How can a club that has had back-to-back seasons in Europe, won the Europa Conference league trophy last season and holds the record for the longest run in Europe without defeat, be so bad at informing its away fans of match arrangements? The recent Olympiacos game was played on October 26. The club sent ticket holders details of the match arrangements just six days in advance. Contrast that with European virgins Brighton, who also play in Athens soon.
The Seagulls issued detailed arrangements six weeks in advance. A club with no experience is better than European veterans West Ham. WHUST, fed up with asking the club for details, spoke to Football Supporters Europe and colleagues at the Arsenal trust, who had visited Olympiacos before, and put out details of expected arrangements several days before the club. This was the first time many ticketholders realised they had made a mistake in booking a hotel near the ground.
The police were going to bus in West Ham fans from central Athens and bus them back again after the match. Anyone staying near the ground would then have to find their own way back to their hotel late at night. Social media and the forums were awash with people who, as a result of the WHUST article, had either managed to cancel and re-book elsewhere, or who hadn’t. Some just bit the bullet and booked a second hotel in central Athens, losing their money on the first booking.
Many praised WHUST. Others lifted the information and presented it as their own – British newspaper websites do that to each other too, so the bloggers were only behaving like journalists. So when will the club publish information about the arrangements for our away match against TSC? Don’t hold your breath.
WHUST is pushing the club again as we believe they know all they need to know. The reason they won’t inform early is cock-up not conspiracy. Poor communication by the club is standard. The club doesn’t answer straight-forward fact-checking requests.
We know that UEFA held its Safety and Security Conference in Rome on September 13. West Ham must have been there. We would have expected it to be chief operating officer Ben Illingworth. They should have met with counterparts from all three European sides we were due to play.
Speaking to the FSE and Arsenal fans, it became clear to WHUST that the club would have known the coach arrangements then. We also know that West Ham and representatives from the police went to Olympiacos and TSC during the week of October 9. The police, at least, came back from that trip with no outstanding questions and were clear what the arrangements would be for both games.
WHUST is sure West Ham could have said what the arrangements would be for both games then. But it didn’t. But we have more concerns. When Freiburg went to Athens to play their away leg against Olympiacos, the very same coach arrangements were in place. In the previous season, Nantes too visited. Neither club charged their fans for the coaches. West Ham did, adding an extra £20.
UEFA has strict rules on away ticket prices. Article 38 of the Regulations of the UEFA Europa League states that away tickets cannot be any more than the same seats would sell to local fans and cannot cost more than €45 ever. There are no ifs or buts to that rule and no exemptions. On behalf of WHUST, the FSE is looking into whether West Ham’s actions are legal.
Blowing Bubbles sent questions to West Ham on the Tuesday before our defeat in Greece. We got no answer in time before the deadline for this issue. WHUST reckons you will have read this before we get any answers.
- Did Ben Illingworth, COO, attend the 13 September UEFA Safety & Security Conference in Rome? If not, who did?
- Did they meet with counterparts from Olympiacos then?
- Did they learn then that coaches from a meeting point location at the Panathenaic Stadium would be a requirement when West Ham fans visited?
- I understand West Ham officials have since visited Olympiacos and TSC. When was that? Who went?
- Were the travel arrangements and fan policing arrangements clear to West Ham at those visits or soon after?
- The club sent information about the coaches to away ticket holders on October 20, less than a week before the match. Does the club think that is acceptable?
- I understand that the away club is asked to pay for the coaches at the Olympiacos matches. Is that correct?
- Freiberg this season, and Nantes who played at Olympiacos last season, funded the coach travel themselves without passing on the costs to fans. Why did West Ham pass on the costs to fans?
- There is a UEFA price cap on European away tickets. Under what exemption has West Ham breached that price cap by adding on the cost of the coaches?
- Does the club have all the information it needs to give to fans for the TCS match on November 30? If not, what information is the club still missing?
- When will the club publish away fan information for the TSC match?