The Result Of The Burnley Protest

There is presently an enormous amount of ill will amongst our fans against the owners of the club, even to the extent of an animosity because the West Ham we knew has been destroyed.

So, during this break, with our fortunes hanging in the balance, I believe we should take a look back at the protest after the Burnley game on 10th March 2018 and the effect this had on the owners, as this does demonstrate they listened to the fans and adopted a new approach. They listened and determined that they would give the fans what they wanted – a top manager and a more professional approach to the purchase of players.

Unfortunately, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see this all turned out to be calamitous. But, can this be laid at the doors of the owners? They did have an ambition to turn an average Premier League side into a side which could challenge for a place in Europe.

The latest results for the year ending 2019 are interesting, especially as they set of David Sullivan’s vision, in his words:

The Board made a decision at the beginning of 2018 to embark on an investment programme that would involve bringing in a world -class Manager, investing in better players and making significant investment in the Club’s infrastructure. As a result of this new strategy, we signed Manuel Pellegrini, who has the most successful track record as a Manager in the Club’s history. Furthermore , the Club invested £107.9m in transfer fees, grew the wage cost to £135.8m and invested £4m in facilities at Rush Green(first team squad) and Chadwell Heath (for the Academy).

Unfortunately, as we are aware, Pellegrini turned out to be somewhat clapped out and also, his recommendation to appoint Mario Husillos was disastrous. We shall never know how much blame should be apportioned to Husillos, or whether Sullivan was still interfering in the background and not allowing him to get on with his job.

Another criticism of the owners is that their main priority is to turn a profit on their investment. But this is naïve, because success on the pitch and the value of the club are joined together like Siamese Twins. The recent reports about West Ham being one of the richest clubs in the world are absurd. Forbes value the Club at £478m , but that assumes an operating income of £37m, whereas the Club are losing half a million pounds a week and this will accelerate if the Club drops into the Championship.

Obviously, the move to the London Stadium is high on the list of fans’ grievances. But, who was to know this would turn out to be a giant coffin as far as football is concerned? The Directors gloated in the fact that they got the better of the London Stadium owners, but it looks today as if they were the one’s who were mugged. The Club has to live with the fact that home advantage is a thing of the past. I defy anyone, however, who would have passed up the opportunity to move and let Spurs take over the stadium.

Another grievance of the fans is the position of Karren Brady. She has demonstrated at every opportunity a desire to get away from the traditions of the Club, from proposals to rename the Club Olympic West Ham to adding London to title. Her salary of £1.1 million is beyond belief (what does she do?) and someone should carry the can for the failures. However, there is a suspicion she is unsackable.

To sum up, the criticism of the Directors is overdone. They are, at least, British. They did come forward when the Club had serious financial difficulties. They have listened and major changes were made after the protests at the Burnley game. Unfortunately, these, together with the move to the London Stadium have been calamitous.

Talking Point

I've Had Enough

Looney Tunes ended with the sign off ’That’s all , folks.’. And certainly, the Brighton game was completely looney. Welcome to the looney bin Soucek and Bowen. If anybody thinks they will make a difference, you must believe Alice in Wonderland is non fiction.

I have spent my last week watching three disasters. West Brom 2nd eleven – disgraceful Liverpool- inevitable and Brighton – a farce in two acts.

And yes, I do blame Moyes. He should have brought on Balbuena at 3-1, gone to a back three and shut up shop, especially as he knew some players weren’t fressh, having played Liverpool a few days previously. Instead, we have the same tactics as Pellegrini, as well as the same poor substitution decisions

Just when we had found a potentially great player in Ngakia, he was not even on the bench. And just when Fornals had appeared to be coming good, he was dropped to become a pointless 85 minute substitute.

We are just like the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a name which doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. I always regarded it as an absolute monstrosity, but probably appropriate as an adjunct to the London Stadium, itself a concrete bowl.

It is described as a looping structure and has been evoked (by blind people) as a byword for design innovation and playful invention. Now, I regard it as a work of genius. 60% of the structure is made from recycled materials such as washing machines and used cars.

This is entirely appropriate as it describes exactly the West Ham team, with its crocks, easily injured , loanees and out of contract. Sir Anish Kapoor is, therefore, a great visionary.

Not only that, its spiral structure and twists and turns describes perfectly the agony of being a West Ham fan. It would be appropriate to rename the structure as ‘The David Sullivan Tower’.

It would take 954 cans stacked end to end to match the height of the structure. If you used a soft drink, that would cost you about £3000 based on the prices charged at the stalls outside the stadium.

Which brings me onto another subject. I try to avoid the food at the stadium. We all know it is rubbish and a bit of a rip off. But what I really object to is being charged £7.50 for an hamburger (is it an hamburger or a hamburger?) and then not getting any onions. Come on. Fairs, fair. I took a bite and realised what was going on. I stood there and weighed up whether it was worth complaining. I even walked up to another stall, which displayed a sign ‘gourmet burgers’ and found out the gourmet bit meant you got onions with your burger.

You’ve got to weigh up in life whether complaining is worth the aggravation. We, British, are terrible at it. The French are really good at it and I smelt the teargas on a recent trip to Paris, where the police gave a lesson in what happens when you complain (there was a march about pension reform).

You would have heard about the Gilets Jaunes, the yellow jackets. This would be a good way to protest at West Ham. We should all wear fluorescent claret and blue high-vis jackets with ‘I’ve had enough’, printed on the back.

And how about an anthem? Well, why not The Who’s ‘I’ve had enough’?

Don’t cry because you hunt them
Hurt them first they’ll love you
There’s a millionaire above you
And you’re under his suspicion.

I’ve had enough of dancehalls
I’ve had enough of pills
I’ve had enough of streetfights
I’ve seen my share of kills
I’m finished with the fashions
And acting like I’m tough
I’m bored with hate and passion
I’ve had enough of trying to love.

Talking Point

Sullivan's Dream

David Sullivan was sitting at his desk contemplating, wearing his Russian hat to keep warm. He had turned the heating down to save money. After the tremendous success of his last film ‘Iron Men’, wasn’t it about time he produced another blockbuster? It was time to recount his own fantastic story and that of David Gold. Iron Men 2 would be a good title. It would show how they had clawed their way up from poverty. The way they had championed the right of a woman to determine what happens to her body. The way they had increased women’s employment opportunities. and furthered the cause of freedom of the press.

Who could play himself? Perhaps Al Pacino and Robert De Niro could portray David Gold. After all, their story had similarities to ‘The Godfather’. What about Karren Brady? The name Marie Antoinette came into his head but he couldn’t remember whether she was an actress. Didn‘t she work for crumbs, or was it cake?

These thoughts were too much for him and he fell asleep. He dreamed he was in a market for football players. He passed the first stall for old crocks and moved on to another for loanees. Then, there was one for those out of contract and finally for one for the almost healthy. At the last stall, he came across the Archbishop of Canterbury, reading one of his magazines and praying for Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere.

He woke with a jolt to find his son, Jack, poking him in the shoulder and telling him it was almost the end of January and he had to make some decisions.

He thought for a moment and then suggested to Jack that, perhaps, they should sign Alain Ducasse. Jack pointed out that was the chef of the restaurant they had visited at the Dorchester the previous week to discuss their financial problems. He asked Jack where were the plans for naming a stand ‘The David Sullivan Stand’? Perhaps, now wasn’t the right time.

He pondered and then decided they had to give some of their old players a ring. He told Jack to ring Payet and ask him whether he was missing London. What about Pedro Obiang? Perhaps , we had been in too much of a hurry to sell him. He also told Jack to contact Roy Hodgson and ask him if he would exchange Kouyate and Tomkins for Sanchez and Ajeti.

Or what about Hammerhead? They all say we need pace. Did you see how he beat Boiler Man at halftime?

Jack told him they had managed to get Tomas Soucek on loan, but they needed others. Sullivan asked if that was the player he met when he went on a stag weekend to Prague.
He suggested he should go on more stag weekends.

Then, Jack suggested they get rid of Karren Brady. He had a friend who would do the job at a tenth of the price. Sullivan told him she was too knowledgeable to get dispose of her. Jack looked bemused and asked if was her knowledge of football. No, Sullivan told him. It’s her knowledge about us.

And what about that Mohammad bin Salman? He might interested in a London club. Jack pointed out he had been accused of chopping a journalist into little pieces. Sullivan told himself that it was this kind of treatment which might motivate the players. And perhaps a few fans could benefit from a harsher regime. There’s a few he would like to pick out on that West Ham Till I Die website. He could make their wish come true.

They said he was getting old but he had a ton of new ideas.

Jack told him they had a problem with the stadium. The fans realised they had been sold a pig in the poke. He told Jack to ring Daniel Levy. Perhaps they could rent the Spurs stadium. They could offload the lease of the London Stadium to Leyton Orient. After all, they had been keen to play there.

He asked Jack who the West Brom manager was. They seemed well organised and they’d need someone like that after they sacked Moyes for the second time. Jack replied it was Slaven Bilic. He asked Jack if it was the same Slaven Bilic West Ham had employed. Perhaps there was two of them.

Sullivan turned to his computer and logged into the West Ham Till I Die website. He looked at the comments. He wasn’t interested in any of the articles. One fan commented the side were the pits. Another suggested the stadium should be named the Pit of Despair. Hmmm, not half as good as The Sullivan Stadium. Another suggested bronze statues for himself and David Gold and that they should be put inside (tribute to fan who actually made this comment). Another suggested it would be appropriate if West Ham beat Liverpool and then got relegated at the end of the season.

Jack asked him how much he was going to spend in this transfer window. He told Jack he was going to send a lot of emails. Some would arrive and some wouldn’t. But, he was thinking it was pointless spending money on any good players, as he would have to get rid of them at the end of the season when they dropped to the Championship. It was time for realpolitik.

He looked up the Football League parachute payments plan on his computer. 55% of earnings in the first year, 45% in the second year and 20% in the third year. He quickly calculated what the club would receive in a fire sale and applied a 20% discount. All in all , it wouldn’t be too bad. After all, it wasn’t the first time they had been relegated.

Sullivan took a look at the Guardian report on the game against West Brom. West Ham were ‘ an abject rabble’. ‘West Ham are ‘ an abject mess and the clock is ticking’. David Moyes wore ‘a rather haunted look’. The ground is ‘sad and soulless’. There was ,’ a poisonous atmosphere’. Well, he thought, I’m going to show them all. This is my Stalingrad. I’m not going to be pushed around any further. The young fans love me. It’s those hypocritical, old age pensioners who are causing all the trouble. If I hang around a bit, they’ll all disappear. No doubt, when they all get to Paradise, they’ll start writing critical articles and make snide comments. Otherwise, they can go to hell.

Talking Point

The plague called betting

I am concerned for your health, both physical and financial. Every time we watch football, we are bombarded with advertising encouraging us to bet and that includes children.

The betting industry spends £1.4bn of its £14b gambling yield on advertising. In 2009, its gambling yield was £8bn, so there has been a 75% increase in gambling in ten years.

I worked with online gaming for a number of years. If we actually gave a thought to the margins earnt by gambling firms, we may give gambling a miss. Denise Coates of Bet365 paid herself £323 million. It defies my understanding how people can bet on computer generated games and slots, where the companies ,encouraging you to bet, can set the odds. This is not a game of chance. At least, when you play roulette in a casino, it is a true game of chance and with one zero the house edge is 2.7%, but many roulette wheels have two zeros and the house margin increases to 5.26%. The margins earned on slot games must be incredible to finance the huge profits, salaries and advertising.

The ownership of many betting companies is opaque. They are registered abroad in far flung islands such as Gibraltar and Aruba. You have no chance of winning any dispute with them. Often, their final ownership is opaque. Our own Betway is registered in a dilapidated building ( Empire Stadium Street, Gzira, Malta) and it is a mystery who actually owns the company.

Despite this Karen Brady recently described Betway as a ‘respected and responsible sponsor. We look forward to continuing to work with Betway as we embark on the next chapter for our great club, and we will use this partnership as a platform for success.’ These words will ring hollow for West Ham fans. Personally, I’m brushing my teeth as I write this to get rid of the bad taste.

Every day, stories are coming in thick and fast how betting has ruined peoples lives. Peter Shilton detailed how his life was almost ruined and the critical point was the introduction of online betting. A caretaker killed himself at the school where he worked. Players are being lured into gambling.Betting addicts are being encouranged by VIP schemes. Betting encourages criminality.

You may take advantage of the free bets betting companies offer, without realising that you have to gamble many times the free bet to be allowed to take out any winnings. It’s all in the small print. If you are winning, they will often limit the amount you can bet to a pound or so. All incentives to gamble should be banned.

The NHS’s mental health chief has said that the Health Service should not be left to pick up the pieces from gambling firms’ tactics to retain customers with addiction issues. We have all read stories of people who have a gambling habit, who ruin their lives, which often end in suicide.

It is akin to a disease that is enveloping football. It is everywhere, in adverts of the big screens, shirts and signage. Even personalities get involved. Jose Mourinho currently advertising the daily jackpot for Paddy Power.

We need to get serious about this disease. All advertising should be banned if it is likely to be seen by children. That means a ban on all football sponsorship. Football Clubs would take a hit on their income. It would lead to an adjustment in bloated transfer fees and salaries.

A further 20% tax should be levied on online betting companies and they should be obliged to be registered in the UK.

Free bets and other promotions should be banned.

Final ownership needs to be declared.

On line betting companies should be obliged to check people’s identities when they sign up, not when they want to make their first withdrawal.These means they are taking money from people under 18.

Betting is a plague that has to be stopped. It is now encroaching upon FA cup matches agreeing to live stream games to those who place a bet. Even they realise this is a step too far. However, this is an example of how betting companies can become a gateway for viewing live sports’ events.

Online gaming companies add nothing to the economy. They are just a drain, where we bleed away £200 per annum for every man woman and child. At least high street betting shops give employment and have strict rules to prevent underage betting.

And have consideration. Your simple pleasure may be ruining the lives of 50,000 people a year.

Match Report

A More Enlightened Approach

So, there was another protest before the Everton game. Once again it was anti the board. But its effectiveness will be as great as the recent Moscow protests against Putin.

The similarities don’t end there. The citizens/fans have the impression that the leader/board have the main priority of enriching themselves. There is very little the citizens/fans can do to effect a change of power and, it would appear, the leader/board are there for ever. Citizens/fans have little say over who controls the club and what policies are enacted.

At least in Russia, the Prime Minister has just resigned, although he has been replaced with another flunky. Here we have the ‘Marvellous Mrs Brady’. For fans, she encapsulates everything that is wrong with the club. She epitomises the board’s philosophy of ‘ We know best’ and her main motivation is to increase the value of the club. The strategy has been a complete failure and, at present, you couldn’t sell the club for a tin of beans and a Mickey Mouse watch.

The fans at the protest ask for a more enlightened approach by the board. So, let’s try and be enlightened and suggest a way forward.

For a start, the Dame needs to go. She has lost the goodwill of the supporters. She is the Marie Antoinette of the regime. Whilst she describes the club’s sponsors as ‘ respected and responsible’, you can imagine her response to the protest before the game against Everton as ,’Let them eat cake’. Her salary, which is now reported to be £1.2 million a year is a joke.

And, don’t tell me she is a great business women. The developers who bought the Boleyn ground made a 50 per cent profit two years later without any development taking place. She got the club into a dispute with the owners of the ground over matters which would have cost peanuts. She thought she had negotiated a fantastic deal to take a lease on the London Stadium, whereas, in fact, we were sold a white elephant.

She resigned reluctantly as Chairman of Philip Green’s Empire after his groping scandal with the words that the allegations being made against the high street tycoon were ‘incompatible with being a feminist’. Hmmm! Or perhaps, it would be more appropriate to describe these words as humbug. How many feminists would work for Sullivan and Gold?

So, the first step in a more enlightened approach would be to get rid of Dame Karren. She could be replaced by a good business manager on a salary a quarter of what is being paid presently.

Then, as a positive step, the owners should appoint a small board of advisors. I would envisage a maximum of six individuals to include past luminaries of the club, a representative of the fans etc. You get the idea. They could split the remains of the Dame’s salary. Sullivan could chair the board and Gold could retire to look after his carp.

What is in it for Sullivan and Gold? First of all, it’s going to bring them a bit of peace and quiet. They cannot be enjoying the ridicule and hatred of the fans. Secondly, the did listen to the fans after the Burnley riot and brought in a top class manager and a Director of Football. However, the results were a disaster. But they can listen again.

I thought the Everton game would be the pivotal game of the season. Lose and we were heading for the depths. Win and salvation would be at hand. As it happened, we drew. David Moyes is to be congratulated as the team does now show commitment and effort. Noble and Snodgrass have been criticised for their lack of pace, but they showed determination and grit and had a good game.

Moyes went for a back two, instead of a back three, showing flexibility and we were lucky Everton were without Richarlison and Sigurdsson. They seemed more intent on giving us the ball back than us.

Unfortunately, our lack of thrust at the front was exposed. Perhaps, this will be improved when Antonio returns and we missed the flare of Anderson.

We have a tough fixture list ahead in the next month and life isn’t going to get any easier for the Hammers.

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