Nearly nine out of 10 match-going West Ham United supporters oppose the club’s proposed move to the Olympic Stadium according to a supporters’ group. WHU’S VIEW? polled 2,431 fans before the club’s April home games against Birmingham City, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Hull City.
The poll asked: “Based on all available information do you agree with West Ham United’s proposed move to the Olympic Stadium?” 13.4% said ‘Yes’, while 86.6% said ‘No’. The results have been sent to the London Legacy Development Corporation, Mayor’s Office, FA, DCMS, and West Ham.
The WHU’S VIEW? organisers say it is a campaign which holds a neutral position on the proposed moved to the Olympic Stadium. Its main aim is to ensure an independent poll of supporters is held prior to the club committing to any move away from the Boleyn Ground.
However, WHU’S VIEW? say that the club have given “conflicting information” on whether they intended to hold a poll and it had become apparent that “the club did not intend to seek the views of the vast majority of supporters”. This poll offered supporters that opportunity.
The club had previously turned down a suggestion by WHU’S VIEW? to poll fans using an independent organisation such as the Electoral Reform Services who conducted a ballot of Everton supporters on the Toffees’ proposed move away from Goodison Park. West Ham also declined a supporters’ club suggestion to ballot fans at the turnstile of a home game.
Yet last month West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady claimed that fans who had seen “detailed proposals” to move from the Boleyn Ground to the Olympic Stadium were “100%” behind the move. WHU’S VIEW? say that the Hammers’ hierarchy misrepresented the views of the majority of fans – no detailed plans were shown at the meeting Brady referred to and there was not “100%” support.
No consultation of fans
WHU’S VIEW? say: “There has been no widespread consultation or attempt to seek the views of the vast majority of supporters. Prior to the initial bid in 2011, West Ham United invited comments from supporters by email, but there has been no publication of the views submitted, the number of emails received, nor any indication that supporters’ comments had been acted upon.
“West Ham United have relied upon a single meeting with 49 members of the Supporters Advisory Board (SAB) Olympic Group for ‘consultation’. At the SAB meeting on 23rd February 2012, the club presented some information about its bid for the Olympic Stadium. Those members present were required to sign a confidentiality agreement so were unable to discuss this with other supporters.
“The club appointed one SAB member to collate comments from supporters, but did not make a general request for feedback, for example a statement on its website. Many fans are concerned that the club’s comments in the media with regards the level of support for a move have been made without consultation, ignores the SAB report, previous polls and as such may misrepresent the views of the majority of fans.”
The Football Supporters’ Federation believes that ground moves should only take place when they have the majority of fans’ support – which West Ham have clearly not shown – and do not breach Premier League/Football League rules.
Premier League rules state a move should not “adversely affect Clubs (or Football League clubs) having their registered grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location” but many Leyton Orient fans fear for their own club’s future if the move goes ahead. They argue that Stratford is traditionally part of Orient’s catchment area and fear a larger club moving onto “their” territory.
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