turned away at the door,” he said. “The security guards checked our accreditation and said we weren’t eligible.
“In the end only 24 voted and by 18-6 they decided to dissolve the club.”
Richman and the others made their way to the Queens pub close to Upton Park to discuss what had happened and he was appointed the chairman of the new ‘Save the Supporters Club’.
“We had an impromptu meeting and decided we had to take legal action to try and stop this happening,” said Richman.
However, Supporters’ Club secretary Pat Sheehan insisted that those blocked from voting were not proper members and that dissolving the club is the only thing to do.
“I dispute the claim that there were 43 of them and those that joined at the matchday bar at Stour Space are not proper members,” said Sheehan.
“Stour Space is a separate entity to the Supporters’ Club, we make no money out of it and it only holds 200 people anyway.”
He continued: “People like Mr Richman are not prepared to listen to our point of view. We are £20-30,000 in debt and all the time the Castle Street premises is closed, we still have to pay business tax, licensing and insurance – we can’t go on losing money.”
Richman, though, doesn’t understand why he and his fellow fans are not considered as members of the full Supporte’rs Club.
“We signed up at Stour Space and we paid our money,” he said. “I was there for the Everton game and it has a capacity of 200 at the moment.
“West Ham United have also put money into it, to support the club.
“To me, it is a very sorry state of affairs and the executive committee are being very dictatorial.”
On the surface it would seem a closed club which still faces paying bills every month is not a going concern, but there is a wrinkle to that.
The club apparently own a property in Green Street which could be sold for around £390,000.
When they have paid other bills, there would surely be enough to renovate the club and get the premises open again.
But a dissolved club means the asset could be sold and the money raised would be shared out among the members.
“I have been involved with the club for 23 years,” said Sheehan, who has switched his allegiance to Leyton Orient in the last couple of years.
“It will cost a lot of money to get the club open again. For instance we will have to hire a bar steward for around £30,000 a year and it could cost as much as £150,000 to get it up and running.”
So what about this property that could solve all their problems if it was sold?
Sheehan denies it. “I don’t know where they have got this figure of £400,000 on the property,” he said. “There has been an offer of £390,000, but it is not strictly ours.
“It is in the hands of two trustees who are no longer members of the club and they might decide they do not want to sell it at this time.
“I would like nothing more than to go down the supporters club three times a week, but now I have to go to the Wetherspoons or to East Ham Working Mens club and it is not the same to me.
“It says in our constitution that we are there to support the club at the Boleyn Ground, well they are not there anymore,” added the club secretary.
For Richman and his fellow supporters, they feel that they must challenge the decision to dissolve the club and they must move quickly.
“We are looking to raise around £1,000-1,500 initially to start the legal action. If the club closes we will be the only professional club in English football without an official Supporters’ Club and that would be a tragedy.”
For Sheehan though, there is a simple answer to that.
“Why don’t these people go and form a new supporters club, there is nothing to stop them doing that,” he said.
Maybe, but there seems to be 390,000 reasons why the club could remain a going concern and the Castle Street premises could be reopened, but that seems a long way off.
Watch this space.