SOS: Save our social - West Ham club faces uncertain future
PUBLISHED: 12:30 14 June 2017
Our Hammers correspondent talks to Paul Christmas about plans for the historic social club’s battle for survival
When West Ham United left Upton Park for Stratford there were fears that those left behind would have a grim future.
Some have already fallen by the wayside, but it seems that the famous West Ham Social Club in Castle Street is looking to fight back and save themselves with a new committee and a new action plan.
The social club has been functioning in its current location since it was refurbished back in 1974, but since West Ham moved away last summer the members have diminished and the numbers coming to drink in the club before games has dropped dramatically.
But now, new social secretary Paul Christmas is looking to save the building and resurrect the club, which had some 1,500 members in its heyday in the late eighties.
“Things have been awful at the club,” said unhappy Christmas. “When West Ham were first trying to get the Olympic Stadium there was a plan in place to take us with them, but when Tottenham and Leyton Orient intervened that all went by the wayside and the club was left to flounder.
“The executive committee here wanted to shut the place down, but at a special meeting to decide on the future, I was co-opted in and the executive committee resigned on that day.
“A lot of people have sweated blood and tears for this club, it is a link to the past and we want to keep it open. There is only us and the statue left at Upton Park and the club are looking to take that away as well,” he said.
At a meeting on Sunday, the members who turned up voted in a new committee and accepted the rescue plan that the club is putting in place to save themselves.
The chairman of the new seven-strong committee is Steve Midwinter, who has been a member for over 40 years and will provide a steady and knowledgeable hand at the helm.
Christmas, who launched the new West Ham United Independent Supporters Association (WHUISA) will be helping out at the club on a day-to-day basis as social secretary.
So what is the plan for the Social Club? Christmas, a 48-year-old physiotherapist who lives in Upminster, spells it out.
“What we want first and foremost is a hub at Stratford on a match day,” he explained.
“Our members are scattered all over the stadium and we want to get them together before a match.
“We are looking to speak to Newham Council and to West Ham to discuss the possibilities of that and we are hopeful.
“We need to be there and we also need more members at the club so we are holding a special evening at the club on June 24, hosted by Tony Gale, where other ex-Hammers will come down for a special question and answer session.
“We are looking to get a full house of 175 down and the entrance will cost £15 and that includes becoming a member of the club.
“We are still in danger of closing and the lease on our property is very lucrative, but we are going to do everything we can to save the Hammers Social Club.”
He continued: “This is an historic and important venue, not just for West Ham, but also for the local community.
“We have activities like bingo and line dancing here among many other events here and we realise that we are going to have hundreds of new people moving in next door to us.
“There are a lot of people who are moaning on their keyboards about things, but what we need is help right now. We want supporters to come down and get us through this.”
West Ham have said that they have helped the social club in the last 12 months by linking them up with Newham Council and trying to help them find new premises in Stratford or to make their old building more viable.
They are more hopeful about the new regime at the club however and have vowed to continue helping them.
But there is still a long way to go for the Social Club, with their survival chances rated no better than 50 per cent.
“We want to carry on. This is the place where we used to have the Hammer of the Year presentation and we are looking to bring that back,” said Christmas.
“We won’t give up without a fight, so anybody out there who wants to help should contact us.”
If you would like to go to the Players night on June 24, you can get your tickets by contacting Paul Christmas at 07899 791133 or by going to the WHUISA website.
The famous old club is down, but it is not out.
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