Leyton Orient AGM 2010

Posted: February 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

The ‘Ear’s resident skiver, Captain Kilgore, managed to drag himself away from ‘Annabell’s’ long enough to send in this report from this years’ meeting of the masses.
As usual, I need to apologise those of you who have already read most of this on what used to be the club message board. Those who haven’t seen any part of this will, hopefully, get a better idea as to what went on at the meeting. I’ll chuck in a few titbits that I held back from a few weeks ago with a bit of comment to go with it. So, here goes…………….
The top table consisted of most of the usual faces: Dave Dodd, Matt Porter, Eddie Hearn, Steve Dawson and his royal highness, BMW Hearn. As for the shareholders, we numbered around the 70-80 mark and once again there weren’t any biscuits to go with the teas and coffees. Like last year there wasn’t any sign of our manager, Geraint Williams. Martin Ling used to be a regular at AGM’s gone by and I think that it would have made for a better meeting if our current boss had put in an appearance today. However, let’s not dwell too much on that. Hearn opened the meeting with the statement that those assembled would be receiving open and truthful answers today. I suppose time will tell on that one.
Once again we will make a trading loss. Around £650k for this season and on the back of a £1million pounds operating loss for 2008/9 season. Barry reckons that over his 14 seasons in charge ‘Matchroom’ has lost £7.5 million in funding us. That’s with £2 million coming into the club from the Daren Purse, Luke Weaver, Zakuani and Nicky Shorey transfers in that time. The property developing has kept us afloat, despite the criticism that these developments have attracted down the years. The general message is it’s been built so deal with it. Out of the £6 million Barry Hearn bought the ground for last year only £1.5 million from or ‘liquid assets’ is left after last season’s losses and the re-payment of loans to Matchroom. Two reasons why our operating deficit resulted in being bumped up to a Million quid came in the shape of more money being spent in recruiting loan players and the managerial merry-go-round that engulfed the club in January/ February of last year.
Despite the fact that after last years’ near sale of the club (Barry felt others that have been interested in purchasing the O’s in the past had a different agenda other than football in mind for the club) people thought our glorious leader was about to cut and run from the portals of E.10 Hearn made it quite clear that he is in no hurry to leave the O’s just yet. It seems to me as if our chairman is quite happy to stick around for now as the market for purchasing football clubs is pretty dead and that he is in a commanding position as he has turned a financial liability (the O’s) into a tangible asset (him purchasing the ground). The question of Orient’s rent going up from £1 per annum up to a possible £180,000 P.A will be a problem that ”we’ll worry about when it comes”, in 2014 by my reckoning.
Hearn finished off his report by re-iterating his utter contempt for clubs that go into administration and announcing to those assembled that LOFC are lucky to be here and our ambition should be judged against our circumstances. Orient will never chose administration as an option while Barry is in charge here and he is going to kick up a stink about the subject at the Football League chairman’s meeting in June. But, to be frank, any move to relegate clubs two divisions over this will never get past the 75% in favour needed from the championship clubs such as Portsmouth, Middlesboro’ and Cardiff. It could also send the rest of the league/ blue square pyramid into chaos. The meeting ended with Barry Hearn being unanimously re-elected as chairman of Leyton Orient football club along with son Eddie and the auditors, Chantery Vellacott, being re-appointed. These proceedings took all of eleven minutes.
And so it came to pass that the punters that have handed over their cash to Barry Hearn over the past 15 years got a chance to quiz the great and the good and the top table. First up, a real blast from the board’s past. Step forward former Orient director, Derek Wienrabe. Derek felt that the team suffered from a chronic lack of stamina and a professional fitness coach that has watched the team regularly this season happens to agree with him. Barry said that he and Geraint had discussed this and that Mr. W could well have a point. Matt porter chipped in with a pretty damning statistic that revolved around the team throwing 14 points away this season from conceding late goals. It looks as if steps will be taken to rectify this in the summer, in the meantime Both Williams and chief scout Kevin Dearden have been told that the club biscuit barrel is now out of bounds (that’s a fib, sorry).
Speaking of George, Barry underlined his appreciation of his work and described him as a totally genuine man who hates losing. He was offered a three year deal at the end of last season but felt it was better for everyone that he only accepted a single season. GW gets through much of the scouting and is at many games sizing up players and opposition alike. Hearn and Porter rate him highly, probably more than I do at the moment, but he still remains uncommitted to the O’s as I type this nonsense
It wasn’t long before the subject of players cropped up. One punter enquires as to who is out of contract come the summer. Matt Porter replied that it was easier to list the players that will be still contracted her after June 30th. Well, only Tehoue, Chorley, Jones, Smith, Petula and Ashworth will be on the books going into the summer break. McGleish has a one year option. One voice from the floor suggested a rumour that Jason Demitriou has been approached to play in Cyprus and judging by his form this season a few O’s fans getting a whip round together allied to a call to ‘easyjet’ could do everyone a favour, although Hearn described JD as a good player at the meeting. Officially, nothing has been decided on who will be shown the door/jumps ship, but I should think Tam Mkandewire will walk on a free (probably to Millwall if they go up and they have already enquired about him. It also seems that there are a few other teams interested from what I heard post Brentford). One player who has already left is JJ Melligan. We came to an early settlement of his contract, but poor old JJ got his dates mixed up when leaving the club and that meant that he couldn’t sign for another English outfit when the transfer window shut last January. He is currently playing in the Irish league. Oh dear.
On the subject of recruitment, in the short term we had been desperately trying to bring Adams back on loan from Leicester City but, alas, to no avail. Hearn reckons that we will be spending a bit more money to bring in a better quality ‘spine’ to the team. Williams has a few names in mind and will be looking to bring players in that could even go on to become ‘saleable assets’, which certainly made my ears prick up and was just about the one highlight of the entire meeting. It is also very likely that we will be seeing more loanees from Spurs arriving lining up our delight for the 2010/11 campaign. These signings usually fall into two categories. Half decent (Stimson, Daniels and Townsend) or cravat wearing Quentin Crisp-like fops such as Neil Fenn, Bernard and Barcham (although the latter two have done well elsewhere) There is no getting away from the fact that there is currently a hard core of players here that have shown that they are not up league one and the fact that this is our third relegation battle in four years is slowly killing off everyone’s enthusiasm at the club. The worry in all this is the spectre of the dreaded drop back to league 2. Hearn reckons the playing budget will be operating at around £1.6 million again. However, if the O’s were to be relegated it could be slashed to just over a million quid as our gates and money from the football league will nosedive.

Which is a very good question. At the recent LOFT meeting with Geriant Williams our manager bemoaned the state of the clubs scouting network, especially as Millwall and Southend are picking up players from our locality. At the moment we have 5 scouts that cover the North, south, East and West of the country and Scotland. We also have some local volunteers doing some work for the club in this respect. The youth system has been boosted by the recruitment of a new Youth Development Officer and this is good news as a replacement for Ross Embleton was long overdue.
When are the decent kids coming through, you ask? Amazingly, some have been sold already before they’ve kicked a ball in anger for the Orient. Chelsea took a 12 year old lad of our hands for 17k and it seems that Spurs have pulled a similar trick with one of our 15 year old players, but that has cost them £50,000. At this point it was time to stick my two penny-worth in and I put it to Barry and Matt that a big open trial for players between 18-23 years old might unearth some new players. This was dismissed virtually out of hand on the grounds that the pair thought that all the big talent had been snapped up by big clubs already and there were other organisations that use our ground for this sort of thing.
To me this sounded like a big cop out and a missed opportunity to get some publicity and interest in the O’s at a local level. We all live in the real world and the chance of Orient unearthing (or indeed holding on to for any length of time if we did) a Lionel Messi is virtually impossible. What I was getting at here is the club looking at the type of player that had been released from non-league or just a hungry local kid looking for a shot at a career in the game. They don’t have to be world class, just have enough about them to do a job at Orient’s current level and boost our own squad without too much of a financial outlay. I think this all boils down to a lack of money, but I would rather see Orient spend some cash on this sort of initiative rather than blow a substantial sum on signing the likes of Scowcroft year in and year out.

Or not, as the case maybe. There had been rumours that the club had been planning to close this stand to home fans next season and one or two questioners didn’t like the sound of this. Matt Porter and Hearn confirmed that there would be no season tickets sold in for that part of the ground next season, but is not going to be closed to home fans (the number of people in there on season tickets has halved each year for the past three years by the way!). According to matt, like it or not, we are operating in difficult financial conditions and we have to make decisions which may not prove popular but which will be effective in cutting our costs and reducing our losses. This has been earmarked for a while as an option, and the board feel now is the right time to make the move. They are not saying the stand will be closed to home fans for each game, but we need to retain the option to close it for matches when there are only a couple of hundred home fans in it . It also seems that the man responsible for ground security, Chris Baker, has saved the club £50,000 in policing costs since he has been here.
It has been a pretty up and down year for the old ground though. Brisbane Road has hosted some pretty big away contingents which has brought its own problems. Seat throwing v Millwall and a pitch invasion when Southampton equalised to name only a couple of incidents. The way the entire east stand has been designated ‘away only’ for the visit of MK Dons, Gillingham and Wycombe is frankly ridiculous, but it appears that this decision was taken way back in July and looks as if it comes under the umbrella of ‘cost savings’.
There a few other topics that were touched on, so here is a brief summary.
1. The pitch. It’s crap but nothing to do with the groundstaff as we have a 100% committed, but small team here at the club. Orient have severe drainage problems right by the west stand and it is level with the water table in the vicinity. The drains in Oliver (behind the West stand) Road are also very old and incapable of handling severe weather. The pitch has taken a hammering this season despite more money being spent on it last year. Tottenham have scrapped their reserve team this season so the pitch isn’t under so much pressure now that they don’t play here. I wouldn’t bet against Orient scrapping our own reserve fixtures either.

2. Fairlop Waters. We ain’t going. There’s no cash or land to build stadiums anywhere else at the moment either. However, on the quiet I reckon Hearn would jump at the chance to move us. I don’t think he could fund the project on his own though. West Ham are lobbying hard for the Olympic stadium and although Barry Reckons that the hammers moving there could kill Orient off in the locality it looks the only sensible option long term for the venue. Since this meeting one or two supporters have brought up the prospect of a groundshare with the forces of darkness and you couldn’t rule it out in all honesty. Speaking of Olympics, Brisbane Road has been earmarked as a training facility for Paralympic football (no jokes about it taking place here already, thank you) and archery. It could also be hosting the administration for two major nations when these games roll up here in 2012.
3. Nick Levene. His much publicised fall from grace raised a chuckle but hasn’t affected the running of the club or its finances in any way. Hearn asked Levene to resign as he didn’t want a bankrupt on the board and from what we were told his shares in the club are now in the possession of the ‘Trustees of Bankruptsy’, which sounded like yet another pseudonym for ‘six of white’ to me. There was also the possibility of another share issue to raise money for the club brought up by a shareholder. Hearn said that it wasn’t a good time to being doing it but didn’t rule this out a couple of years down the line. The good news is that due to an improved T.V deal we’ll get a little extra cash this year, but considering that 80% of this money goes into the championship I don’t thing Carlos Tevez will be wearing Orient colours next season.
4. Administration (again). This theme got a bit tedious towards the end of the meeting as many shareholders echoed the previous sentiments spouted by Barry Hearn earlier. Despite Portsmouth being in a perilous state all season they look to have survived. Matt Porter reckons that we won’t see a wholesale collapse of clubs just yet, although Stockport Appear to be the next club facing a crisis. Hearn also revealed that the PFA are paying the wages at Southend United and they look to be on borrowed time with Sainsbury’s ‘chomping at the bit’ to get their hands on Roots Hall.
5. Next seasons friendlies. Nothing to report, at all. Nobody wants to play to play the mighty Orient after the hiding we dished out to Newcastle United. Cowards!

To be honest, it was really much of the same stuff that has been spouted for a long time at this meeting. To my mind we are spending as little money as possible and we are not going to run this club any differently than it has been over the past four years since we came up. I got the feeling that the board are quite happy not to try anything new at all either regarding pricing, attracting new fans or even players for that matter because they haven’t been successful in the past. It was quite ironic that when a member of the old Orient board spoke earlier in the meeting that my memory went back to the days when we moaned at them for being so short sighted and unwilling to try new ideas to get the O’s moving forward. I think that privately (but they would probably admit it if you ask) Hearn and Porter would argue that it’s not worth spending any amount of cash on this club other than making sure the ground can scrape through the safety inspection each year and there is enough left to keep the O’s going until the cash runs out or we are sold.
I’d love to say that there is genuine cause for optimism, but I can’t. We are better off than most clubs for the moment but that won’t last. Orient posses a poor team, suffer badly from decreasing attendances and are ‘looking forward’ virtual three sided stadium. Most importantly, there were no new ideas on offer today. I’ve been coming to these gatherings since Hearn’s first press conference here back in 1995, in the days when he was on the pitch putting a few shots past Paul Heald and announcing the great things he was going to unleash on Leyton Orient Football Club. You could argue that both Barry and Matt are trying new innovations regarding breathing new life into darts and snooker but have completely given up the ghost on Orient. I know that times have changed and are tougher, Matt would also tell you that if he had anything resembling a marketing budget here that he would use it to best effect. Sadly, I would have thought that Orient could come up with something a bit more at this annual gathering to entice people back to the club other than a feeling of ‘same old same old’ with accompanying utter disillusion. I’m afraid that if nothing else the past few seasons have proved that the way we are currently being run maybe financially efficient (and we can be grateful for that) but offers nothing in the way of breathing new life into the football club.
Captain Kilgore.


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