The fans pressure group, Push The Boundary, having previously met with Latics' owner Abdallah Lemsagam, Managing Director Natalie Atkinson and Fans representative on the board Richard Bowden, there remained a number of unanswered questions which have now been answered within the agreed time frame. The questions are as follows:
Q. At what point did you realise that you didn’t purchase the ground and the stadium? (MEN article on 26/01/2018 suggested that you knew that this was not part of the purchase.)
A. This became evident at the end of the due diligence period. However the circumstances around the construction and subsequent sale were not.
Q. It was noted that Laurence Bassini was in the Directors Box away at Stevenage by Mike Minay on Twitter, please can you confirm his attendance and if so, the reason he was at the game?
A. He was a guest of one of the lawyers. He was there purely to watch the game and has no link with AL or the board.
Q. Why can’t you sit around the table with the FLG and sort out this situation regarding the Joe Royle Stand. We have waited such a long time for corporate facilities and now can’t use them. For the good of the club and the fans please can this be sorted?
A. The FLG are not a recognised ownership group in terms of the Joe Royle stand. As fans are aware, there is also a case that is with our lawyers regarding the north stand construction and sale. Until resolved, no meetings will take place. The club only deals with the land owner Simon Blitz regarding the lease. We want the stand to re-open and for the facilities to be utilised. The club is willing to negotiate the sla [sic], outside of the legal case, but certain red lines (e.g Control of entry on match days) need to be agreed before it can be taken further.
Q. Other than official monies (EFL Solidarity Payments & TV Monies) and season ticket sales, what other income streams does the club have and are they being fully utilised?
A. Abdallah’s funds each month, match day ticketing, match day hospitality, fans bar boxes (O2) fans bar, EFL monies, commercial monies – currently through the 125 business club. There is obviously a need to enhance these and new ideas are being generated in order to contribute. Particularly on the commercial side.
Q. As a 25 year old fan, I have never witnessed the “glory days” of the Premier League, trophies or promotions that older fans might have. My generation have numerous sports channels ready at the push of a button and huge Premier League teams only a short journey away (Manchester United/City etc.) My generation is also extremely social media focused but the club doesn’t interact much and lacks personality (e.g. videos with players/behind the scenes footage etc.) What is the club going to do to attract my generation and younger to Boundary Park? But most importantly to keep them there.
A. This is something we have identified needs work and we agreed some weeks ago that we would be working with a video/media/PR company to create new and exciting content for us. This could be up to 5 videos per month – player interviews, player training, behind the scenes etc. and further ideas are being considered to enhance our website and social media presence.
Q. Who owns Chapel Road? Also the training ground development was mentioned months ago and nothing has been spoken of it since, is there an update?
A. This was updated at the fans Q&A. The council own it, the club has a lease. I (Natalie) will be leading on a project to potentially invest and develop this site. The first meeting I had with the council was on Friday 24th Jan. When I have anything to update I will do so.
Q. The Royton Fans Forum in October was £5 entry, where has the money gone from this?
A. Monies were donated to our charities.
Q. What message will you send to supporters that will assure us that the club is not in danger of collapse?
A. We appreciate that fans are concerned, particularly with the challenges we have faced with regards to the North Stand. We would ask all fans to be patient, particularly with the stand. As fans are well aware the biggest challenge in League 2 football is finance and in this regard Oldham is no different to any other club. That does not mean we are in imminent danger of collapse. Abdallah could not be more committed to the football club and investing in the club, the team and workforce. He has invested a considerable amount and will continue to do so.
Q. What scope is there for Investment?
A. There a number of ways that the club can be invested in, through commercial sponsorship and partners. The business development manager is currently managing a number of leads for investment – through shirt/stadium etc. If there are other investors that show a genuine interest in the club, then the board of directors would not object to discussions taking place.
Q. What KPI’s did you set for the Sporting Director at the start of the season? How are these measured and how successful has he been in achieving any of these to date? What is the sporting directors day to day tasks in the role/job description?
A. This is part of the club’s internal processes. It is standard practice that we would not share records, performance info. Or other confidential discussions/agreements with staff. In terms of the sporting director, assisting the manager acquiring his targets, setting the strategy for player recruitment and development and working through all levels of the club to ensure we maintain a consistent approach.
Questions to and Responses by the Director of Finance Shahed Alam.
Q. The 2017-2018 accounts suggested debt was reduced by £5.1 million. What does this relate to?
A. This reduction was mainly achieved by a combination of the following: the club paying down some long standing debt, debt written down as part of the purchase agreement, and following Tanvir and my involvement in the club, we carried out a creditor confirmation exercise and wrote down a number of items that were there incorrectly due to the accounts not being reconciled/payments matched to invoices/creditor accounts for years.
Q. What is Shahed’s experience of Footballing and/or Sport Financing?
A. None. This is not relevant. What is relevant is the qualification and experience of financial controls and processes. You are welcome to check my linkedin page to take a list of my experience to date.
Q. What do you mean by a pay period? Why are we as a Football Club running payroll on a manual and individual basis?
A. This is in relation to the mess that the club was in when it was taken over. The previous bank took the opportunity of the takeover to discontinue, and the new bank placed restrictions, which includes daily payment limits and unavailability of BACS facilities. These are now being addressed.
Q. Can you clarify the position of the debenture that you mentioned at the Q&A?
A. There is not much I can add to what is already in the public domain, except that the figures bandied about by a hack article and various other “sources” are inflated by around £100k.
Q. Head of Football Finance and Chartered Accountant at Liverpool Uni’s Kieran Maguire’s offer to independent review of club accounts?
A. We are currently in talks with a couple of national and regional accountancy/audit firms to provide non-audit assurance on our accounts going forward, to confirm key facts. If nothing comes of these conversations, we will consider other options.
Further clarification was sought and the question was then asked – Kieran Maguire was spoken to by PTB to see if he would look at the accounts on their behalf as the club has stated before ‘they have nothing to hide’ and would be willing to show fans the accounts. Abdallah stated he didn’t feel this would be an issue, so would Shahed be willing to let Kieran look at them on behalf of PTB?
A. Whilst we’re being very open, we don’t want to hand out sensitive information to an individual on the basis of a recommendation, or as a person has offered to provide a service for free. We are going through the right channels, which is through a recognised accountancy firm. Even though there is nothing to hide, it doesn’t automatically follow that the books will be opened to anyone. As also covered in the question below, we’ve had other groups looking at the books as well. As soon as we have details of the accountancy firm being used and what role they’ll perform, we’ll let you know.
PTB – We have also emailed the club back regarding this response, we feel that Kieran isn’t ‘anyone’ and has vast knowledge in this department. By only allowing the trust access to the accounts doesn’t show the transparency we feel fans deserve. We have also previously given an alternative of the Football Supporters Association viewing the accounts on our behalf. We shall await their response on this.
Q. An increasing number of clubs are becoming more “open” when they post their annual accounts at Companies House by declaring their ‘profit and loss’ data. Are Latics likely to and if not why not?
A. I have done a bit of research and this statement seems incorrect. Please provide examples. I have found Accrington Stanley to be the most open by way of getting their accounts audited when they are not required to. Even their accounts do not include a ‘P&L.’
We responded by asking – We believe the supporter meant why have the full audited accounts not been released as we believe we maybe only one of 3 clubs (Swansea and Bradford the others) not to have done this.
A. Please could you find out that fan’s source of information. I have given you one example of Accrington Stanley which some fans have mentioned as the most open/full set of accounts and demonstrated that those fans were wrong/misinformed (see Companies House portal – only Balance Sheet and notes as per legal requirement – same as us).
We are not required to be audited. It is a major cost (money and time) which we are not required to incur.
To clarify for those that may be confused, the club has produced a full set of accounts including a P&L, but has published the abridged version on Companies House, which is compliant with Companies Act, which is quite normal. The full set of accounts has been submitted to the EFL and HMRC. The supporters’ foundation has had 2 separate viewings of the accounts, once through the nominated Director Darren Ratcliffe, and a second time Darren Ratcliffe and Philippa Whittaker. Another invitation was communicated to the Chair, Elaine Ganderton, a few weeks ago to send the Treasurer to view the accounts as well, and we await a proposed date.
So this issue should be put to bed as soon as possible and the myth of the club being “obstructive” or “secretive” needs to be laid to rest.
Q. What attendances would we need to get at home for league games to avoid owners having to tip in £s?
A. This is a good question. Based on my current projections and assuming my suggestions for cost control are implemented, around 6,000 average home game attendance would see the club do okay financially without reliance on the owner on a regular basis.
Q. In the last 3 months, please can you advise how much the club has been losing per month?
A. I do not want to get into specifics as this in sensitive information, but it is a large amount. Significant progress has been made to bring this down over the past few months. Further progress will be made at close season.
Q. Unless Abdallah purchases the ground, disputes with any landlord will continue to crop up every season, how does he intend to solve this? If the landlord isn’t Oldham Fans then it could end up in the hands of a landlord like those who own shops in high streets which are constantly closing.
A. No one, apart from the club, will/can buy the stadium for the various legal reasons and the very bad structure of ownership created by the previous ownership. If the supporters foundation (aka Trust) comes up with a fan ownership proposal, I am sure the Board will consider and be supportive of it, but it has to be the supporters’ foundation and not any other self-proclaimed fan group with undeclared finances, backers, no transparency, and massive conflicts of interest.
Q. Season ticket finance – can this start again? Will we get FCA approval?
A. Yes we are working on this, which will be a simple solution and easier for all fans.
Q. Money from AL – what is this in the form of? How is it recorded? Directors loans? How is it detailed on the SCMP?
A. They are initially recorded as director’s loans. However, to aid the club, from time to time, some are converted into equity. For example, last season £1m+ was converted into equity, the same was done again recently this season. SCMP doesn’t take account of director’s loans in the relevant calculations, however, the equity conversions do help the club increase the headroom on players’ salaries – we have to provide evidence to EFL to support these.
We have also had a response from the club in relation to the offer to mediate, the club responded by stating: ‘Thank you for your offer of mediation. Unfortunately the matters under consideration are currently part of litigation between the parties and involve specialist areas of consideration. It would not be appropriate for any other third party to be involved.’
The club and PTB have committed to meet again and will continue to keep the communication lines open and to ensure promises made will be acted upon by the club. We will keep fans updated with any progress. Any ideas/suggestions or concerns as always we are happy to progress or discuss. This is your club, let’s make sure we can enjoy it for many years to come!
Reclaim The Faith