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Hello! It’s been a while but we’re back!

Now this update is going to be a wordy one, but we hope you all find the information useful.

Last night (28th February 2018) two members of your committee braved the treacherous weather to attend West Ham’s Supporters’ Advisory Board. A lot was discussed and four pages of notes are summarised below.

It was an interesting set up and a good opportunity to hear the views of other fan representatives and groups, as well as a chance to speak with the people behind the scenes at the club.

We also have some information around our Quiz on the 22nd March (our second this year).

Now, let’s get on with it…

Supporters Advisory Board Update

Shelving
Apparently this is something people have had complaints about. There hasn’t been enough shelving in the stands for people to put drinks on etc. The club has had additional shelving in the North, South and West Stands and the East will soon be complete too. The club have spent over £40,000.00 to implement this.

Memorabilia
The club are looking into ideas around how to showcase club memorabilia. They are keen to do something meaningful with the 1000+ items, which includes the World Cup medals amongst other historic football souvenirs. £60,000.00 a year is spent by the club to house them privately at local antiques dealer Christies and historically the club museum housed them, but this was rarely visited and they are looking at more practical ways to display them. One possibility is in the stadium for tours and currently the world cup medals are able to be viewed in the club shop, but the club are looking for more ideas.

Champions Place
The second phase was completed in October with 1,200 new stones laid. Phase 3 will start soon – dates to be confirmed.
The club are looking into the cleaning of existing stones due to complaints. They are already jet-washed before every game, however it seems that dirt is getting stuck in the writing leaving some to believe the writing is fading. The club have given assurances that the stones wording is not damaged and are looking into longterm maintenance options to keep the stones looking their best.

Diversity & Inclusion
The club have applied to the FA to move up a level in the D&I rankings based – in part, on the work they have done with groups such as ours, the disabled supporters and other initiatives.
The Everton game has been earmarked for West Ham to show support for the Kick It Out campaign.
Their aim is to achieve a gold level equality standard.

West Ham are working in partnership with the Disables Supporters Advisory Board (DSAB) on the following:

  • Dedicated email for disabled supporters, allowing them to contact the DSAB as a route into the club.
  • An accessible stadia guide
  • Disabled Go Access Survey
  • A Sensory room for autistic supporters
  • Accessibility passes to allow disabled supporters to get around the stadium with ease (using lifts etc.)

The club have also produced a video showcasing all of their Equality initiatives which we will share once it’s made available online.

Help Centre
West Ham will soon be launching a Help Centre site which is designed to help fans with general and match day issues from directions to ticketing to other FAQs. We’ll share more once the launch date has been announced.

Political Rumblings
There’s too much to go into detail on, but two things to mention:There was a lot of noise in the media when Sadiq Khan stepped in and got involved regarding the stadium. However he has not responded to any of Karren Brady’s 15 letters and she is unable to get a meeting with him. Until that happens, it’s hard to know what his position is or what the knock on effects might be for the club.
The stadium operator won’t agree the capacity increase to 66,000 for whatever reason and so there will be a court case in October/November this year.

Branding
A lot has been said about making the stadium more “West Ham” so it feels like home. Some rebranding has already taken place, adding some Bobby Moore imagery to the outside of the stadium. The club are arranging a focus group with the SAB to discuss what the fans want to see in the stands and concourses. Themes and ideas should be led by the fans and then implemented by the club. Please get in contact with any ideas you may have and POI will do our best to represent those ideas in that forum on your behalf.
Applications have been made to rename one of the roads leading to the stadium “West Ham Way” and the club are awaiting approval. They are also seeing if it’s possible to get permits for the old Green Street stallholders to pitch there on match days.

World Cup Statue
The club are trying to move the statue to Stratford and have paid for a plinth that is in place, ready for the statue’s arrival. They have agreement in principal with the council, however this needs to be ratified by a council vote which will take place on 22nd March. West Ham will be paying for the relocation of the statue.

Upton Park Memorial Garden
There has been significant complaint and upset around the condition and maintenance of the memorial garden since the Club moved to the new ground. When the ground was sold, it was sold with the condition that the memorial garden was maintained (first by Galliard and subsequently by Barratt). Apparently there is a team employed by Barratt who are responsible for the upkeep, but it has been recognised that they have fallen short of the standard West Ham fans expect. The club have reviewed the situation and agree it is not up to standard. West Ham have now intervened and will be sending their own people to the Memorial Garden once a week for general maintenance, landscaping etc. There is no agreement around the ongoing maintenance post-development when the properties are sold on, however the club will be discussing this with the families who’s love ones are memorialised there as West Ham feels it is they who are most affected and deserve to be consulted.

Tickets
Ticket prices are frozen for all season tickets except Band 5 which will go up by £31 if renewing for one year. Those Band 5 ticket-holder renewing for 2 years will still only pay £289 per year.

The club trialled an initiative for away tickets recently, making 10% of away tickets available to people who don’t have the minimum points required. This was off the back of SAB feedback that it is notoriously difficult to get away tickets and essentially the same people are buying tickets over and over and in some cases not attending matches because they just want the point or, selling them on for a profit. WHUISA have run a survey to get feedback on the scheme which will be made available on their website at some point on 1st March.
Feedback was offered by some that there have been complaints on the forums by some (presumably those who are used to getting away tickets every time), however it was accepted that something has to be done otherwise many fans (including younger ones) will essentially be locked out of away games.

Stewarding
Much has already been said about this on other forums and sites, so I’ll keep it brief. The stewarding is now provided by four companies instead of one. There has been call from the fans to reinstate stewards from Upton Park who have all been contacted with the club offering to pay for their NVQs. One of the four companies has 70 former Upton Park stewards on it’s books. The others have been asked to do an audit. The aim is to have a former Upton Park steward as a “Quadrant Manager” in each stand.

And that’s about it I think. It was a long old meting so I may have missed some bits, but hopefully that’s most of it covered. If you’re interested, keep your eyes peeled online as there was plenty of representation at the meeting.

Events

Just when you got over our first Quiz, here’s another! And if you came to the last one and thought it went on a little late, don’t fear! Our professional Quizmaster David H is back! So Jim can relax this time round and enjoy his rum and diet coke in the corner.
Details are:

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My Brave And Wonderful Friends

“I felt empowered enough yesterday to challenge homophobia at a match, it’s only because I knew I would be backed up. If POI had not been set up I would have not had the confidence to do that.” 

My good friend and fellow committee member Dave1 sent this message in our WhatsApp group the day after our trip to Brighton. We’d had a great day by the seaside; drinking prosecco on the train down after a frantic run (on my part) to not miss it, arguing about who the best Spice Girl is (it’s Baby Spice) over pints of beer in a pub overlooking the pier and starting rousing renditions of bubbles as we ate lukewarm, soggy pies surrounded by our fellow travelling fans squashed into the away area at the Amex stadium. The actual game was almost an afterthought to all the fun we were having on our Pride of Irons Day Out (and let’s be honest, it really isn’t a game worth remembering).

The chanting started after we conceded our third goal; everyone was cold, damp and frustrated and emotions were running high. Suddenly the fans in the row behind us stopped directing their anger at the Board and instead at the home team and fans. “Does your boyfriend know you’re here?” Within seconds all eleven of us had turned around in our seats, and I watched as my brave, wonderful friends shut it down. Here are the accounts of those brave, wonderful friends of mine:

“I spun around and said ‘Well MY boyfriend knows I’m here!’” – Jim


“I just tapped the guy who was saying it directly behind me and I said ‘can you stop saying that, it offends me’, and lo and behold he stopped” 
– Dave1
“I turned around as most of us did. I cannot remember what I said as I was enraged.” – Jo
“I just asked the guy behind me to ‘give it a rest, mate’. To which he apologised and then said nothing else the rest of the game.” – Kez

 

Pretty great huh? There was no more chanting and once the dismal game finally ended we bundled onto a bus which took us back to the pub where we discovered mac n cheese pizza (MAC N CHEESE PIZZA!).

Dave’s message at the top of this blog though got me thinking about why we exist as a group, and how important it is we exist. Within 30 seconds we managed to shut down and shut up some boring homophobes and we managed to do that because of the united front we presented, and the knowledge that we would be backed up by each other and the Club.

A few years ago, before Pride of Irons was even an idea sent bouncing around Twitter by Jim I went to a game at Upton Park with my friend Ella. I can’t even remember who we were playing now, maybe Norwich – as with a lot of West Ham games it wasn’t remarkable. After the match we got chips and joined the long queue to get back on the tube. As we nattered away our conversation turned to Ronaldo’s girlfriend at the time, Irina Shayk, and we were rather enthusiastically appreciating a recent photo shoot she’d done and agreed whole heartedly that Ronaldo was punching. As we descended into girly giggles over how fit Irina is an older guy in front of us turned round. He didn’t say anything, he mostly just looked confused. But what if he had? What would I have done? I’d like to think I’d have stood up for myself, but in reality I would have done nothing. I would’ve done nothing except unlink arms with Ella, smile to placate him and shuffle away, too scared for a confrontation.

But now? Now, knowing a group like Pride of Irons exists and would back me up, now knowing there is a chance a member is in the queue behind me, now knowing the Club fully and unequivocally supports me as a bisexual female West Ham fan, what would I have done if that older guy had been aggressive instead of confused? Well, who knows? But that fact that I have the support of Pride of Irons is a huge comfort and a powerful tool. And THAT is why we exist.

Last November West Ham and Pride of Irons played a big role in the launch of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, and as a result there was a very visible social media presence. I normally steer clear of reading the comments on social media, but as I sat on the train that was taking me to East London where I was due to be interviewed (or rather due to stand next to Al as he was interviewed) by the Club I decided to dive in. The usual comments were there waiting for me, and with an unprecedented feat of patience I decided to calmly and gently reply to all the “but why do you feel the need to make a big deal of it???” and “no one cares if you’re gay no need to make a song & dance about it” and “politics should stay out of football” and (my personal favourite) “there are kids who read this you know” comments. Much to my everlasting amusement, I got called a filthy woman. I was so delighted I screen shot it and sent it to my mum.

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But all jokes aside this is serious, and it highlights the exact reason we exist as a group. Contrary to popular belief, we would love it if we didn’t have to exist! We DON’T want to need to exist! We want to live in a world where we don’t hear chanting that makes a joke about boys having boyfriends. We want to live in a world where we don’t get called a filthy woman on Instagram for being open about our sexuality. We want to live in a world where we have overpaid male footballers walking out a nightclub holding their boyfriend’s hand and all anyone cares about is how with all that money he still can’t dress with any style. We want to live in a world where people are not disowned by their family, assaulted by strangers or killed by the state for being attracted to their own gender. We all want to live in this world. But we don’t. And until we do, that is why its important groups like Pride of Irons exist. It’s still a fight. Our group’s fight is small. It isn’t going to stop the systematic assault on the rights and humanity of LGBT citizens in Russia, but our fight will make that kid who thinks he might be gay who saw the homophobic chanting at that Brighton game he went to with his Mum shut down by a hodgepodge group of supporters feel welcomed and safe. That’s our fight.

Here’s another quote from one of my brave, wonderful friends about the game on Saturday. It makes me swell with pride.

“I imagine they were surprised to be challenged … what a diverse group we were. Male and female pretty much equally, and a kid. That doesn’t say ‘gay’ to them and challenging them shows that their preconceptions are wrong. ” – Ian

We’re doing good, team.

Feedback to the Club on the New Stadium

As mentioned on the WHUFC website ( http://www.whufc.com/news/articles/2017/january/06-january/all-new-sab-meet ), the all-new SAB will meet for the first time on Tuesday 24th January 2017.
Pride of Irons are proud to be represented on the SAB, so we invite our members to get in touch with the experiences, both good and bad, of match-days at the club. In particular, we’d be keen to hear about your overall match-day experience, as well as :
Public transport
Accessibility
Stewarding
Stadium catering
Pre and post-match entertainment.
Any other issues that you feel strongly about, let us know.

Please send your feedback to our treasurer, Al Holmes, by Sunday 22nd January. Al can be contacted at prideofirons@alholmes.co.uk .

Alternatively, complete this online form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdIWC8o6m…

Well what a week that was!

There were TV appearances, the London Stadium lit up with a giant rainbow and the Pride Of Irons logo, pitch-side interviews, a film shown inside the stadium, a mention in the programme and more besides. What a proud moment for West Ham’s LGBT fans!

It Started With A Tweet

We had been looking forward to this for weeks. Friday the 24th – the day of Moyes’ first home game against Leicester and the launch of the Rainbow Laces campaign. There was plenty planned for the day but what a surprise to wake up and find Co-Chair Jim’s fan film for Carling’s In Off The Bar had been Tweeted out by Sky Sports to their 4.62 MILLION followers! Later in the day it was added to Facebook and YouTube and received an overwhelmingly positive response! Sure there were homophobes who decided to air their views, but it only goes to show how important campaigns like Rainbow Laces and groups like ours are!

News to us!

Throughout the day – and indeed the course of that weekend – the campaign was featured heavily in the media. We’ve known for some time that West Ham United are behind us, but the prominence of the club in the media was something to behold. Seeing our club captain, Mark Noble, representing a colour of the rainbow flag is something we only could have imagined previously.

Stop! Banner  Time.

Before the Leicester game, Al went across to the London Stadium and put our brand new flag into position, and it got shown in the evening on Sky Sports.  This flag will now be at every West Ham match at the London Stadium, so look out for it while you’re there or watching on TV. The colours really stand out from all of the other flags.

At the game.

Approaching the ground you would have seen this amazing sight! Yes, the club and the London Stadium worked together not just to put a huge rainbow on the giant screen wrap outside the stadium, but they also added the Pride Of Irons logo! It was a huge gesture from the club, showing their acknowledgement of our group and backing for their LGBT fans.

It was good to see members coming along again for a drink at the our pre-match meet up and to see a few new faces, and we also had some Rainbow Laces to hand out. We’re keen to repeat these meetups before each home match this season and it’s the only way of getting hold of one of our exclusive Pride of Irons badges. Al will be there from about 11am, ahead of the Chelsea game and there’ll be more people there afterwards.

As fun as the meet up was, two of the committee had to make a swift exit to head over to the stadium for a pitch-side interview with Kelly Somers. The excitement of walking down the tunnel towards the pitch was great, but they were soon faced with the reality of their faces being on the HUGE screens inside the ground. Al did a great job of speaking about POI and Rainbow Laces week while Lorna had a fangirl moment with one of her heroes standing nearby.

To find out more about their experience, head over to our website and read Lorna’s awesome blog !

After the interview, Al and Lorna headed to their seats to read the match day programme which included a piece by Jim. Unfortunately he couldn’t be at the match (more about that later), though he did make an appearance of sorts. Unknown to POI, the club had made their own cut of Jim’s fan film and showed it on the big screens in the stadium as well as releasing it on their Twitter feed.

        

Over on Sky Sports Premier League

So the day finally came where Jim was to appear on Carling’s In Off The Bar – Sky Sports’ Friday pre-match show presented by Max Rushden. This week’s guests were Danny Mills, Muzzy Izzet and West Ham super fan; Kriss Akabusi!

My Experience Of The Rainbow Laces Weekend

Wow, what a weekend! Stonewall launched their rainbow laces campaign, and Pride of Irons were delighted to play a starring role.

Who else was at the game on Friday? You wouldn’t have been able to miss the abundance of rainbows throughout the stadium, and we really hope you saw our logo displayed on the electronic wraparound. To say we were excited about it is an understatement, there was lots of photo taking up at the top bar at the Podium and gleeful pointing every time it came round.

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Those of you who were watching before the game may have caught some of our members on Sky Sports Premier’s Carling’s In Off the Bar, along with our Co-Chair Jim. Jim’s husband has written about the experience in his blog post here –we’d love to hear your feedback if you caught it!

For those who braved the cold and made it to the London Stadium, you would have been treated to a different viewing experience. The Club asked us for a pre-game pitch side interview, an opportunity we were certainly not going to turn down. Around 7.30pm Al and I made our way down the tunnel to be interviewed by Kelly and our faces were projected on the giant stadium screens. Al did the group proud with his articulate answers, whereas I stood frozen by his side hyper aware that Mark Noble was warming up mere metres away.

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Some of those of you who joined us at Pride this year may have also spotted yourself in the match day programme, alongside a message about PoI and the rainbow laces campaign from Jim. We hope you all picked up a copy.

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The game happened, Winston Reid wore his rainbow captain’s arm band, West Ham didn’t lose and the atmosphere inside the stadium was buzzing. All in all not bad for a cold November Friday night.

Oh, and all the publicity for the group from the weekend has resulted in a few new followers…

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aaaWe’re so excited with how the group is growing and we look forward to you all joining us on the adventure ahead. Come On You Irons!

By Lorna Severn (@BakingBlues)