Leyton orient AGM 2013

Posted: February 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

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The Orientear sent it’s resident skiver, Captain Scarlet, over to this year’s AGM held in the Olympic Gallery. This is what he managed to remember.

The club AGM is an event that we have covered extensively since the first ‘open’ meeting back in (i think) 1997. Over the years important issues have been discussed, ranging from the ground developments right down to the state of the gents in the east stand. This years meeting was different from many that have gone before in that the talk was about moving this club on rather than just clinging on for survival. Of course the catalyst for this change of tact is our old friend ‘The Olympic stadium’ and the battle for survival whether we get to become any sort of part of this development or not. What was said in this meeting became the subject of a voluntary ‘embargo’ from those present, due to the fact that the original press conference that was due to be held outlining Barry Hearn’s plans at 11.am was put back a day. This was down to (in my view) Hearn and co not wanting their message to be lost in the ether on the same day MaggieT hatcher was laid to rest.

Getting started….

As usual the buffet for the shareholders reflected the state of our accounts barely enough tea and coffee to go around and someone had found enough money to fund a packet of ‘LIDL’ assorted biscuits. Some bugger tried to take two custard creams and was beaten to death for his trouble.
Unlike last year the meeting got off to a prompt start and (unlike last year, too) Hearn Porter, Dodd and Dawson was joined at the top table by manager, Russell Slade.

Hearn and Dawson started out by announcing that from next year all the relevant documents for this meeting would, basically, be obtained by electronic means. There was also a change in the articles of association and these were adopted by the shareholders.

We quickly moved on to the directors report and the balance sheets and it came as no surprise that the figures were described as awful; We made a pre tax loss of £1,420,180 (after posting a profit of £379,151 in 2011– due to the cup run) and this came on the back of a dip in our average attendance from 4,937 down to 4,298 with our overall turnover coming in at £3,250,686. The amount the company generates in the course of a year is becoming increasingly important because as many of you will realise new rules mean that Orient can only spent 60% of it’s overall turnover on wages as from next season. How we budget and the amount of revenue brought in via turnstiles and commercial activities will be of paramount importance to the sort of season we will have. For example, the short League cup run the O’s had generated enough cash to bring Cook and Rowlands to the club. Without that money, at that time, Slade wouldn’t have been allowed to sign them.

We then moved onto the formalities. Hearn and son, Eddie, were re-elected un-opposed. Hearn wished somebody would make a name for himself and vote against him– I almost put my hand up for a laugh and would announce myself as John Sitton, when asked for my name. But then I realised I would have been banned from the ground and would have to leave. The auditors, KMPG were re-elected and the whole shooting match took about 10 minutes.

CHAIRMAN’S REPORT– SSHHHH!
Barry Hearn wasted no time in getting stuck into his favourite subject. The Olympic stadium and the fight with West Ham. There had been a rumour going around that our leader was going to step aside for his son to take over but this was way off the mark. If anything he’s going to be more hands on than he has been here of late.

We were all asked to keep what was going to be said at the meeting to ourselves for 24 hours and everyone agreed (even me) as it sounded like we were going to hear something earth shattering. In fact, this wasn’t quite the case. Our leader just repeated that he and the board were really frustrated with the way the whole Olympic stadium issue is panning out and the general lack of interest in our case. This is basically what we have been hearing from Barry for the past two years both in the media and at this meeting. Once again Hearn stressed that this whole business is not about money or Orient looking to ‘do a spurs’ and get a compensation pay-off. In his eyes West ham plan to dish out 100,000 free tickets a season and that, allied to the general glamour/draw of the premier league is a lethal threat to the long term health our football club. This is the fundamental part of our argument and if things stay as they are the O’s will die a very slow death eventually.

SO, WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?

Well we are carrying the legal fight to the courts and the premier league are in our sights, seeing as they are completely ignoring their own rules on the issue of one of their clubs’ moving onto the territory of another. Hearn admitted we have very few friends on our side and the football league have been pretty unhelpful in all this as have LLDC, who can’t believe we haven’t gone away during all of this. So far our legal bill over two years has come in at £372,000 which has come out of Hearn’s pocket and NOT the playing budget and basically we are fighting to at least have the chance to share the stadium even though Brady/ porno-dwarf and Gold have steadfastly refused to even discuss the matter. This is probably due to the assumption that the claret and blue menace want to give off an air of exclusivity when in fact they are only a tenant for a certain amount of days per year and they have done this on the back of a £40 million quid sub from Newham council at a time when local government services are being cut across the board.

According to our leader the ’Hammers’ have got them selves a sweet deal and this despite them being in a pretty precarious financial position (they owe £90 million and have to start paying it back soon, apparently) and they are only being charged £2 million per year rent which includes policing, stewarding and upkeep of the pitch. Hearn was scathing of Boris Johnson who had done a terrible deal for the tax payer and didn’t even know what naming rights constituted. ‘Not fit to run a sweet shop’ was the quote from our chairman. To be honest we’ve heard much of this last year but Hearn was under no illusions that even if we went to judicial revue it might not mean much in the end because if it looked as if we could win the government would try find some way to back Boris and the LLDC over little Leyton Orient.

WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?

Slow death if we don’t move to the Olympic stadium according to Hearn. But this is the point where the meeting took a really strange turn and whereupon Barry Hearn started to talk some ambitious talk, the likes not heard here for nearly 18 years.

Hearn announced that if we got a foothold in that stadium that he would go all out to produce a championship standard team to grace it. Orient have an excellent manager in Russell Slade and if we sold the Brisbane Road site then Matchroom would wave all profits on the sale to back a £6-10 million pound gamble in financing the first team squad. We would offer the LLD
500K per season rental (this would go up to a million in the championship and £5 million if we ever made the top flight) and would go all out ‘bigging up’ our community club image to attract the commercial interest needed for a championship club in a facility like the Stratford project would require. Hearn added that this would completely change the whole dimension of Leyton Orient f.c in the process It is the sort of ‘punt’ that Barry Hearn has always steadfastly refused to take during his record breaking tenure as chairman of this football club and it actually took me a bit aback when he came out with this which, after not missing any of these meeting since 1995, is saying something. However, let’s not get too carried away here. There now follows a reality check and more surprises.

HOME IS WHERE THE O’S IS

Before we start booking trains and coaches to Burnley, Birmingham and Leeds we have to accept the fact that the chances of us actually getting a share of the Olympic Park are slim, at best. Hearn is realistic enough to admit this and today unveiled plans for Orient to at least shore up it’s dwindling fan base (we gain and lose around 300 season ticket holders per season at the moment) should we have to stay put at Brisbane Road. Hearn is taking us back to 1995 with a complete re-launch of Leyton Orient as a community club and he’s going to start by giving away 1400 seats free of charge to youngsters between 14-18 in the East stand, which is an area of the ground that can certainly do with (and host) this sort of scheme. They will have to register with the club on a first come first serve basis but basically the club is starting to take the fact that our crowds have been dropping alarmingly over the past three years seriously at last. We have a new young marketing team who have managed to claim decent sponsors such as ’Samsung’ this season and the fact that our club shop has been sub let to ’Nike’ sport and doubled it’s profit this season (probably due to the 100,000 stickers bought by Joe, Jamie and Chappo with no sign of numbers 15 or 27 yet– the bastards) shows what could be done if things take off. Orient have to start ‘thinking out of the box’ if we are to survive either way.

OVER TO THE PLEBS

As you would expect most of this went down quite well with the assembled shareholders. One bloke really wanted to stay at Brisbane road as he felt that a move to Stratford would rip the heart beat out of the club and Hearn, generally, sympathised but was adamant that staying here would eventually kill us off and we would gradually slide down the league to the standard of St Albans City (they have a top class programe shop and burger bar, though) and we are going to fight really hard to get that move. Then somebody stole my question when he asked what would happen if the government tried to ‘buy off’ Orient in the same way they bought Spurs off after the 2011 riots suddenly made them a big ‘community asset’ that needed to stay put in what was left of Tottenham high Road. Barry, somewhat too quickly for my taste, dismissed this theory by saying that they’d have tried it long ago if they were going to do it. The thing is I have a feeling that unless the parties involved get central government to shore them up all the way, legally, that the whole bidding and finance package that has resulted in West Ham getting the nod for this project is ripe for having legal holes blasted through it. I am probably wrong here but I would not be surprised that the longer we hang on and make a nuisance of ourselves the more chance that someone will make us an offer to ‘ go away’ legally or even give Hearn what he wants.

Russell Slade (praised throughout the meeting) fielded a few questions and confirmed that we are making big efforts to get the likes of Cuthbert, Vincelot, Baudry and Mooney to stay at the O’s in the summer and that We’ve signed Moses up for three years. We also did well to keep Kevin Lisbie at the club despite a cash bid from Sheffield United for his services earlier in the season. More interesting was Slade’s admission that the club had held an open trails last Tuesday for players aged between 17-21 from teams as far afield as Moldova, Romania, Chelsea and Aston Villa. This allied to the open trail the club held for young goalkeepers earlier in the year shows that Slade and co are finally looking at other options (cheaper it has to be said) of bolstering the playing system from grass roots youth team upwards. This is to be commended and encouraged because the 60% cap on expenditure is, as Hearn described it, ‘A new world of football’. Based on current revenue the club is running on the bare bones and we are looking at a wage bill of around £1.6 million pounds at the O’s for next season, so the incentive to do well commercially and in cup competitions is there for all to see.

A few titbits to round off with. As far as the London Bronco’s sharing the threadbare pitch with Leyton Orient it could only happen if they commit to a season and not the odd game, which could well do what is left of the grass a big favour. Yet again our playing surface is in a shocking state and once again we have been quoted over £40 grand for summer drainage work to put it right. However, in my view the pitch will always be susceptible to the elements whilst is has a housing estate blocking out the sunlight and air the grass needs. I guess we’ll Have to learn to live with it.

Finally, for any cricket fans (well people who think Essex are a cricket club) the story regarding them wanting to play T20 cricket the Olympic stadium is a bit ‘pie in the sky’ as it would cost them 70k just for stadium hire and it was more of a way of getting publicity for them. There was also a question from a cab driver in a pink shirt regarding the hire of the ‘Cheerio’s’ dance troupe but this was ignored on the grounds that it could lead to trouble and was, in fact, a lie.

SUMMING UP

Where to start? First off this meeting basically covered 80% of the last one with the focus on the legal fight around West Ham and the Olympic stadium. There was nothing really that we heard this time different from the last time here in 2012 that West Ham, Newham ,LLDC ,Premier league and Government are quite willing to bend rules and back each other up just to show Joe public that the £600 million quid forked out on a stadium that should have been built for a lot less isn’t going to be a political embarrassment. They are quite willing to sacrifice Leyton Orient F.C on the alter of ‘political expediency’ and while there are still big question marks as to what Hearn and LOFC will ultimately achieve from a prolonged legal campaign at least we are putting up some semblance of a fight for our survival.

The really interesting feature today was, in effect, a bit of a climb down in the way that Orient are run by Barry Hearn and Matt Porter. The last few AGM’s have had moments where both our chairman and chief executive had dismissed ideas such as ‘bringing back the £10 season ticket, utilising the East stand more and holding open trials for players as unworkable and not cost effective when all the while our attendance figures and standing in the area were dying on their arse (for instance how would a non O’s fan perceive a football ground hidden by a housing estate?). Three years later with our collective backs to the wall Orient are (to their credit) trying new incentives both on and off the park with measures that the board should have taken a fair few years ago after we were promoted. The galling fact is that it has taken West Ham’s ambitions (for want of a better phrase) to galvanise Orient into action and I think that if we had at least had the bravery to come out with these sort of ideas before this crisis arrived on our doorstep Orient would have been in a better position to fight it off or to at least grabbed a slice of the legacy cake.

For the meantime I’m just happy that we have at attempted some sort of fightback and that this season has been notable for some excellent football from the O’s (especially at home). As Hearn said at the meeting that; ‘our Saturday’s should be all about having some fun here’. Amen to that and hopefully for a good while yet.

C.S

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