Leyton Orient AGM 2012
The recent AGM didn’t bring much in the way of Earth shattering news but it was a chance to reflect on a year that the O’s made a profit for the first time in over three decades. Jamie Stripe took his place amongst the high rollers to bring us this report.
Well here we were again, lining up to take our places in the ‘Olympic Gallery’ for the annual general meeting of the clubs’ shareholders. After a good 20 minute wait to get in we were comforted to find that things hadn’t changed much from last year. There were teas and coffee available and the club coffers had been raided to bring us three packets of ‘family circle’ (jam ring? It wouldn’t be the first time) to go with our beverages. One day our dreams of a full on buffet consisting of sandwiches, sausage rolls and chicken drumsticks served up by page three girls will come to fruition. Probably around the same time as we play Barcelona in the champions league final.
As the assorted punters began to take their places it was interesting to see that the ‘top table’ wasn’t as heavily populated as it has been in the past. Barry Hearn, Matt Porter, Dave Dodd and Steve Dawson were in residence, but no Eddie Hearn (probably trying to get someone to fight Joey Barton, no doubt) or Russell Slade this time around. After the usual quips we soon got down to brass tacks.
The main talking point from Hearn’s address was the £400,000 profit we turned in from last season. This was down to our memorable F.A cup campaign which brought in over £1.5 million pounds via, gate, prize and television money. This was also reflected in our turnover for the 2010-2011 season which amounted to over £5million pounds. Our leader shared his belief that last season was genuinely exciting for everyone connected with the club and the goal from Jonathon Tehoue that clinched a replay back at the Emirates gave supporters a day they will never forget. The Cup money covered last years playing losses and gave us a fighting fund to reckon with in regards to the ongoing legal battles in regard to the West Ham/Olympic stadium saga. (More of that later).
Ironically those wonderful couple of months from January to March last year seem a world away to the dire straits the O’s find themselves in at the moment and sure enough BH announced that our losses over this season were back up to the usual £1million quid mark . What happened to the £400k profit you ask in the light of our on field woes? Well, it seems that it was given over to Russell Slade’s playing budget for the current campaign and it stands at an eye watering club record £2.1 million quid, folks. How much of that went on Calvin Andrew I wonder?
Bazza acknowledged just how disappointed everyone is about the way the season has turned out this time around and he made (in my humble opinion, anyway) a couple of sideways criticisms of Russell Slade and the management team. Barry wasn’t too impressed with some of the loan signing for starters and phrases such as; ‘We need a more professional way of player selection’ and ‘change of emphasis of the way this club is run’ led me to believe that the people at the top are not as ambivalent to the situation we find ourselves in as some of you would believe. Our real problem (in Hearn’s words) is that; ‘ We can’t beat the S*** teams’ and you really can’t argue with that assertion.
Orient’s longest serving chairman rounded up his report by announcing that Steve Davis had decided that to end his connection with his beloved O’s and resigned from the board forthwith. I’m sure we can all remember him running on the pitch celebrating our promotion at Oxford, sipping a Bovril at Carlisle and having it behind the away end at Brentford a couple of years ago. Or maybe, not. Matt Porter was re-elected to the board and was showered with glowing praise along with Steve Dawson and Dave Dodd. With the chairman’s report/ ‘Matchroom’ love- in complete and the auditors elected in less than 20 minutes from the start of the meeting it was time to throw the floor open the assorted shareholders.
THE PUNTERS HAVE THEIR SAY
First up, a question regarding the whereabouts of our manager, Mr. Slade. Well he was over at the ‘Score’ project taking extra training, apparently, which could well have done him a favour in my book. There were a fair few in the audience with some pretty hefty axes to grind with our 1st team manager (me being one of them) with questions such as ‘How come Wycombe can sign Paul Hayes and we can’t’ , and ‘why was Alex Revell bombed out of the club’ being high up on my personal list for starters.
Hearn outlined the story behind Barnsley’s approach for our head coach back in the summer and that he had blocked the ‘Tykes’ request to speak to RS regarding the vacant manager’s post at Oakwell. RS wasn’t too pleased but following our disastrous start to this campaign came to realise that most other clubs he’d be out of the door after that run of results. Slade has since been rewarded with a 2½ year contract which could well come in handy should the O’s take the fall into league 2 in a couple of weeks time.
The subject of the playing set up soon reared its ugly head as we started to get stuck into the meeting in earnest. ‘How many players are contracted into next season’? Matt Porter came back with the answer: ‘Ten’, which he proceeded to name quicker than I could jot down. As far as I know they are Jones, Butcher, Cuthbert, Cox, McSweeney, Chorley, Mooney (groan), Lisbie, Smith and one other that you can guess for yourselves. Matthew Spring’s contract is up and he is on Slade’s ‘to talk to list’ and seeing as he has been much better this season It would well be worth keeping him on here. Concern was raised regarding Butchers injury and he will be out until Christmas meaning that we will sign yet another goalkeeper bringing the recent total here to 786 since August.
As ever, trying to draw Hearn and Porter on who’s staying and leaving drew the usual blank and under the circumstances it’s understandable. The departures of Daniels and Dawson were brought up and it turns up that the two were never going to sign up for the O’s after their contracts ran in the summer. The talk about our former left back securing a ridiculous pay rise at Bournemouth was confirmed while Dawson‘s fee was actually lowered to put get the transfer to Barnsley through . Our former skipper, in fact, waived his cut of the transfer fee as a way of saying thanks to Orient and turned up at Oldham two months later to sit in the stands and cheer the O’s on to victory.
GROUNDS FOR COMPLAINT
Yes, you’ve guessed it, time to talk Olympic stadium and other related matters. I’d heard some talk regarding the club being interested in a move to Eton Manor last summer and just before Christmas reports in the local press revealed that Barry Hearn had approached Lee Valley Park with proposals to construct an arena, hotel and casino at the Eton Manor site. Following a series of meetings in November, the LVRPA, which owns Eton Manor, decided to reject Orient’s proposals on the grounds they are incompatible with Olympic legacy plans. I asked Barry whether we had any plans to have another go at moving down the road but his reply was that this is now off our radar for keeps and we are staying put for now. Our leader also mentioned that the clubs supporters would be fully consulted before any move away from Brisbane road took place and it was at this point that a huge bag of salt flashed through my mind and moved swiftly on.
The rest of the debate regarding all things Olympic stadium/ moving to Harlow and (surprisingly) Romford was much the same as what was spouted at this meeting 12 months earlier. We are still putting up a strong legal challenge to stop the claret and blue menace moving on to out patch and the football league are set to consider our case seriously when it comes to West Ham’s proposed move to the Olympic stadium. Brady, Gold and Sullivan are still hell bent on getting this stadium despite mounting opposition to it from their fans and an estimated £120,000,000 price tag to convert the stadium from athletics to football. Barry also revealed that the mystery complainant to the European commission that de-railed the original sale was one of the original architects of the project.
Hearn, rightly, laid into Hugh Robertson (minister for sport), Boris Johnson (a ‘buffoon that couldn’t run a sweetshop’ according to Barry) Baroness Ford of the OPLC and Ken Livingston for presiding over one hell of a monumental cock up that has cost billions and that has been organised appallingly from day one. Not to mention the downright deceit that all these figure have employed to cover their tracks in the process. Guess what folks? You get to vote for them again real soon, God help us!
It’s a well know fact in these parts that Barry Hearn has been chairman of this football club for over 17 years and in that time the football side of the operation has lost £7.5 million pounds, according to BH anyway. A few years back Hearn virtually sold the ground to himself and in the process brought forth the prospect of the O’s paying ground rent to ‘Matchroom’ from 2014. One shareholder brought this subject up but Hearn assured the audience that, in essence, as long as he remains in charge here there will be no money going out of the club coffers to him or any directors. It’s a bit like him paying money to himself. Leyton Orient football club still have around £1 million quid in the bank from the land sale of 2009 and our chairman reiterated that this club will be running as a proper business by the time that the money runs out.
The conversation turned to our old friend ‘Administration’ and the usual line trotted out regarding the practice being as bigger form of cheating as a performance in the champions league from Didier Drogba. Funnily enough, steps are being taken in the football league to force clubs to become more financially accountable. It won’t be long (season 2012/3)before clubs from league 2 can only spend 55% of their turnover on wages and in will be 65% in the case of league 1. Barry praised the football league for getting tough with the ‘cheats’ at long last and perversely enough, when it came to championship clubs voting on punitive measures for offenders Portsmouth were in the ‘yes’ camp! What is the view on Billionaire Russian oligarchs or taxi drivers from Loughton with substantial un-declared income wanting to buy into the dear old O’s you cry? And I say as long as any money is put into long term club shares this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Coming on the back of the meeting the football league announced that a series of stringent measures were to be implemented( at long last) from championship level downwards to stop league clubs plunging themselves and the game into financial chaos. Greg Clarke, chairman of the football league outlined that the combine debt football league club meant that they had to generate between half and one billion pounds over the next 5 years and that this summer could see 30 clubs go into administration which only goes to proves that someone like the F.A (aptly named) should have done something to tackle this years ago.
WE DON’T PLAY FOOTBALL AT BRISBANE ROAD
But we are starting to host some serious events away from the core activity of football. Not only have Orient hosted a prestigious European next-gen under-19 club competition along with an England u-19 international of late but now we have Rugby superleague, a pop concert and a charity/celebrity extravaganza lined up over the summer. Matt Porter reckons that we are going to see more of these events at the stadium as these bring in much needed revenue to the club (between 60-90k this season) and for little risk as we only rent out the venue to the people promoting the events. In my view it also raises the profile of the club in the locality and if we are serious about playing the much vaunted ‘community club’ card when it comes to swaying public bodies to our cause then I’m all for this. Hearn also added that there would also be some exciting announcements regarding our commercial arrangements in the near future and, sure enough, the club announced a ground breaking shirt sponsorship deal with Samsung and the people behind the ‘FIFA13’ video game two weeks after this meeting took place.
YOUTH TEAM, IS IT WORTH IT?
Well by the time some of you get to read this you would have seen the story in the ‘Daily Star’ regarding a 14 year old Orient youngster being the subject of a 100k bid from Fulham with a host of other big clubs being in hot pursuit of his signature. Now if this is true then the O’s would be pretty well advised to cash in before the Premier league’s elite player performance plan comes into effect to replace the current tribunal system, which assesses player valuations based on evidence from each club. The new system will mean a selling club is paid £3,000 per year for every year of a player’s development between the ages of nine and 11. The fee per year from 12 to 16 will range between £12,500 and £40,000.
Top clubs will also be exempted from the current rules preventing them from signing under-16s who live more than 90 minutes’ travelling distance away (or an hour for under-12s), allowing them to scout and sign players from anywhere in the country. Hearn described this as ‘a poacher’s charter’ and he could well be right. It would also raise the question of whether running a youth system here is financially viable? Could the money we use to finance this be better spent of taking some young players from the capital’s bigger clubs’ that surround the O’s and maybe giving us a better quality group of young players to the ones we are getting at the moment. The lack of talent graduating from our own youth set up has virtually evaporated over the past 5 years and it wouldn’t surprise me if we went in this direction sometime in the near future.
The meeting gradually petered out at around 1.20 leaving us to reflect on what had been said and how thing are shaping up in the short term. I have to say that there were times today that the gathering felt like sitting through a re-run of last year, but without feel good factor of having a good team to entertain us and the words ‘relegation battle’ a mere memory of days gone by. Issues such as the Olympic stadium legal battle, where the O’s will be playing their football in the future and the youth team set up are seemingly never going to be resolved to any sort of satisfactory conclusion.
Hearn is staying put for the time being and although I have been one of his sternest critics down the years (especially before we got promoted) I think that we need (more than anything else) is stability at boardroom level and someone fighting our corner against the tide of dishonest politicians and football administrators falling over themselves kill us off in the name of ‘Olympic legacy’. Of course the ‘elephant in the room’ that not many people could bring themselves to talk about was Orient’s continued on-field collapse at the hands of Russell Slade. Last year RS was banging on regarding the ‘Swansea blueprint’ but there has been little sign of any sort of structure in relation to building a system from youth team upwards. In truth, there have been times over the past four months that it appeared that tactics, player recruitment and team selection had been formulated on the back of a cigarette packet during a karaoke session in the Birkbeck tavern and after 15 pints of cider.
Looking back three weeks after attending the AGM there was still a feeling that we’ll write this season off and start afresh next year. I have a horrible inkling that when this meeting convenes again in April 2013 we are going to be reflecting on some very dark days here at Brisbane road indeed.