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Fan ownership… the Davids and a German tragedy!

We are happy to welcome new blogger ANDY WOOLER to CandH this morning with a timely tale which makes it clear us Irons need to be careful what we wish for!



By Andy Wooler

As a former West Stand ST holder and shareholder who moved to Germany some three and a half years ago I have witnessed a situation with my local team which I believe bears a relationship to what could have happened at West Ham.

Most of you will not have heard of KFC Uerdingen 05 who were promoted last season from the fifth to fourth layer of the German football leagues, the Regionallliga West. (One of 5 leagues at this level made up of semi-professional and professional teams).

You, may remember them as Bayer Uerdingen whose highest Bundesliga position was third in 1986, won the German Cup in 1975 beating Bayern Munich and beat Dynamo Dresden in the quarter finals of the 1985 European Cup Winner Cup.

David-Sullivan-and-David-Gold_2441171But they dropped down through the leagues until they hit the sixth level of German football, a sad vision of what could have happened to us following the demise of the Icelandic ownership of our club.

It has taken them a long time to slowly climb up the leagues again and won promotion from 5th to 4th last season. But to go to a home game is a strange experience – a stadium built for Bundesliga days is mostly empty.

When I went to see them the first time, the equivalent to our old east stand was empty – as was the stand behind the goal to my right. A small handful of people were behind the other goal and I had the choice of seat in the main stand. It was very much like a ghost stadium for this Dickensian vision of football future.

They even went to the lengths of auctioning a day as team coach on Ebay to raise money! In 2008, a bidder paid 4,110 Euros to coach them for a game against Red White Oberhausen!

But they have survived and one of the reasons for this is the ownership rules for clubs in Germany.

With the exception of clubs where a continuous 20 year investment has been made, all clubs must own at least 50% plus one share to ensure the clubs voting members retain control. (Bayer Leverkusen and VFL Wolfsburg, owned by VW, are the 2 exceptions to this).

In recent years, RB Leipzig have become probably the most hated club in Germany because of the way they have just a handful of members, mostly employees of Red Bull. Be careful what you wish for!

So instead of bashing Gold and Sullivan, we should be thanking them for saving us when they did – God know what sort of mess we would otherwise have been in!

But the time has come for me to look at another vision of the future – fan ownership and and I am not talking about just 5 per cent as was suggested on another site in 2014.

I am suggesting getting to that magical 50% + one  share that gives us, the fans, control of the club. But that requires commitment from us – the Ebbsfleet experiment was interesting but after just one year, the majority of members failed to renew.

I for one would gladly buy back the shares I was forced to sell to the Icelandic consortium and pass any voting rights to a supporter’s trust – different to the Ebbsfleet scheme where the trust owned the shares.

And if David Sullivan sticks to his word that he would let 20% of share be sold and the money to go into the club, that would be a good starting target for such a scheme.

But don’t forget, you still need people to run the club for us on a sound commercial basis – whatever you may think of Karen Brady, she is a shrewd business woman and personally, I would continue to employ her. Fans making business and football decisions will not work without proper experienced business management of our club.

At this time of the year we start thinking about Mr Charles Dickens, which of these future visions do you want?

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About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

10 comments on “Fan ownership… the Davids and a German tragedy!

  1. Speaking personally I have no problem with the David’s we were effectively on our knees when they took us over and no one else would have put the money in would have been easier to let us go into administration then take on the club on the cheap even though we would have been in League one or worse. The worry at the moment is the alarm bells are ringing that Slav could be dragging us into a relegation fight before Christmas which would be a catastrophe.

    • Yes there was other people wanting to buy the club,don’t believe the nonsense that they saved us and are lifelong fans,well Sullivan definitely isn’t.There is too much money in English football for big clubs to go out of business,fact is we are probably in more debt now then when they took over as everything from training ground to future revenues has been mortgaged and the outstanding debt from before is same but half is to them

      • We are in need of investors. And I do question the mortgaging of Rush Green. But almost all clubs are in debt except for Bayern Munich (bc they use German Talent & have a System that works w/o manager like a lot of German clubs) Social media & some questionable things but we could have worse owners.
        Investors is what we need & would think with all the money in football we would be able to get some (had the one recently) LS hasn’t worked out liked they hoped but renting was always questionable they don’t have enough say in what we can do can’t even dye pitch Claret.
        But the Icelandic owners could have taken us down like Portsmouth that said if that don’t start making changes & soon we could go down too

      • I don’t believe that Dan at the time there was no one interested in taking on a club with £110m in debt, there were probably plenty waiting to see us go bankrupt and pick up the pieces, well there was Tony Fernandes I suppose but we see what a mess he would have made of the club by looking at QPR, we were also in a complete mess on the playing side, lacking leadership etc which is why when he came in Kevin Nolan was great for uniting the players and as much as I hated his football Allardyce sorted out the defensive weaknesses and managed miraculously to get us out of that division first time of asking and stabilise us in the PL, he gave Slav a platform which gradually he is eroding, he has the players with the character and experience to succeed he has a youth team flourishing in its top division but we as a club are failing to produce the performances that the squad should. That is not down to the directors, if you believe the press you will believe that the we haven’t spent any money blah blah blah, but when you look at the P&L figures of running the club we are making minimal profits and whilst the chairmen are making interest on their loans, they are not drawing a salary and supposedly not taking the payments on the loans until 2020. Most of the negativity around the club as far I am concerned surrounds playing performances not how much we are or are not spending on transfer business, yes some of it is to do with that but it would all be forgotten if we were in the top 6 or 7 and winning most of the time as it was ignored when Payet was playing but we were still making the same mistakes we are now, shooting ourselves in the foot as the captain puts it…

        • our debt was relatively small with the vast sums of money in football,the Dave’s are not doing this for nothing they are business men and they are in this to make money not because of some imaginary love for the club.some fans are in dream land when they say top 6 we don’t have a single player that would get into a top 6 team

          • Maybe they are maybe they aren’t but £110m was more than twice the maximum money you could earn per season for winning the league at the time we were in trouble. It was a long time before the new deal was signed and the club was looking down the barrel, some people don’t like them, some do some are indifferent like me, I try to be objective just saying don’t believe the press, most of what they have done has worked, we had one bad transfer window, a lot of the players they signed may even have been better with a better manager, on the manager front I think they should find someone that is a great coach and manager because he has a wealth of talent to work with and I can’t see us getting any worse than we are at the moment which is pure relegation form.

  2. Would be interested to see how much Sullivan wants for the 20%. If he is treating it as a placing of sorts then it helps set the price for any future investors.

    Not sure if I’d keep Brady to be brutally honest. She has made it clear she doesn’t like the fans on more than one occasion so she needs to build a few bridges first imo. Would also like to see her get the club involved with more stuff like dementia uk. Sir Geoff was doing something with them recently and we could have got the club fully behind him on that one. Hilda Hayo is a top lady – there was definitely a good PR opportunity missed there and we do need to protect/improve club’s image after stadium hostilities from other clubs. Give Brady her dues though, the deal for the stadium is unbelievable. And I’m sure she could be just as effective when dealing with transfers.

    Would like them to sort out the customer service levels at the club – they disabled the supporter email address and it’s taken weeks to get a reply from someone else. Being a fan means I’ll come rain or shine but they shouldn’t take us for granted. If Brady really is that shrewd then she should know how customer service can make or break a business!

  3. Exeter City financially dead. The club was taken over by the fans and it’s been a win-win situation. It’s been a long haul but the are now financially sound, challenging for promotion and yesterday work started on a new stand.
    I’m my opinion, to have a large fan ownership, with the David’s & Brady would also be a win-win. But equally you have to get things right on the pitch.

    • Very true & that worked for Swansea as well when they almost went under. The Fans helped save them and still have shares but less say now.
      There is so much money in English football it is ridiculous. £25m for Marko. Players cost more then Clubs!
      But I don’t have a huge problem with the owners I just think they should stay off social media like most Chairmen & Owners do. Or just say good things about a win. They are indecisive & are more Loyal to managers then most. I don’t think they are trying to just save a lil over £1m to pay off Bilic bc they could lose a lot more.
      I just think they want to find a perfect manager which won’t happen right now we just need a proper coach to keep us up & get the best out of squad.
      We could have a lot worse owners….

  4. I laugh when I read ‘sack the board’ comments, eh they own the club lads, they put their money into us when no one else was that keen. However they earn their cash is their business and the fact that they are not in the Roman Chelsea league and therefore not able to spend roman type money doesn’t make them bad people. Rather them than some faceless yank businessman or that Asian bloke at Leicester with their never ending signs round the pitch paying respects to some King who sadly died months ago. If they have a fault I think they are a little naive at times and maybe not forceful enough with the appointed manager. Currently they should have acted before now to clear out Slav’s backroom bunch and if he said no then he should have gone as well. I despise the state my club are in right now but I firmly believe it’s just down to performances, we have had nothing to sing about or get excited about for a season and a half, that’s why we have the stadium issues and that’s why fans are sniping at players, management, directors and each other and unfortunately the Manager needs to go, like most, I like the bloke, but he’s not delivering for whatever reason. Mark my words when (hopefully) results turn then the sniping will stop.

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