Long gone are the days in which first-time the fans learnt of a new arrival at their club was by reading a newspaper or when the player is pictured on the club site with holding a shirt or scarf aloft. Social media has and continues to revolutionise the beautiful game, bringing fans closer than ever before to the clubs, players and coaches they adore. Although this is viewed by many as a positive, social media must be carefully used as it can breed as much negativity as it does excitement.
One such example of a lack of thought and care in the use of social media or media, in general, comes in the obvious form of West Ham United and their publicity seeking owners. Never does a transfer window pass without Mr Gold or Mr Sullivan putting themselves into the limelight and speaking their mind, consequences neglected.
In times a past, owners or board members were rarely seen or heard, now it seems these groups wish to be the face of the club even more so than the stars that take the field. Transparency and openness with fans and the public are naturally admirable but it must be measured and a person in a position at the head of any massive organization must surely hold back somewhat rather than spout the first thing that comes into their head online. After all, once it’s up and there’s no going back in this technological day and age
Mr Gold has a long history of saying the wrong thing using his Twitter account which has amassed over 182,000 followers. During the summer transfer window of 2016, Mr Gold tweeted welcoming midfield ace Pedro Obiang to the club but put up a picture of not yet signed Angelo Ogbonna instead of Obiang. Whereas in May this year Gold tweeted “I think we all have to accept that it is extremely unlikely that a teenager will break into a PL team full of seasoned internationals.” A tweet that sparked outrage amongst the clubs loyal fan base and was perceived to have made the club somewhat of a laughing stock in the footballing world.
West Ham are known as the “Academy of football” given their record of producing some of the finest players to grace the premier league such as Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick to name but a few. This message also angered fans who generally love the prospect of “one of their own” coming through and pulling on the claret and blue.
What kind of message does it send out the talented crop currently within the club such as centre back trio Reece Burke and Oxford; even the promising Irishman Declan Rice. One would question what can be achieved by such blunders and whether successful businessman Gold should stick to that side of things.
Sullivan, however, whilst not on Twitter is prone to a gaff or two of his own in the media department. Most notably last summer Mr Sullivan announced to the world that West Ham via the club’s official website they were ready to buy a world class striker stating, “We know that we need a top striker which is the hardest thing to sign. We need a 20-goal-a-season striker and that will cost us £25m or £30million.”
This of course naturally generated excitement amongst the fans and when the transfer window ended and this goal machine didn’t materialise the anticipation turned to anger and disappointment. The majority of level headed football fans understand that the transfer window is not an easy place in which to operate and that even the best-laid plans can go astray.
Perhaps, however, announcing your plans and budget to the world wasn’t the best idea and a surprising decision for someone with such business acumen. Fans perceive that other clubs simply go about their business and speak once the target is secured whilst at West Ham publicity is paramount and this doesn’t help negotiations. The unrest from the fans certainly isn’t eased by the fact that since taking over the club seven years ago the club has purchased no less than 32 strikers, none of which could be regarded as an overwhelming success.
So surely Gold and Sullivan should worry about rectifying this rather than continually seeking stardom.
It seems that even when the club manages to conclude a good piece of business in the transfer market, in bringing England number one to the club the board in the form of David Sullivan can simply not help bringing controversy to the matter. Joe Hart is a welcome and great signing for the club albeit on a loan basis but Sullivan’s comments again on the clubs official site simply are in no way constructive.
When discussing the arrival of the England international, he stated, “He is the best goalkeeper I’ve worked with.”
Sullivan is as entitled to his opinion as the next person and in fact, one could make a strong argument that he is correct in what he is saying. However, it is again not constructive to voice this opinion when the club at the time of Harts arrival had two senior goalkeepers in the shape of Adrian and Darren Randolph (who has since moved on to join Championship side Middlesbrough on a permanent basis).
Adrian, a popular figure amongst the London Stadium faithful seemingly hit back at the comments in a tweet stating “Thanks for your sincerity! But you still have two great professionals respecting, fighting and defending this badge”. Judging by the reaction on social media most fans find Sullivan to be disrespectful to the hammers current crop of goalkeepers and his latest comments appear to be as short sited as those previously discussed.
Were Hart not to join on a permanent basis after his loan deal, it leaves West Ham with the clearly offended Adrian to rely upon going forward.
Many clubs manage to utilise social and the media in general in a productive manner, something that those in the hammers boardroom are yet to master.