West Ham supporters club battling for new members
PUBLISHED: 18:30 10 August 2018
New chairman at WHUISA says he is the 'critical friend' of West Ham
As the Hammers look to rub shoulders with the cream of the Premier League this season, the West Ham United Independent Supporters Association are looking to do the same.
West Ham were the only professional club in Englad not to have an affiliated supporters club, but the times they are a changing.
WHUISA, as it is known, have a new chairman in John Ratomski and lofty ambitions to increase their membership and serve the West Ham fans in anyway they can.
“We started from zero,” said John. “There had been three different versions of WHUISA which did not get off the ground for whatever reason.
“But starting from scratch and going into the first season, the issue was growing an identity, getting the name out there and getting the fans onboard.”
They have certainy managed that. Membership has grown from a thousand to over 4,000 in the last year and this year they are looking to break into the big league in terms of members.
“For WHUISA the plan is to grow the name, offer more of a service to members and potential members and to grow the membership,” explained John.
“We already have the direct dialogue with David Sullivan which began in April as well as through the Supporters Advisory Board with Karren Brady, so we have two lines of contact with them.
“The contact with David Sullivan came by default really following the Burnley incidents. He was willing to talk to us and we took along a number of questions which he answered for us.
“He spoke openly and these were questioned provided by WHUISA members.
“It is important to say we are pro-supporter, not ant-board.”
So what can WHUISA do for you the supporter? Well, it seems they are have already made their presence felt, as Ratomski explained.
“We had an approach about the priority points system for away games and queries over the correct number being carried over, so we are looking to get involved with that,” he said.
“Last season we helped to overturn some bans from after the Burnley game. The club had written to one fan to say we have spotted you and he said I don’t even think I moved from my seat.
“In the end we liaised with the football supporters federation Amanda Jacks who has been helpful to us and had that overturned with an apology and his police record expunged.
“I am sure there will be more issues that will come up.”
Ratomski actually lives in the north west of England, but with fellow committee member Lew Ozarow acting as his southern representative, he thinks things will run smoothly.
“Home games are a 13-hour round trip for me and I am committed to that,” insisted John, who has been supporting the Hammers since the 1960s from Chester.
“It is payback time for me because I couldn’t do this five years ago because I had other commitments.
“I grew up in Chester and I was a steward there,” he continued. “I ysed to run Ian Rush’s bath and I walked past my hero Bobby Moore in a corridor there when he was manager of Southend.
“I wasn’t brave enough to speak to him, but he did acknowledge me and that was good enough for me.”
John and WHUISA are looking to build on their membership in the new season in the same way the club are looking to in the Premier League.
And they seem to be doing a decent job already having increased membership four fold in the last year.
“We are really holding the club to account,” said John. “We are their critical friend. We are completely independent and transparent and democratic and that is why people support us.”
It seems like joining WHUISA is a sensible step to make for every fan.