Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust believe O’s are ‘getting worse’ at communicating with supporters

PUBLISHED: 13:00 22 December 2016

Leyton Orient's Brisbane Road pitch (pic: Play With A Legend).

Leyton Orient's Brisbane Road pitch (pic: Play With A Legend).

Mathew Parri Thomas 2016

Recent Fans’ Forum discussed stadium issues, communication, the London Stadium and financial matters in addition to other topics

Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust have discussed the lack of engagement from the Brisbane Road club in a statement following the recent Fans’ Forum.

A Fans’ Forum took place on Thursday December 8 with various figures from the O’s present including Chief Operating Officer Vito Miceli and Head of Recruitment Rob Gagliardi.

Secretary Lindsey Martin and Head of Commercial Steve Dixon were present along with members of LOFT and other figures.

The two-hour meeting covered stadium issues, communication, the London Stadium, financial matters in addition to ‘any other business.’

LOFT released a statement this week, which read: “The latest set of Fans’ Forum notes show that those running the club continue to miss opportunities to improve their supporter engagement - and indeed, that they’re actually getting worse at it.

“Just a few weeks after a well-publicised and well-attended protest that showed the level of discontent among supporters at the club regime, the Forum presented Francesco Becchetti and his lieutenants with a chance to start to change things for the better.

“Instead, previous pledges were rowed back on and there appears to be no desire to engage with supporters at all on anything more substantial than stadium safety and comfort - important though such matters are, they should not be the full extent of two-way communication between the club and fans.

“In the previous Forum in May, the agreed minutes show that ‘an AGM for shareholders of LOFC will take place, with the date to be decided. The Club acknowledged it needed to improve communications with minority shareholders.’

“And yet now the club has said that no AGM is planned. This shows nothing less than a blatant disregard for shareholders, and a continuing inability to stick to any promise.

“Indeed, when it comes to substantive matters around finances and strategy, the club says one thing and does another; having previously told fans that all differences between costs and operating turnover were being covered by ‘capital injections’, the truth as shown in the holding company accounts - and now admitted at this Forum - is that ‘investments’ in the club are in fact ‘inter-company loans between companies within Mr Becchetti’s group’.

“The extent of these loans will show just how expensive the past couple of years of Mr Becchetti’s ownership have been, and how far the club has changed from the well-run debt-free position it was in just prior to his takeover.

“It is difficult to see how those loans will be anything but detrimental to the club’s future prospects if Mr Becchetti decides he’s had enough (or runs out of inter-company funding).”

LOFT’s statement went on to highlight the club expressing the view they should have a right to play in West Ham United’s London Stadium.

The Trust reiterates its desire to communicate better with Becchetti, the statement continued: “Of particular note is the club continuing to express the view that ‘Orient should have the right to play in the Olympic Stadium’ - the previous Forum noted ‘they continue to weigh up the best option to defend the interests of LOFC in this regard’ and it remains to be seen what exactly the ‘legal discussions’ are that are apparently being had.

“Communication, or rather the lack of it, has been one of the biggest complaints from O’s fans since Mr Becchetti took over the club - as shown by over 90% of over 1,100 surveyed agreeing that they had no confidence in the regime’s ability to communicate.

“And yet after a protest in which a clear message was sent from supporters to change or put the club up for sale, all we heard was that Mr Becchetti was ‘disappointed’ that supporters had protested.

“Perhaps he thinks supporters should be grateful for the way the club has been mis-managed, pleased that Leyton Orient has become a club with nearly the highest number of managerial sackings over the past two years, appreciative of how large a loan the club now owes his companies, and thankful that he hasn’t completely trashed the club by putting it into administration or liquidation?

“Incredibly, the club ‘emphasised the need for supporters to engage positively with the club’. LOFT has been trying to do this for over two years, yet it is clear that Mr Becchetti has no desire to meet with representatives of LOFT face-to-face to discuss the important issues affecting the club’s stability. We too are ‘disappointed’ at this, but not surprised, and we will consider the next steps in our campaign for change.

“Our door will remain open and we remain committed to attending Fans’ Forums as they offer the only line of communication with the club hierarchy, nonetheless it is clear that the regime can make much better use of these opportunities and engage on a far greater level than it currently chooses to.”

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