Exuberant Leyton Orient fans flock to crisis meeting

leyton orient meeting

#SAVEORIENT – fans speak outCould this be the end of Leyton Orient FC?

Posted by Hackney Post on Monday, 13 March 2017

Hundreds of Leyton Orient fans attended a lively crisis meeting on Monday evening, with under a week until the East London football club must fight for its life in the High Court.

Around 350 fans, many wearing O’s shirts, filled Walthamstow Town Hall to hear the plans devised by the Leyton Orient Fans Trust (LOFT). The club faces liquidation after HMRC delivered a wind-up petition last month for a large sum of unpaid tax — as much as £250,000, according to some reports.

Adam Michaelson, a corporate financier on the LOFT committee, told the assembled fans that Loft was pushing for an adjournment of the High Court trial, currently scheduled for 20 March, so the club has more time to attract funding. Delaying the trial is preferable to forcing the club into administration, Loft Vice-Chair Tom Davies later said, because it would show faith in the club’s current young players.

The club has faced disastrous humiliation on the field since it was purchased by Francesco Becchetti in 2015, with the team now facing potential relegation out of the Football League.


It was also revealed at the meeting that Loft has raised around £90,000 from fans since the crisis began last month. Fundraisers collected £13,000 alone outside the stadium on Saturday, said Loft’s secretary, Jonathan Kay, with donations flooding in from football fans around the world.

But this will “barely scratch the surface” in terms of club ownership, Kay added, with the crisis committee also considering a plan where fans can purchase shares in the club. This strategy has previously been used by Portsmouth FC, it was mentioned.

Davies told the Hackney Post that while the club’s immediate mess looks “fairly hideous”, he is optimistic about their fortunes. “In a weird way, the last few weeks have made me more optimistic,” he said, “fans haven’t just been sitting at home, feeling depressed. There is definitely a willingness to fight, and Leyton Orient will come out of this in some way.”

Leyton Orient faces its crucial High Court date on 20 March.

Debts and relegation

The club has been through eight managers since it was purchased by Becchetti in July 2014, and has been relegated from League One. One of the unsuccessful managers did not speak any English. According to reports, Becchetti is looking to cut his losses and sell the club.

As a result, Becchetti was a common topic at Monday’s evening. The Italian businessman – who avoided extradition to Albania last year on charges of fraud, forgery, and money laundering – has been widely criticised for allowing the team’s finances to decline so dramatically.

Sentiment among fans at the meeting was mixed. Peter Warnell, who has supported the club for more than 50 years, said he is optimistic about the club’s future fortunes. Gary Watt, 65, said “nobody really knows” what’s going to happen. “There’s certainly been no clarity from the club,” he said.