LEYTON ORIENT SHAREHOLDERS MEETING 2014

Posted: February 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

What used to be known as the club AGM was held at the back end of April. Captain Scarlet came up with a feeble excuse to bunk off work for a couple of hours and bring us back this report.

As ever apologies to those who have seen the bulk of this on the club message board. As is now customary I’ll chuck in some comment and a few other bits and pieces that came up on the day. According the Barry Hearn due to a change in the companies act the club doesn’t need to hold an ‘official’ shareholders meeting anymore. Seeing as the date for this get together has gradually got longer and longer between meetings over the past 17 year this doesn’t really come as a surprise. Neither was the fact that that spread laid out for the assorted shareholders was spartan to say the least. When Barry told us that this meeting would been no different from the ones before in that we would have no votes, no say, no dividend and no custard creams he wasn’t kidding!

I’m no numbers man but here are a few rough figures for you before we kick off. For the 2012-2013 season the club made a pre-tax loss of £1,362,179 with a turnover of £3,230, 782 (which was roughly down £20,000 on the previous season). Our wage bill for last season was yet another record breaker and this 9dear reader) came in at an eye popping £2,407,000 quid. This was described as unsustainable for a club who’s average attendance sank to 4,001 last year but with the 60% wage cap coming in it was decreed that this would help us in managing this is the years to come.

So we settled down to hear what the great and the good at the top table had to say. Hearn, Dawson, Matt Porter and Dave Dodd were in attendance. No Eddie Hearn or Russell Slade this year.

A SORT OF CHAIRMAN’S REPORT…….

And so our leader launched into his usual knockabout banter. He lost no time in declaring last years’ figures as ‘terrible’ and the loss of £1.3 Million quid last season resulted in Hearn subbing the O’s to the tune of 850k to offset that and he’s due to do the same this season. Of course the bulk of this loss is due to club wages. This season the salary bill started off at around £1.8 million but due to our marketing department upping their game its closer to £2 million. Hearn brought our attention to the money spent at runaway champions, wolves, for this season and this came in at £20 million quid. Their chief executives’ salary is half of orient’s total wage cost which just about says it all when it comes to clubs like Leyton Orient competing at this level. We have managed on a small but better quality squad this year but have a fantastic incentive scheme which means that we are due to pay out some heft bonus’s this time around and if we go all the way to the championship the bill will be a cool £577k, which Hearn is more than happy to pay.

Of course with this being the AGM our old friend ‘The Olympic stadium’ was always going to be on the chairman’s agenda had Barry didn’t let us down on this. Well ,to be frank, there is nothing really happening. New MINISTER FOR SPORT Helen Grant has said she is too busy to meet our leader to discuss our case. In the unlikely event of the O’s ever getting a foot hold in the project 1.5 miles away the groundshare is still only an option if our OS rental terms are heavily subsidised, as we can’t afford “market” rates, although compared to the £2 miilion a year West Ham are being charged what we offer is substantially more when taken against West Ham’s income. Many Os fans , deep down, don’t really want to leave Brisbane road but if we are to compete at a higher level we need the space to exploit our elevation to the maximum. The East stand is only going to last so long and our leader declared that it would only be replaced if we became an established championship side over the next three or four years. I suppose that we have to look over to our odious West London neighbours, Brentford, in this respect. But for a single season in the championship in 92/3 they have had more or less the same league standing and ground capacity as the O’s over the past 30 years and they are on the up with a brand new stadium in the pipeline. Hearn said that despite all the discussions with fans groups over this that he’d do what he wanted anyway, which was the prelude for a couple of minutes of sideway fan bashing revolving around supporters making irrational decisions if they were put in charge of clubs. He needed to make detached decisions for the good of this one. I –as a mere fan- would argue that for the first 10 years of his reign most of the decisions he made at the O’s were pretty poor and I’m sure that supporters at club like Bristol Rovers (that have lost their league status after 96 years) would point out that the wrong people at boardroom level are more than capable of dragging a business to its knees.

In other stadium related news we are still taking legal action against the Premier league and we could even get some compo from them in an attempt to makes us shut up once and for all. All the legal costs that have been incurred (£480k over the past three years) have come from Hearn, not O’s coffers. However, our old friends in the European Union may have their attention turned to the unfair local government subsidy that has been bunged West Ham’s way and could kick up a stick. Especially as Barry reserved the right to take some more ’destructive/disruptive’ legal action if deemed necessary and by some accounts our friend’s in Brussels are looking at the way Swansea’s liberty stadium project was funded and are not best pleased.

OVER TO THE PUNTERS…..

The meeting was thrown open and the 70 assorted shareholders present got to have their say. Veteran shareholder, Fred Breyer, kicked off proceedings with a plea for people asking questions to stand up and make themselves known so he had names to go with the faces that have turned up at this meeting year on year since 1997. Here is a quick summary of what was brought up.

Season tickets. Are incredible value according to Matt porter. The kids givaways had 2,300 applicants and 1,400 were actually picked up. But, out of that total only 450 have used it for more than half the games during the campaign. This scheme has been underwritten by Barry Hearn for this season I think the kids who have used their tickets properly will be offered the same for next season. The scheme could be run again a couple of years down the road. As for overall usage It looks as if will remain the same as this season and unless a big away contingent come to town people can get to sit there, although if Orient do go up there could be 9 London derbies next season and we could see that stand being given over to away fans quite regularly. The old wooden seats are going to be replaced next season with a better plastic class of seats, so when Peterborough fans leave the stadium tonight they could do us all a favour and rip some more seats out to save the groundstaff some work. Joking aside, it seems that the people who run PUFC coughed up for the damage made by their fans earlier in the year, so well done them.

Just an aside from me over this. I know that Matt Porter likes to fill the new stands up as much as possible but surely it is time to make junior on the day tickets In the East stand and south Stand the same as in the North? £16 quid is ridiculous for a kid who might just want to come along with his mates for an odd match. We need to bring the next generation in to this club and last seasons’ ticket giveaway was a great start. Let’s keep it going.

Players out of contract: The biggest name coming to the end of his deal is Jamie Jones. Sawyer, James, Laisment, Larkins and Gorman are the other seniors. Those of you (hello ilford recorder) worried about Osmuzi leaving for nothing at the end of the season will be relieved to hear that his deal runs beyond the summer. Maybe his agent was testing the waters with a ‘flyer’ sent to sky sports news which people picked up on. One shareholder alluded to Alnwick’s departue as down to family problems but nothing on this topic was said otherwise. George Porter was sold for 80k and got a 600% pay increase at Burnley who have since paid him up and he is now at Rochdale.

It seems that nearly all the players that have performed so heroically this season are all going to be here for 2014-15. This is great news, although I was a tad concerned that we could repeat the scenario of 2011-12 when good performers who’s contracts were running out were sold off and not replaced. Hearn –a bit strange when going by what has gone on here in the past – said that £200-300,00 in player sales wasn’t that much in the general scheme of things when it comes to cashing in on players. Going by what went on in regards to Dawson, Revell and Daniels leaving the club I’d say ‘well, we took the cash then’ but going back a bit further in time the club did Mkandewire here to help stave off relegation but lost out on a potentially decent transfer fee. I suppose you have to balance things out on a ‘risk-reward’ ratio but the way things have gone on and the way I think that our chairman is enjoying life here at the moment I think he is prepared to take a bit of a gamble in the short term.

Again, special praise came for Russell Slade , which was universally applauded. Hearn said that he had come a very tricky time in the season following the Arsenal cup tie and the early part of the following one to provide us with our three best league finishes for 20 years.

Play-off tickets: I got the impression that getting tickets for the away leg is going to be tight. We have 3,000 season ticket holders and I reckon that our away allocation might only match what we give other clubs travelling support (going by the corner seating in the east stand 1,800 )

SUMMING UP

Well despite the overwhelming feel good factor there were no really earth shatttering announcements made. Orient and its supporters, staff and board are enjoying a fantastic season and hoping for a fairy tale ending at Wembley towards the end of May. The usual phrases of stability, realism, balanced budget and a gripe or two at supporters who had a moan up after Oldham or want him to spend unrealistically surfaced but you will get that at every club (Arsene Wenger, anybody?) and sometimes Barry would love you to think that Orient are the only club in the country where supporters have a gripe or ten. . But he did then go on to note that maybe building on Orient’s unique small club qualities, “real football” matchday atmosphere, and relative affordability and where we are might be an option for people who are fed up with the perpetual nonsense that the premiership/champions league throws up.

From my own point of view I think the Orient experience has been nothing short of brilliant this season- the best atmosphere in my 34 years as a supporter- and funnily enough I would put a lot of the success down to what came out of this meeting last year. From a club that was stuck in a rut over where it was heading and crying over West Ham rolling up on the doorstep Orient have actually stepped up to the plate in regards to bringing new supporters in, marketing, matchday atmosphere, media interest and probably most importantly having the best football team seen here for forty years. Strangely enough , all things that supporters groups have been lobbying for here for donkey’s years. That said, It has been a joy and privilege to have been part of it all and credit to everyone involved here at the higher levels at the O’s

However, I would say that whatever the outcome of this campaign Barry, Dawson and Matt Porter would do well not to rest on their laurels. Orient need to keep fighting on all fronts when it comes to getting people involved in the club so that when Barry finally calls it a day here (and he has been at the club almost 20 years now) there will still be a professional football club defying the odds and producing glorious days out like many of the ones we have enjoyed this season.

Captain Scarlet

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