Lights go out

THE Sullivan and Brady edifice is crumbling. Just as Samson pulled down the Temple of Dagon from within using his innate power, so a teenaged girl with great strength of character has laid bare how Karren Brady controls the club.

Amilah (the name roughly translates as “doer of good deeds”) posts on Twitter under the handle @MemberOfJSB and launched a thread on Sunday detailing how a desire to make becoming a mascot cheaper was first ignored, then turned against her. To summarise, Amilah was appalled at the £700 cost of being a matchday mascot and having been accepted onto the Junior Supporters’ Board (a sub-group of the Official Supporters Board) made it her goal to do something about it. A presentation she made was ignored, club minutes weren’t accurate and despite a request to do so weren’t changed to reflect her comments.

As a good fan representative, she asked for more information from the club. It was denied. Insult was added to injury when despite a four-month blackout from the club three mascot places were announced “following positive and continued discussions with our Junior Supporters Board sub-group.” Further emails were also ignored.

Samson destroys the Temple (anon, from the J Paul Getty Museum)

Leaving aside the issue of how expensive mascots are and how it reflects Brady’s desire to remove West Ham from those without substantial cash reserves, it highlights very nicely what we have long said about the OSB – it isn’t transparent, democratic or independent – and it serves Brady not the fans. Independent Supporters’ Associations Hammers United and WHUISA were absolutely correct when they refused to engage.

With the news that the Vice Chair refuses to give up her Sun column it would appear the Baroness has cemented for herself a role at the club where she is isn’t accountable to anybody, not even the owners.  Her creation, the OSB, invented as a method to shield her from fan opinion shares many of her qualities. Fans have long despaired at the haughty, charmless and spiteful social media proclamations from OSB Chair David Baker, seeing them as reflective of the tone of his boss. They are completely correct to do so.

Brady cannot survive this latest exposé of her methods – the mood music emanating from the club is more Walls Come Tumbling Down than You’re the Best Thing. Chair and owner Sullivan should grow a pair and get rid of her now. Following a period of introspection, (we recommend nothing longer than two minutes) he should reflect how he himself created the monster and then take the long-awaited decision to sell up.

#GSBOUT

A good time for Brady to go

At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

TODAY’S news that a West Ham supporter has been banned for the rest of the season for wearing a “GSB OUT” t-shirt while acting as a volunteer flag waver is merely the latest in a seemingly daily act of reckless self-harm by the board.

Leaving aside issues of what supporters might have been “incited” to do (nobody did anything), who suffered “annoyance” outside of the Director’s Box and what a “seasonal” ban involves (does the accused need to wait until the runner beans come up in David Gold’s garden?) we are made aware once again West Ham fans have no “say” in the running of the club. Furthermore, the letter is a fairly explicit warning to any other fan intent upon protest within a ground.

In tone and content, the letter is characteristic of the aggressive and adversarial stance Vice-Chair Karren Brady takes towards all supporter issues. As David Sullivan leaves her to deal with all non-football matters while he gets on with fucking up the playing side we can safely assume the letter dropped from her desk. Even if she employed underlings to sign it.

As the former Birmingham executive was paid £1.136million in the year to 2019 for a part-time job it seems as good a time as any to examine her worth to the club. First, a list of her achievements:

1. She won the Olympic Stadium bid.
2. Er…
3. That’s it.

In all fairness, that isn’t Brady’s only impact on the club and it is a matter of record that with West Ham having Newham Council and the London Legacy Development Corporation over a barrel as the only serious bidder for the ground she did gain possession of the metaphorical ball and slam it in top bins From all of two yards out.

Two days ago, in a spectacular own goal the club and Brady wrung a grovelling apology from Sky Sports Sunday Supplement for airing a show that including journalist guests running the club down. The phrase “HANDS IN THE TILL” uttered by Guardian columnist Jonathan Liew caused particular offence. On this occasion we are going to agree with the club and reassert the phrase “HANDS IN THE TILL” should never have been used. Although quite what the club think they gained by making a story of the “HANDS IN THE TILL” line is open to debate. Especially when they were taking to task a company that pays them over a million pounds per annum.

If you know you know

It was Brady who was charged with organising the migration from Upton Park to the renamed London Stadium. In a display of typical cackhandedness, she made her overarching priority filling the stadium with no thought for ambience and no reference to the wider football world. Her “plus two” ticket scheme and lack of a family enclosure or singing section (we accept not all fans wanted this) were at least in part responsible for the dismal atmosphere that pervades the wretched place and this blogger being surrounded by Liverpool supporters in the home end for the recent Hammers game against the Merseysiders.

The less said about Brady’s controversial and confrontational attempt at a supporters’ group the better. The Official Supporters Board aren’t transparent, democratic or independent and have no mandate. They serve nobody except the Vice Chair herself. Meanwhile, every Saturday she seeks to humiliate and bring reputational harm upon the club with a ludicrous column in The Sun newspaper. Despite being refused a prospective player from Leicester as a result of her witterings she point blank refuses to give it up even though Co-Chair Sullivan is known to be against the idea. As ever, fans have no access to free speech while Karren smashes us all about the head with hers.

Typical of Brady’s intransigence was her refusal to give up a business relationship (yet another outside job) with disgraced mogul Sir Philip Green even when the accusations of sexual and racial abuse by the latter grew. Upon resigning, the hypocrisy of her campaign for “strong female leadership” was laid bare as she refused to either condemn Green or even explain why she had left. Likewise her role on the BBC’s The Apprentice has, it is rumoured, come into direct conflict with her job at West Ham.

Brady (left) with disgraced business associate Sir Philip Green

Perhaps most pernicious is the atmosphere she engenders within the club which sees its ultimate expression in their treatment of the media. Not content with alienating her “customers” (we call ourselves fans Karren) journalists are routinely harassed by Media Head Ben Campbell. It is said one was recently “banned” for a month from covering the club for a minor transgression (not to mention KUMB Graeme Howlett having his press pass rescinded). What Brady and Campbell forget is West Ham are not one of the big six clubs, and have nowhere near enough political clout to seek to control the narrative in the manner they wish. It is no small measure a result of this high-handed attitude that journos are now sticking the boot into the club with some glee.

West Ham lack strategy, appearing to prefer picking fights instead, with Brady’s personality a direct driver. Although she may act as a lightning rod, deflecting attention away from Sullivan, he might do a lot worse than offer her up as a sacrificial lamb to angry fans and sack her. What have you got to lose David?

RIP the OSB

Karren Brady – the brains behind the OSB

FANS group Hammers United’s decision to reject a club offer to talk with the Official Supporters’ Board but instead insist on communicating with the Chairmen and Vice Chair has neatly highlighted how ineffectual the OSB are and marks the beginning of the end for the unasked-for and unwelcome group. Cut out of negotiation, the group can now be considered otiose. A piece on the official West Ham website highlighting their “achievements” served only to emphasise how rattled the club are.

Formed in the wake of the protests during the Burnley game nearly two years ago, the stated OSB remit was to improve “matchday experience”, a brief they have spectacularly failed to deliver. Instead they were formed in typically insular fashion as a Karren Brady brainchild to provide a nod towards fan engagement while creating a barrier between supporters and board. On this point it’s interesting to observe how desperate members of the West Ham hierarchy are to resist challenge. Brady’s function is as a buffer to protect Chair David Sullivan, while Tara Warren and the OSB shield Brady. Halfwit head of media relations Ben Campbell protects all of them. Everybody “on-message”, no free-thinking allowed.

As members are appointed not elected, the OSB cannot claim to be independent and don’t serve as such. Minutes of meetings are not made by officers but the club and are seldom released in timely fashion. On surface viewing they appear sketchy accounts of what we assume are lengthy events. Sub-committee minutes are rarely released at all. I have had no contact from my OSB rep and beyond an email address on the club website they make little attempt to reach out to fans. Their Twitter feed does little beyond promoting club initiatives and competitions and hasn’t posted in over three months.

As a measure of their transparency, this is the only picture of the OSB we could find

Their concerns don’t extend beyond the minutiae of sales inside the stadium, are all commercially based and take no account of “cultural” issues regarding fan experience. In common with the club they exclusively treat supporters as customers. They are happy to take credit for other people’s achievements, claiming to be responsible for free sanitary products when everybody knows it was down to a long campaign by Esther Jones Russell a particularly egregious example.

Having so far been highly critical of the OSB it is only fair to herald their achievements. The propensity with which high profile members get away tickets for games within the M25 and south-east region is quite remarkable.

OSB Chair David Baker has long claimed the club want a “strong” Independent Supporters Association and has frequently expressed a desire for a group similar to Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly to represent fans. Few of Baker’s pronouncements merit serious consideration and such is the case in this instance – if his words meant anything the OSB would resign en masse to enable Hammers United to step into the breach. It is very clear the group are an obstacle to, not a conduit for, supporter recognition.

As they slide towards insignificance the club and Brady have a choice between a coup de grace or lingering death. Either way the loss of the OSB will not be mourned.

Eight reasons you might wish to protest

Three and sleazy – Sullivan, Gold and Brady

ON Saturday West Ham supporters will be gathering outside the London Stadium before the game against Everton to protest against the board. (For more details go to KUMB). Here are our top eight reasons why we feel the trio of David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady have failed the club.

Without supporters a club is nothing
The unholy trinity don’t appear to understand their money doesn’t buy ownership of West Ham United FC. They merely rent it for future generations. The owners of any football club are always the fans – memories, friendship, community, hopes, fears and dreams are not to be sold to the nearest bidder. The club tone is relentlessly hostile and the only people with whom they have anything like dialogue are the hated OSB – who are best seen as a focus group of unpleasantry and of use only for Brady to extort more money from fans.

Sullivan and Gold did not “save“ the club
For all the narrative about the money “put in” to the club, the reality is they have not spent a penny of their own cash. All finance wrongly attributed to them has been high-interest bearing loans. Sullivan and Gold have earned £16.8million over the last two years alone in above-industry standard interest from the club. Even if the club was in a rocky situation 10 years ago, that free pass they award themselves is not indefinite. Promises are seldom realistic, never mind kept – Brady’s “A world class stadium for a word class team” a classic of the genre.

The reputation of the club has been dismembered
Whether it is Sullivan’s behaviour towards other clubs in the transfer market, Brady’s loathed column in The Sun newspaper or the leaking of news via favoured websites the club are seen in the industry as a bad joke. Many other sides have a policy of refusing to deal with us. The tone in communication with supporters is most often condescending and lacking empathy.

The sale of Upton Park was for the benefit of David Sullivan’s bank balance, not the fans or club
Quite apart from the mystery of why the ground was sold to a holding company only to be immediately sold on again at nearly 100 per cent profit, the London Stadium is not fit for purpose as a football ground. There is no Family Enclosure, no singing area and little character – all thrown away because of the desire to sell tickets during a badly botched migration. The gaps between stands remain as a metaphor for the gulf between promise and delivery. The blowing up of a stand in a scene from a Sullivan-produced straight-to-DVD film could not be more symbolic.

The club infrastructure is a mess
As well as a dysfunctional stadium the training ground and Academy are a disgrace to a so-called Premier League club. Most Championship clubs would be embarrassed by the facilities at Rush Green – yet the two Daves barely let up telling us how much “they” spent. Far from the force it once was, the Academy is little more than a retirement home for former players short of a bob or two. Most of the good coaches have left and there is little in the way of basic communication never mind auditing and assessing the progress of individuals.

The appointment of staff is haphazard and without focus
There has never been a bona fide Director of Football nor recruitment manager with Sullivan jumping in and out of those roles according to who is asking the question. There is virtually no scouting system, with agents being employed at great expense instead. Of the five managers appointed during their tenure, only two (Sam Allardyce and David Moyes) have left the club in a better league position than when they started.

Transfer policy is unco-ordinated
Old and injury-prone players are routinely bought and over the top players given unwarranted contract extensions. Certain positions are all but neglected while there is a ridiculous obsession with strikers and attacking midfielders. There is little due diligence on background and no effort to incorporate players into any recognisable playing style or line-up. Players are seldom sold for full value and often as a means to mitigate a long-running cashflow crisis.

Most of all, on-pitch the club have failed
The three amigos have been at the club for almost exactly a decade. The money flooding into the club means they are currently the 18th richest in the world. On arrival the club was languishing near the bottom of the Premier League with a squad full of dead wood. Yet here we are 10 years later in exactly the same position.

Is it any wonder fans have had enough?

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

Titles close

Scene: On the 276 bus to Stratford

Gordon Ramsey: I’m off to the east End of London, famous for gangsters, murderers and jellied eels. Today’s subject is “Club Jambon D’Ouest Uni”, a restaurant in West Ham’s ground where the owners are in a pickle. Since moving premises three years ago in an effort to grow the brand, customers are unhappy and many have left yet the standard on offer has dropped. Profits are down after a number of expensive ingredients turned out to be not worth the money.

GR: I’m due to meet owner David Sullivan.

Scene: On the centre spot at the London Stadium. GR and David Sullivan talk. Gordon holds his chin

GR: Hi David, what’s going wrong?
David Sullivan: I don’t know Gordon, I work my socks off – but everybody else keeps letting me down. I appoint all the chefs – but it can’t be my fault because I’m the man with the money.

Scene: In the restaurant. Gordon orders some food and casts his eye around. To camera:

GR: Wow! This is the oddest place I’ve seen. Décor soulless, no atmosphere. The seats are miles from the kitchen and somebody appears to have spilled red wine all over the new carpet. The tables have popcorn on them as a starter, the scaffolding decoration looks out of place and why are there no cups? Fuck me!

The food arrives and Gordon picks it about a bit before sending it back.

GR: My God! This is terrible. I need the toilet, excuse me.

Retching noises come from within.

Scene: In the kitchen. Chef Manuel Pellegrini stands in front of the microwave looking guilty

GR: Hi! Gordon Ramsay. You are the head chef?
Manuel pellegrini: Si.
GR: Do you think that was sufficient quality to get your customers to return?
MP: Si. We have a big kitchen mentality here.
GR: No pride, no passion, no preparation – you’re living on another fucking planet mate!
MP: I worked at the top restaurants in Madrid and Manchester, please don’t be rude.
GR: Rude?! Fuck off! Your Lasagne Al Fornals was underprepared – almost raw, the Cress was limp and the Wilshere Jack cheese just fell apart every time I tried to get it on my fork. The Pâté de Foie (Snod)gras with Scotch was ok but the only dish with any promise was the Rice.

GR: Mate, I was looking forward to a vintage Chilean red but all I’ve seen so far is cheap fizzy water.
MP: We are not in a good moment, I need another wingman.
GR: Fuck off! The only reason you’re here is to make a quick buck before you retire! You don’t care.

Scene: In the boardroom. Ramsay eyes the prawn sandwiches nervously. David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady look unrealistically confident.

DS: How was the food?
GR: Seriously? It was fucking awful! The French beefcake was all alone on the plate with nothing else – I was expecting some Gravy Diangana but the kitchen tell me they’ve will have to go to Birmingham to get any.
GR: As for the Spanish guaca-goalie, it was bright green and rancid – I expected something Fab but it absolutely stank the place out.

A bad smell – the guaca-goalie

GR: And your Brazilian dish couldn’t have been worse if somebody had boiled a sandal – a complete fucking Felipé flop!
GR: All your food is Fancy Dan – you need some meat and potatoes – good honest stuff that does a job.
Ramsay turns to Gold
GR: What about you Mr Gold, what do you do?
David Gold: I was born in Green St.
GR: What!?
DG: Yes, it’s true. And I used to play for the boys and now I drive a Rolls Royce and wear a blazer.
GR: Are you fucking serious?
DG: Oh deadly serious, Mr Ramsay, do you want to see my garden?
GR: Fucking hell, I’ve never met anybody so deluded in all my life!

Ramsay gives up on Gold – especially as he thinks he may need the toilet – and introduces himself to Brady.
GR: Hi, Lady Brady, pleased to meet you. What is your role in the process?
Karren Brady: I’m all about raising the profile of the place…
GB: Raising the profile? How?
KB: With my weekly piece in the paper and regular appearances on The Apprentice.
GR: Yeah, but what do you do for the customers?
KR: I’m the Vice Chair – and let me tell you, a good restaurant doesn’t need customers to be successful. No, I run a club called the Objectionable Supine Bootlickers, the OSB for short – and they tell me everything I want to hear. Sometimes we even offer them a few crumbs from the top table.
GR: So who gets feedback from the diners?
DS (interrupting): Oh, we don’t talk to them, why would anybody do that?
GR: Fuck me ragged, this place is a total shitshow and you lot are fucking amateurs. I can’t help you.

GR: I’m off!

Closing credits