Posted: February 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

Our resident work-shy reporter limbered up for his appearance at Threadneedle Street for the G20 street party with an afternoon talking high finance.

Once again, apologies to those who have already read the bulk of this report on the Orient message board. What we’ll try to do this time around is bring in some bits and pieces that were left out first time around and introduce a few utterances that have been said since the meeting last March.
So, after we had quaffed our complementary coffee and biccies, the seventy or so assembled shareholders settled down to digest the words of wisdom emanating from the top table. The ranks of club big wigs were reduced this year. No sign of new boss, Geraint Williams, Or Vice chairman Nick levene. Hearn Junior was missing this year too, so we were left with Barry, Matt Porter Steve Dawson and Dave Dodd. And so on to business…..
Chairman’s report: Our leader declared that it had been a “difficult year” (there hasn’t been many in my 30 years as a supporter that hasn’t been, I should add) Turnover was 10% down on 2007(Down from £4,054,715 to £3,605,785) despite our average gate going up to 5,206 from 4,848. The O’s payroll was a real eye opener (waterer?) as wages were 5% up. Total Staff costs came in at a record breaking £2.3 million quid, which is pretty much unsustainable with our present rate of income. Our total season loss eased when we sold the pharmacy space in the West stand for 750k, which meant that last season’s deficit was £143,000 and not the usual 800k. This year’s is projected at £1 million quid, but thanks to the Nicky Shorey Transfer cash this will come in nearer 600k.
I should think that this season’s accounts(2008/9) will make pretty grim reading regarding turnover and attendances. Both look likely to come in well down on this season as the O’s have hit a bit of a brick wall progression wise. The team has been abysmal at home for the most part and crowds have reflected the fact. Worryingly, the statistic declaring that Orient hosted average away contingent of nearly 900 for 2007 only underlines the importance of staying in our present division. If we did take the fall, our attendances could really bomb going by the glut of small clubs currently inhabiting league two.
Most of the pre- meting interest centred on the failed takeover bid from the Terry Byrne consortium and the subsequent sale of the ground lease to Barry Hearn and ‘Matchroom sport’. This has gone through and were are ‘debt free’ with £2.6 million quid in the bank and Hearn reckons that even without his 80% block vote shareholders backed his purchase overwhelmingly. If anyone is worried regarding our future re; the ground, Hearn said that we are in fact ‘overprotected’ due to inbuilt clauses in the deal. The club released a ‘Q and A’ sheet regarding the sale on the website the day of the meeting trying to make things clearer on the issue. The sale has cleared all debt regarding loans from Matchroom and the loan from Lombard finance that helped underwrite work on the stadium development. From the £6 million quid Hearn has paid the club for the leases LOFC has £2.6 Million in the bank. According to Hearn in an interview with the local ‘Guardian’ we have “lost an asset but not revenue, we are secure for the next four or five years”
Meanwhile, back at the meeting, BH started to shed some light on failed takeover of late January. The club was almost sold to the Terry Byrne consortium by a whisker. Hearn just became a bit nervous as to the way the finance was being organised via the movement of cash in offshore accounts but refused to go into more detail when pressed by a shareholder. The consortium didn’t seem to be interested in the ‘ground ‘and more in the way of playing side, which was good news in Hearn’s eyes. He said that the group has lots of players at their disposal and that Orient could use them on short or long contracts. But the fact that Orient had 2.6 Million quid in the bank could mean that the actual money might have been put at risk by the consortium using it as working capital for dealings other than LOFC. Alarm bells began to ring and the deal fell through. Don’t write Terry Byrne off entirely though, Hearn was talking to him that very morning and I wouldn’t rule out another try. That consortium was the 4th to ask about the O’s, although others have been more interested in the site rather than the team. Hearn claims to have tried to insert a clause tying any prospective buyers to the O’s for 5 years after a buyout and this has scared off most consortiums thus far.
We then move on to the subject of where the mighty O’s could end up playing their football in the future. Barry Hearn didn’t rule anything out and his answer left me in no doubt that we are on borrowed time at Brisbane Road.
I asked about the Harlow move and if football in Leyton was dead. Barry said that if we listened to our heads rather than hearts Orient could not survive where we are now. It angers him when he sees people on the message board forum say that the club doesn’t do enough to attract new fans and we have tried 16 different schemes over the last few years. It doesn’t help when the O’s turn in crap performances and lose when these games come along either!
Harlow seem to be a serious option (although Hearn thought that any local authority would have trouble building a stadium in the current climate)as is some of the other Olympic sites (other than the 90,000 white elephant in Stratford which is now officialy off our radar). Apparently, Harlow has been told by H.M Government to double its size and to become a ‘new city’. We could see the MK Dons effect come into force when the credit crisis subsides and Orient and Saracens rugby could well end up there. Hearn reckons we are going to be at Brisbane Road for at least 5 years. In the last edition of the ‘Ear (#196) the local authority wasn’t in any hurry to comment on this although a site seems to have been earmarked between Harlow and Stansted just off of the M11. The stumbling block being the council doesn’t even own the land for the proposed development!
Of Course all this is well and good, but for the fact that for option Harlow to become a success the people behind it would have to throw tons of money at the project and not the relative ‘piecemeal’ cash that Hearn has done down here down the years. Who is going to fund a stadium that will cost around 10 to 15 million pounds to build and then fund a team to match the plush new surroundings? Hearn also mentioned that there has to be enough land around the stadium to construct outlets for food and other leisure activities for this idea to be viable too. To be frank, it has the appearance of just shifting 3-4000 regulars 15 miles up the road and our problems with it. Orient have around five years to sort all this out and Hearn seems in no hurry to leave until he gets serious offer with serious straight forward money to go with it. He repeated that the club will not be “raped or pillaged” on his watch”. All this could change though because Barry repeated, yet again, that he would be off like a shot when that kind of offer finally comes his way.
It was time to get our teeth into playing matters, but first the assembled shareholders wanted to know a bit more regarding the appointment of the new boss at the O’s. Martin Ling was praised when a lady (Pam, I think her name is) in the audience gave Barry a bit of a tongue lashing for sacking him. But Barry said (what most off us knew) that his sell by was up and ‘George’ Williams has done a good job since taking over. Williams has only got a short term deal because that’s what his agent was asking for as he still thinks that he’s good enough to manage a championship side (Melligan in midfield! oh dear, Geraint)
Seeing as the new manager was being appointed mid-takeover Terry Byrne and Matt Porter did the interviews to get to the final 4 candidates but seeing as that died a death Barry did the last round with Williams coming over super professional and Ian Holloway coming over as a ‘ character’ in the nicest sense of the word. The fact 0is that Holloway wanted 3 times what was being offered in wages and this virtually ruled him out of the running. The word is that Williams had spent much of his time since leaving Colchester at dozens of reserve and regular games ‘swotting up’ on players and keeping his face known in and around the game. This has stood him (and us) in good stead with the recruitment of McGleish and to a lesser extent Church and Smith. Although I’m tempting fate here, I think that Williams will keep us up and this will be enough for him to get a serious job offer from the O’s in the process. I think He’ll take it because It’s a good deal for him and I can’t see a championship club offering him a job, despite the flannel William’s agent has come out out with. There was even a strong rumour going around that he wasn’t the original choice for the job, but I don’t think that many O’s fans are complaining so far.
What he has to work with is a different story, which bring us nicely to the regular ‘who’s in and who’s out’ question. Barry said that no-one is talking contracts until we know our fate from manager to players. However, it seems that we could be aiming for a 100-200k cut in wage bill for next season and that won’t help the playing side much. People sweating on deals are Danny Granville, Alton Therwell, Dean Morgan, Paul Terry, Loick pires, Soloman Sheilds, Brian Saah, Wayne and Bradley Gray and Sean Thornton. I thought that Purchase and Boyd’s deals were up in the summer but, surprisingly, no mention of them on the list given out by Matt Porter at the meeting. Maybe they have provisionally signed up already. We already look likely to offer Scott McGleish terms for next season by the way Barry was talking.
If we do get relegated it could mean big time trouble. We’ll lose 500k from the football league just for being in league one and I’ll bet our attendances bomb despite Barry promising to CUT, I REPEAT, CUT prices for next season. There seems to be a 5 year plan being hatched to see the O’s through the current financial choppy waters. We could do this at a stroke by cutting the wage bill in half to around 800k per season, but this would be a real risk. Hearn kept banging on about finding our real position in the league pyramid in regard to our size as a club and how many supporters we get through the gate. Personally, I think we are at that stage now, I.E; the bottom 8 clubs in league 1.
Now, on to a bit of a controversial subject. Stewarding. Oh dear, this is where it gets tricky. Basically, it seems most of the people who get into trouble with the stewards have only themselves to blame. One bloke was warned 6 matches in a row regarding his behaviour before he was banned and another v Brighton ran down a flight of stairs, pushing a past a steward en route, in an attempt to get at the technical area. Basically, Hearn said he’d rather lose this type of supporter that spoils the family atmosphere at the club and that CCTV has backed the security forces in every case when it comes to home fans claiming to be hard done by.
Matt reiterated all the things that he said last year regarding stewards telling home fans to sit down. The club has NOT issued an instruction telling stewards to do this, but not all the stewards here are savvy to this and when they do tell you to sit down that they are in the wrong. Most of the senior and middle ranking stewards know the score but some of the new ones aren’t that hot and the club has a relatively high turnover of them. Again, any complaints need to be backed up by the number of the steward in question and those with phones with inbuilt videos could use them to back their own case up if required in my view.
The bottom line is that the people moaning need to change their habits or call it a day on coming here. I’d still maintain that away fans get treated differently when it comes to their provocative behaviour for the simple reason being that the club wants to avoid a serious incident that could get well out of control. I’m not condoning our fans that go way past the mark, but it’s easier to deal with a handful of O’s fans than a mob of away fans and that’s probably why some feel that there is a two tier system in operation when dealing with spectators inside the ground. Failing that, go and buy some Leeds and Millwall shirts and start looking a bit more threatening.
As the meeting wound down we just had enough time for some titbits. First, the bad news. Tam is out for two weeks and we may sign one more loanee as cover. Ashworth looks out in the cold already despite his 2 and a half year deal. The deal for Spurs to use our pitch for reserve games has not been signed for next season and this depends on a pre season friendly being arranged. No confirmation as yet and this means that we can’t organise any other warm up games until this is sorted.
And so that was that for another year, but what does it all mean. Well, unless someone comes in with some serious money, or even some new ideas, the O’s will keep plodding along in the short term until Hearn calls it a day at some point within the next 5 years. The land sale is the most controversial point of late and basically Hearn has covered himself by clearing the debt to his company and taking the asset he has built up here in one fell swoop. I should think that the £2.6 million in the bank will go to keep our losses down to the bare minimum and in the meantime any cup runs will come in very handy for the club coffers. The bottom line is that Hearn has gone as far as he can (or is willing to go) and we have to deal with it. I should think that the most important priority is to get a new ground in place sooner rather than later because if anything is going to kill the O’s off a lack of a viable long term home will be the cause. I’d like to know what kind of lobbying is going on at the moment regarding this because if Orient just sit back and wait for things to happen then the club could be in real trouble.
Whatever happens and whoever is in charge this time next year there are a couple of things that need looking at. One of which is the whole way the match day operation is run from entry to leaving the ground. Doing more to make it easy for people to get into the stadium, extra cash turnstiles (making all the east stand ‘pay on the day’ might help) anything to get more people into the O’s. Barry Hearn’s ‘fuck off if you don’t like it’ stance down the years has finally had the desired effect going by this season’s gates. Basically, Orient have to change its attitude as much as the supporters if we are to get some more interest in this club, be it based in Leyton, Stratford, Harlow or Mars. The O’s appear to be trapped in limbo at the current time and uncertainty rules. That is until such time when somebody, somewhere comes up with a lot of money and some new ideas on how to move us forward. I wouldn’t advise anyone to hold their breath in the meantime.



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