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Fight for your fans! Why are West Ham owners so meek in stadium PR battle?

COMMENT: To the two Davids: where's the passion? For Karren, where's the fight? For West Ham. For your supporters. Why are you rolling over like this?

It makes no sense. Why so meek? We know you're unhappy - even angry - with the whole London stadium fiasco. We've seen it in the leaked emails. So why are you protecting them? Sadiq Kahn, the London mayor. The stadium managers. The lot of 'em. Why are you allowing them to trample all over the club, the fans and your legacy? It simply makes no sense.

For this column, the nadir came last week when Kahn during Question Time at City Hall made his claim of "150 separate incidents" during the Burnley meltdown, branding home fans as "mindless hooligans".

Yet, those "incidents" weren't deemed serious enough to warrant arrest. The Met police stating in response that no arrests were made on the day and no-one had been charged with any criminal offense. But where was the club's reaction? The response should've been swift, aggressive and made to as many news outlets as possible. But there was nothing from the club. Just perceived public compliance. Which is what we've seen from the club's owners for the entire season.

To be fair, this week Karren Brady, the Hammers vice-chair, finally questioned Kahn's claims. Brady says the numbers the mayor suggested were "unverified" as confirmed by two operation managers on the day. But this response was made virtually behind closed doors during Monday's Supporters' Advisory Board (SAB) meeting. Why? Why keep it all quiet? Why allow politicians to run roughshod over the club and the fans like this?

In those emails mentioned, Brady wrote to Kahn saying the owners were "no longer prepared to be used as a political pawn to the detriment of our relationship with our supporters". That was in December. In August, the vice-chair flagged that "...there is currently no goodwill, no trust and no confidence in E20, in fact the relationship is at an all-time low".

But again, why keep this from the public? From the West Ham support? When Kahn has snubbed multiple scheduled meetings, why feel obligated to protect him?

In terms of a PR battle, it really should be a massacre. Half of Fleet Street are West Ham fans. There's multiple supporter channels on social media and YouTube. The goodwill is there to be tapped. Just go public with what is really going on behind the scenes and let the power of the football community do the rest.

A perfect opportunity could've been in the immediate aftermath of the Burnley game. Rather than let it be leaked that eight requests for meetings with the mayor had been ignored, someone from the board should've simply fronted up and made the statement himself. With things at crisis point and Kahn on the other side of the world at an internet jolly, the club had a real chance to work things in their favour. To win back the fans support. But they never reacted.

And there is goodwill. A willingness to find solutions. Brady saw this in her meeting with supporter groups going into the Burnley game. By their own admission, many leaders were expecting conflict. But the meeting broke up in positive fashion. Everyone (well, virtually everyone) were on the same page regarding flags, statues, seating and stewards. Let that synergy now thrive by being open and honest about the battles the club is facing trying to get control of the stadium.

Again, from the SAB meeting, Brady admitted things were moving at worse than snail's pace. The vice-chair being sent round and round in circles by a buck passing bureaucracy.

Just consider this from Monday: “...the reality is that no progress can be made in the current set up. The Chairman of E20 wrote and said he couldn't meet us because he is a non-executive chair and has no executive power. Alan Fort wrote and said he was just a consultant, and not to take anything he said as representative of E20's views or agreement and that Alan Skewis position is the same.

"Peter Hendy said he couldn't meet me. Gerry Murphy said she is only the interim CEO so couldn't meet us. It has taken 18 months to meet the Mayor And so it goes on."

But again, how many West Ham fans - indeed simply football fans - are going to be exposed to the reality of what management are facing? This should be backpage news. Headline stuff. People need to know this. With a concerted, driven PR campaign things can change for the better. Public pressure is the only thing politicians respond to.

On that same Monday of the SAB meeting, it was confirmed Brady finally spoke face-to-face with the mayor. But in their statement, West Ham did not mention any targets or goals established - oh, apart from continued "dialogue". In other words, the type of wishy-washy stuff politicians thrive in.

Which is perfect for Kahn and West Ham's landlords, but not so much for the club.

Because all those agreements made during that supporters' meeting hinge on that "dialogue" being transformed into action. And with little evidence on the stadium side of things changing for the better, it'll be the two Davids and Brady who again will be left hung out to dry.

That is, unless they stop hiding everything away and start fighting back in this PR battle.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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