West Ham Supporters Club refuses to ‘fade and die’
PUBLISHED: 12:30 11 October 2017
Temporary closure of their Castle Street HQ is huge blow to famous Supporters Club
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for the West Ham United Supporters Club as on the same day they opened their new matchday facility, they were forced to close their much-loved social club in Upton Park.
The new committee, headed by Hammers fan Paul Christmas, called time on the club for the time being after health and safety problems within their Castle Street headquarters.
“On the day of the Swansea game, we opened our new facility at Stour Space in Hackney Wick and had a great day, and then we came back to the club and had to shut it at midnight,” reflected Christmas on an emotional day.
Things seemed to be working out for the beleaguered club after they found the matchday location they were looking for, while entertainment was booked for the social club to swell the coffers.
They rented out the Stour Space and it proved to be a great success.
“We had grown men crying when they arrived which was quite moving,” said Christmas.
“There are a lot of displaced fans over there still looking for a base before games. They are like nomads wandering over there.
“That was very obvious at Stour Space as soon as they walked in they said it was like home again.
Stour Space is a special warehouse for artists, with the bottom floor having a cafe, while there is a bar and a pontoon outside. It is close to the Forman’s restaurant.
“The ground is literally across the river and there is a bridge nearby and for people who can’t walk very well it is a bit easier, and what is more you can see the ground from where we are,” continued Christmas.
“We are the closest and the cheapest venue in the area. People were coming up to us and saying it was so nice to see a friendly face and ask what can we do. It was like a family reunion.”
So there is the good news, but at the same time, things have not gone well back at their spiritual home in Upton Park.
Membership secretary Paul Walker takes up the story.
“We came in here and we thought that some of the stuff didn’t look very safe, so we agreed to have a health and safety expert come in,” he said.
“I think we underestimated the problems. The maintenance was not up to date, so the insurance certificate was totally invalid.
“We opened the boiler cupboard and there were a load of fag butts in there. Then we found out that the flue was not connected to the boiler so it is seeping carbon monoxide and there are asbestos panels in there and someone has been smoking.
“The boiler is condemned, the fire doors are not compliant. I remember Grenfell and we didn’t want it to happen here, so as a committee we unanimously decided to close,” said Walker.
“We had 500 or 600 people here on match days, but the fire precautions were not connected, so what might have happened doesn’t bear thinking about.”
So how much is it likely to cost to get the club open again?
“We reckon we need a couple of hundred thousand to get things right,” said Christmas. “You have to think about bringing things up to date. We are not in it for the glory or for personal gain, we just want to save this club.”
If the club was to close for good, West Ham would be the only league club without a supporters association.
“The question most people have asked us when we were looking for a venue close to the new stadium, was ‘Aren’t West Ham helping you?’ said Christmas.
“We want to know what their position would be and whether they can help us, but we didn’t want to go to them cap in hand, we are doing our own thing.”
They will do their own thing again for the Friday night clash with Brighton and Walker, who signed up 200 new members at the last game, is expecting big things.
“We will be open from 4pm and we are probably going to be banged out so we will either be turning people away or adopting a one-out, one-in policy.”
That is all well and good, but it is the social club headquarters, which still houses the 70-year-old Hammer of the Year trophy which is the biggest worry.
So is it worth keeping open? Christmas certainly thinks it is.
“Remember there are 850 flats going up just outside and we want to be an asset for the local community as well as West Ham United supporters,” he said.
“We are refusing to fade and die and we have to give it our best shot. I think there are West Ham fans out there who want to help save us.”
The Supporters’ Club have set up a GoFundMe page which you can find a link to by going to their website at https://whufcsc.com/save-our-club.