West Ham: Time’s Up for Sullivan, Brady and Gold
The Hammers’ hierarchy is poisoning their club. The latest crisis proves it.
It says everything about West Ham’s current ownership that their solution to the latest crisis engulfing the club is another ‘stakeholder meeting’.
On Saturday, the Hammers’ disastrous home defeat to Burnley was capped by a series of ugly events.
After a trickle of fans invaded the pitch, captain Mark Noble had to physically restrain a member of the public before he and his teammates watched a similarly enlightened supporter plant the corner flag in the centre circle.
Off the pitch, a smattering of irate supporters had turned their back on the action, directing bile at their pug-faced chairman in his faux-cossack get up.
After being advised by his security detail that matters were getting out of hand, David Sullivan was forced to leave the stadium to a round of ironic applause.
A thorough investigation
In the aftermath of this macabre theatre, the club’s clunking PR department clambered on top of the narrative.
“West Ham United have immediately launched a full and thorough investigation,” the anodyne clipping said on the club’s official website.
“An emergency meeting has been called with all London Stadium stakeholders.”
Another photo opportunity for the Premier League’s most publicity-hungry boardroom. What the club needs more than anything is another David Sullivan interview or the image of a coiffed Karen Brady furrowing her brow convincingly at fans “concerns”.
Sullivan’s last interview was quite the eye-raiser. In an exclusive with the Guardian’s Jacob Steinberg in December, he admitted that there were “100 things I’ve said that I regret”.
West Ham fans, however, are more perturbed by the things he’s done. This week, the club announced that it was rejigging its recruitment and transfer methods, with Sullivan’s long-standing sway on player deals finally being shorn.
The man who has broken the club’s transfer fee record in the past two summers is realising that his eye for talent might be askew, with the signings of André Ayew and Marko Arnautovic failing to set the world alight.
On-field and off
It’s not just a questionable recruitment policy that has Hammers fans up in arms.
Mark Walker, the head of a prominent supporters’ group, received threats last week after individuals linked to a body condemned for anti-racist elements bombarded him with threats and abuse.
The vitriol had been a response to Walker’s attempts to organise a protest march against a boardroom that, as one banner in the stadium read, “has done more damage to the East End than Adolf Hitler”.
The lack of an official response from West Ham’s boardroom condemning the abuse left a bitter taste for a club that seems eager to tear itself apart.
Another week, another existential crisis
So the team lurches into its next existential crisis.
Messrs Sullivan and Gold will make themselves available to the screeching masses, committing to do better for the club they swear to love. Karen Brady, a study of cool indifference honed in Alan Sugar’s sugar-coated boardroom, will produce another “strategy” with “action points” that “put the fans first” or something similarly corporate and hollow.
All the while, they’ll ignore the whistles of a fan base that has run out of faith in their leadership. No amount of stakeholder meetings or olive branches to extremist elements can address a crisis that, in the eyes of many reasonable West Ham supporters, has been caused by the very people anointing themselves to fix it.
They are the problem, and it seems increasingly clear that there’s only one solution. With the club hovering just three points above the relegation zone, it already seems too late.
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