As you are aware, on Tuesday 31st August 2021 an informal meeting between representatives of Oldham Athletic Supporters Foundation (OASF), Push The Boundary (PTB) and two members of the board of Oldham Athletic Football Club (OAFC). This took place via Zoom.
This meeting was prompted by a joint plea from PTB and OASF for the club to commit to meeting with us. Crucially, as a result of the national media attention focused on the club in light of the protests and pitch invasions by supporters at recent home games. In this statement we would like to explain a number of things -
We asked Abdallah why are fans protesting? His answer; results - If the team had won, there would be no protests.
The deep rooted fear and discontentment that supporters feel were not acknowledged here or at any point in the conversation. It was clear from this early point that the answers we were hoping to hear, weren’t forthcoming. Without going into the exact back and forth of the meeting (which was informal and no minutes were taken), we can say that from our perspective, Mr Lemsagam feels he is a victim, that the fans have been on his back from the start and the blame for the club’s fortunes lie elsewhere.
When asked to produce evidence of what was going well, he stated that they were “working hard” and that there were two young players in the first team.
Issues regarding the transfer embargo were not satisfactorily addressed.
Calls that Mohamed might not be best suited to the position of sporting director were dismissed.
No details were forthcoming of a short, medium or long term action plan, which may have put our minds somewhat at ease.
We don’t think it unreasonable to think that someone almost four years into running our football club would have a lot more to offer us in terms of demonstrating learning, leadership and strategy.
The meeting ended with us explaining that we, as fans, have no desire to be at loggerheads with the club we love. That we’d like nothing more than to be able to work with the club to help solve it’s problems. We explained that in order for that to ever happen, significant changes in attitude, leadership, communication and approach to how the football club is run, would need to be integrated quickly.
We gave Mr Lemsagam the opportunity to think about the meeting and respond accordingly, in the hope that after the event, he and Adam were able to reflect upon what was said and offer something more promising in reply by Friday 3rd September. We can confirm that Adam Morallee did contact us yesterday at 18.29 hrs. The email contained two statements;
Abdallah is mid-way through the response and we intend to send that response to you during the course of next week. We want the relationship between the Club and OASF (and all the fans) to be an open and co-operative one and we understand the nature of the points that were made.
So what next?
This is promising, but we have had false starts before. So in advance of the Friday deadline, we had already made plans and held two meetings ourselves.
Tuesday evening was the debrief and reflection. Thursday evening we met to formulate the basis of an action plan. It is our immediate intention to begin holding the club to account. Below is our plan.
Phase One: Sept – Nov 2021 Mr Lemsagam has insisted that he intends to turn the fortunes of the club around. Until we see any evidence to suggest he will, or that he will formally put the club up for sale, we shall in the immediate term, have to work with him under our obligations to the club and supporters. Having said that, we are beyond the point of accepting the clubs word that everything is fine and we expect the following cooperation from them on a monthly basis -
1) By the 7th of each month - To have eyes on intelligence that our club is financially being run in a fit and proper manner.
These are the eight FSA key marker questions. We have appointed an OASF director as interim representative on the OAFC board and expect full cooperation from the club, meaning unreserved access to information and supporting evidence.
Club Accounts - Request to see full, up to date management accounts drafted to the end of the last full month, including cash flow statement and profit/loss report - is the club paying the bills/financial obligations in a timely manner?
Are the club staff being paid and on time?
Are there any Directors loans? If so, what are the implications?
Access to Club Budgets. Are we borrowing and compliant with EFL regulations?
Access to the SCMP. Club have submitted these twice a year - pre-season in July and December time - Have you seen them? Are we compliant?
Are there any FCA and pension issues, implications or financial penalties?
Staffing - Update on and off the pitch, including player recruitment and any impending tribunals/dismissals.
Property matters - any ongoing club/landlord disputes?
2) Memorandum of Understanding. Previously signed by both parties in April, with a promise to meet at board level and agree two meetings per season. As we are a club in crisis and with club having to build faith quickly, we are expecting these meeting are held monthly with specific agenda items agreed by both parties.
3) EFL required two fan engagements per season. We expect the club to hold an online, live streamed fans forum by November. This is so fans may put live questions direct to the most senior members of the board. We will plan this event.
We will not accept anything but full transparency and co-operation as per the outstanding fan expectations set in May 2019. This starts from 7th September 2021.
Failure to co-operate on any of the above will be interpreted as a deliberate unwillingness to cooperate and withhold information from a shareholder / supporters. We will enforce a strict “three strikes” rule and upon the third strike, we shall proceed to the next phase.
Canvass the membership. Failure to demonstrate sufficient engagement and cooperation with OASF during phase one will leave us with no choice but to canvass the membership with our thoughts on our next steps. This would include "should we ask the owner to put the club up for sale?" If the outcome from members is yes then during phase two, we will offer the owner our support to help him sell the football club and transition it to a suitable buyer. It is imperative that the sale be done in as amicable a way as possible for the future success and stability of the club and we potentially see this phase as an excellent opportunity for the owner to leave a positive legacy after his tenure is over.
The details of this phase are yet to be decided. However, the same conditions would apply as in phase one; full engagement, cooperation and efforts must be made by the club, in order for our assistance to be maintained. If this is not the case and a further three strikes are incurred, then we shall proceed to phase three.
Phase Three In the unfortunate circumstance that we find ourselves in phase three, OASF will do everything legally within our power to remove the current owner from the football club. We maintain that amicable and reasonable outcomes can be found, that OASF wishes to proceed with the very best of intentions, but that the ball is very firmly in the court of the football club as it stands. We have a duty to the longevity of this football club and we shall not shy away from our responsibilities for one second.
Whatever the outcome, OASF will report it to our members and the wider fan base by the middle of the month and discuss it with the OAFC board thereafter.
We know that whatever we do next will be criticised by some sections of the fan base and we welcome your feedback.
We encourage any fellow supporter groups as well as individual fans whether, local, nationally, internationally, to contact us. No matter how diverse we are in our thoughts, it is good to reach out and talk. We will be arranging meetings as we go along.
We are Latics, we are Oldham and we are in this together.