Fan's letter to owner

Trust Oldham (Latics' fans trust) have sent an open Letter to Abdallah Lemsagam, the owner of Oldham Athletic. This is the letter reproduced below:

Abdallah Lemsagam
Oldham Athletic Football Club
Boundary Park
Oldham
OL1 2PA

Date: 26 March 2019

 Dear Mr Lemsagam,

RE: PUTTING OUR FANS AT THE HEART OF OUR FOOTBALL CLUB

On 23rd March Trust Oldham held a meeting of the fans of Oldham Athletic. The meeting was called on the back of growing concerns amongst fans about the general health and future prospects of the club following recent events and ongoing media reporting. We have agreed to outline these concerns to you alongside our expectations regarding the management of the club and approach to engagement with fans.

Reports from various sources relating to staff turnover, non-payment of bills/salaries and interference with first-team affairs are understandably very worrying to fans. This is only reinforced by a lack of openness and an unwillingness to engage with fans and the Trust. To date, fans have not received adequate reassurances that these reports are false or exaggerated and that they are not indicative of the club being poorly managed. It also greatly concerns fans that as a first time owner of a football club, you have yet to put in place a Board to run the club and provide it with strategic direction.

The damage resulting from these reports (whether they are 100% accurate or not) is potentially significant. Not least we are aware that some fans have suggested that they will not renew season tickets at this time, whilst the club’s reputation amongst prospective players, managers, investors and sponsors has been harmed. Trust Oldham is not promoting a boycotting of games but it is apparent that some fans do intend this course of action.

As fans, we accept the financial constraints under which this club operates. We do however expect concerted efforts to address these, for the owner to seek to achieve a position of stability for the club and for the club to adopt an open policy towards communications with fans.

 

OUR EXPECTATIONS

Our fans are our club. As fans we demand from our owner:

  • Transparency and openness – be honest and open with fans, share information where possible and be open to hearing and acting on the views and ideas of fans. The Trust, representing our fans, is well placed to assist you with this. As part of this, we expect frequent and formal engagement with Trust Oldham reflecting its ownership share in the club and representation on the Club Board of Directors.

  • A clear plan – an outline of what you seek to achieve and by what means over the short, medium and long term. This should include clear and measurable objectives. Again the Trust can help you develop this.

  • Trust and integrity – we want our owner and the Board of Directors to act in a way which builds trust in the ownership and management of the club and a sense that it is in safe hands.

  • Delegation of control and authority – we expect the appointed first team manager to have authority over all matters related to team selection and training. We don’t expect interference of any type from the owner.

  • Fulfilment of legal and financial obligations – we expect the club to adhere to the principles of sound business accounting, including prompt submission of annual accounts, payment of pension contributions, HMRC contributions etc. and to fulfil all other financial and legal contractual commitments.

  • Establishment of an operational Board of Directors – we expect a suitably experienced Board to be formed which meets and operates in accordance with Companies House requirements. We expect the Board of Directors to have an appropriate level of influence over how the club is run and that the skills and experience of all Board Directors are utilised to best effect to support the viable operation and development of the football club.

Our fans will judge the ownership of the club against these expectations.

 

OUR QUESTIONS

In line with our expectation of a more transparent and open approach to communication, Trust Oldham, in consultation with fans, has outlined a series of questions relating to your current ownership and management of the club. These are attached to this letter. It is the Trust’s duty to ask these questions in line with its stated purpose to protect the future of Oldham Athletic. As shareholders of the company, we would like you to provide a full response to these questions to Trust Oldham by Friday 12th April 2019.

 

NEXT STEPS

Fans have requested that Trust Oldham takes steps to try and ensure their expectations are met. The first stage in this process is to ask that you (and associates as appropriate) attend a further meeting with fans. This meeting will take place on a date to be agreed with you but no later than Saturday 20th April.

This meeting provides you with an opportunity to address the concerns of fans, including those expressed in this letter, and outline your future intentions and aspirations for the club. This will be an open meeting, though fans will need to acquire a ticket for the event. The venue of the meeting will be arranged in due course. An agenda will be issued before the event.

 

This meeting is intended as a first step in achieving a more regular and meaningful dialogue between the club and fans. We hope you find it beneficial. It is appreciated that this letter raises a number of issues. However, it reflects the sentiments of our fans at the current time and it is entirely appropriate that we share this feedback with you. This feedback is provided in good faith and with the best intentions in helping you to address the concerns which our fans have. We hope it is received in that spirit.

We look forward to further engagement with you.

Yours sincerely,
Trust Oldham
On behalf of the fans of Oldham Athletic.

 

Trust Oldham/fans meeting 23rd March: Questions and requests.

  1. We are aware of reports that the recent change of coach supplier is due to debt owed to the previous supplier (Swans). Written confirmation is requested that the Swans’ account has been paid up to date with the necessary proof of payment/receipt of payment from Swans.

  2. We request proof that all rents for the stadium and other obligations are up to date, preferably through written confirmation from the landlord.

  3. We aware of reports that the gas supply to the club was disconnected due to nonpayment. Please can you confirm either that this was the case and provide confirmation of why it was disconnected and for how long or confirm that it was not disconnected and provide proof of payment of the account by producing an up to date statement from the supplier at that time.

  4. It is requested that proof of the offer made to purchase the stadium/North Stand is provided, including confirmation of how much was offered and on what basis and Heads of Terms.

  5. Please provide written confirmation that neither the owner nor the Sporting Director has ever sent emails to the manager prior to a game seeking to influence team selection.

  6. Please clarify the recent statement regarding Jack Byrne made at the fans forum of 22nd March (to which only selected fans were invited) and outline how him leaving in August 2018 almost led to a transfer embargo in January 2019 as claimed.

  7. Please provide further details and a breakdown of the £5 million you state to have invested in the club. Provide evidence of the money paid to the former owner for shares and proof of receipts of the balance paid into the club account.

  8. Please provide a proposed (draft) budget for the 2019/20 season and outline how any budgetary shortfall will be made up.

  9. It is understood that the club have received approximately £400,000 additional income from this seasons FA cup run including TV payments, prize money, additional sponsorship and share of gate receipts. Please advise how has this additional income been spent?

  10. Allegations have been made that staff pension contributions have not been paid going back as far as c12 months. Please confirm whether these contributions have been made and provide evidence of the same or provide an explanation for non-payment which would be a breach of regulations.

  11. There is currently only one Club Director registered at Companies House. On that basis please can you clarify what Barry Owens’ position at the club is as it is known that he is representing the club. Please can you clarify what authority Mr Owens has in respect of the day-to-day running of the club.

  12. Please can you clarify your intentions to complete much needed improvements to the stadium and its facilities (particularly the Chadderton Road and Main Stands) and the main playing surface.

  13. Please provide a full set of financial Management accounts for the year up to June 2018. We will request the full year-end accounts in line with the new year end date that has been submitted to Companies House.