Football is about to get a kick up the backside, and fans are going to be given a bigger voice in the club they love.
One independent fan organisation at each club will have a veto (a ‘golden share’) over changes to the club’s heritage. This includes the club name, badge, colours and ground.
For Hammers fans, that body is the West Ham United Supporters’ Trust (WHUST), and you could be involved in it.
The Government has published the findings of the fan-led review of football, which was led by former Tory sports minister Tracy Crouch. There is a league table of 42 recommendations, but top of them are an independent regulator for English football clubs, tougher tests on who can and cannot own and run a football club, and safeguards for the historic and community institutions that football clubs like West Ham are.
There is cross-party political support to implement the recommendations in full. That means clubs will have to have a shadow board to listen to fans. And one properly constituted supporters’ trust will be given the golden share — the power to veto those key decisions.
WHUST is officially the Ironworks 1895 Supporters Society Limited, a registered society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.
It is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, which also oversees the banks and insurance companies, as well as co-ops and other mutuals, such as football supporters’ trusts. WHUST is a not-for-profit body.
There can be only one such regulated fan-led body for each club. For West Ham, it is WHUST. You can join WHUST, become a member, own a share and vote at the meetings, for just a fiver a year.
Fan groups work tirelessly behind the scenes on behalf of all groups of supporters. Never prepared to stay on the sidelines, WHUST will tackle anything. You’d be amazed at how much work WHUST board members do.
Officially WHUST members are involved with the West Ham United Independent Supporters Committee (ISC), The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), The Premier League, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Our members are also involved with Dedicated Football Officer (Police), Football Supporters Europe, Newham Council as well as other supporter trusts, supporter groups, and other fan groups on relevant supporter issues.
But that’s just the half of it. For example, the ISC has separate groups to discuss safety, ticketing or changes to Stratford station.
And a WHUST board member might shadow the head of stewarding for a day and discuss steward training.
Within the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), WHUST members are on the broadcasting group, discussing those last-minute changes Sky and others demand to televise matches.
WHUST has also been a leading voice against football clubs trying to force fans to use unregulated and highly volatile cryptocurrencies.
Police meetings are not only with the Met, but with representatives of other police forces for away matches.
And plenty of decisions that affect fans are out of the club’s hands and decided by the stadium owners and managers, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and the day-to-day management firm London Stadium 185 (LS185). WHUST members stay on top of who’s who at these corporate stakeholders over issues like beer pricing.
WHUST has members involved in issues such as women at football, VAR and stewarding, and has just published the results of a survey on safe standing — there was massive support for it, including from those who would prefer to stay seated.
There is loads more detail on the WHUST website (whust.org) and a list of meetings attended is constantly being updated. As well as publishing reports and minutes, the trust welcomes feedback from fans on any aspect of this work — maybe you can think of something new for WHUST to do?
WHUST is relatively new, but has a longer history. It was formed out of the West Ham Independent Supporters’ Association but many new faces have signed up over the past season to strengthen the team.
But WHUST isn’t about heckling from the terraces. WHUST wants to work with the club, as its critical friend, to make the matchday experience for fans the best it can be.
So what happens next for the newbie fan body? At the end of August, WHUST will officially be one year old.
Once its accounts are finalised and audited it will hold a full annual general meeting and all members signed up well before then will be able to attend and vote. That is likely to be late November or early December.
If you fancy being involved in what will be the most powerful West Ham fan group, the first thing to do is to join. That gets you a shareholding in the trust and the right to vote. If you have more time, WHUST needs volunteers, even just to be sounding boards for the directors and to help them with their work.
If you’ve got a gripe about ticketing or matchdays or a suggestion for improvements or you’d just like to know more about some aspect of the trust’s work, get in touch.
That means everyone: wherever you come from and however you support the Irons. WHUST is for all the West Ham family.