West Ham Independent Supporters Association try to shake off 'loony leftie tag'
PUBLISHED: 09:30 05 June 2019
'Chaos' at WHUISA AGM leads to petition in civil war
Having an independent supporters association is something that is surely vital to every football club in the land.
But when that club is West Ham United and they won't talk to that association, it makes you wonder just how much use they are.
Furthermore, the association (WHUISA) is even arguing amongst themselves.
A 15-man committee was appointed last month under new chairman Lew Ozarow, but already over 100 people have signed a petition to try and oust both him and vice-chairman John Ratomski.
It has left Ozarow and his plan to attract as many new members as he can so that West Ham vice-chair Karren Brady potentially can't ignore them, up in the air.
But Ozarow knows where the origin of this petition comes from.
"It has come from the former committee members who used to have control over all the decisions that were made," said Ozarow.
"They don't like us asking questions about what has happened in the past and when they didn't get their way at the AGM, they just walked out.
"As soon as they didn't get their way, they threw their toys out of the pram."
Ozarow described what went on at the AGM as 'chaos'. "There was no respect for the chair on the day," he said. "I stood up to address the meeting and was shouted at to sit down."
It all smacks of ridiculous in-fighting and backs up claims that WHUISA is nothing more than a 'bunch of loony lefties'.
But Lew and his new committee are determined to come through this latest crisis and turn things around.
"I used to be in recruitment for 40 years so the easiest thing in the world is to recruit people, the hardest thing is to keep them," said Ozarow.
"I describe WHUISA as a jaguar with the handbrake on. Once we take it off, we will fly because we have got everything going for us.
"We are non militant, we have logical arguments and we now have 15 people on the committee.
"It is now more specialised, it has people with degrees in the subjects they are dealing with. "
One of those new committee members is youngste member Jack Hart, who will take charge of the social media side of things.
"Our mindset is that we should be trying to engage more with our members," said Jack.
"I think our biggest priority is building up our membership. I would argue the previous group in charge probably weren't engaging enough to the members. That is going to be the big thing.
"We have got a lot of plans for the future in terms of more emails, engagement with fans and on social media, that is what we intend to do," continued Hart.
"I think we have to make sure that we are social media savvy because that is what every single fan organisation tends to do."
That is all very well, but if the club refuse to speak to them, as well as the newly-formed Hammers United group, what is the point?
"With the Official Supporters Board, while I can understand what the club is trying to do with them, is not independent. In a lot of people's eyes they are a bit of a mouthpiece for the club," insists Ozarow, who admitted that WHUISA have made mistakes in the past.
"The way that WHUISA used to confront the club and the language they used did not help matters," he said.
"I was one of the advocates that said we should moderate the language we use, respect the fact that they own the club and speak to them with respect.
"That has not been done in the past and hence we have had the left-wing loony tag."
Hart takes up the mantle: "Discussions with the club should go to the top of the list," he said.
"That is the ideal aim, but whilst they have the OSB it is more of a challenge. They are supposed to be representing the fans, but I have never been asked what is happening in my stand.
"I don't know if there is anyone on the board that is supposed to represent my age group and that is what we are trying to do, maintain that dialogue with the fans."
Ozarow cites stewarding, the stadium, the match day experience, price of food and drink, ticketing, away tickets and the foundation stones as the most pressing subjects they would like to discuss with the club.
It seems that there is certainly a use for an independent supporters association, but while there is the OSB it seems that West Ham could continue to ignore them.
And while they are fighting among themselves, the day when they get to sit down with Karren Brady seems even more remote.
Watch this space.