Oldham Athletic supporters' trust pushes takeover aim after relegation

Oldham Athletic’s Supporters Foundation want fans to take over the club from owner Abdallah Lemsagam, and hope to rally the town’s community in support, says representative Matt Dean.

The trust currently owns a 3% share in the Latics, who were relegated from the English Football League on Saturday.

Lemsagam took over Oldham in January 2018, and subsequently has seen two relegations during his stewardship.

“We have to take responsibility for it as fans,” Dean told BBC Breakfast.

“The supporters’ trust I represent owns 3% of the football club already but we want to increase that.

“We have to fundraise, contact the businesses and the people of Oldham and say: ‘It’s important. If you’re invested in Oldham, invest in Oldham Athletic’. And that’s what we’re going to try to achieve as a supporters’ trust.”

Supporters groups including OASF and Push the Boundary are coming together for a fans’ forum on 12 May, with the aim of a potential coalition in their work with the club.

Relegation marked the lowest point of a decline from the days of Premier League football, Wembley visits and promotions under Joe Royle in the late 1980s and early 1990s, to Saturday’s nadir in front of empty stands.

Supporters’ anger has been directed at Lemsagam this past season, with protests like the one that delayed the end of Saturday’s defeat by Salford staged throughout the campaign.

Fans scaled back those demonstrations to support fan favourite and manager John Sheridan in the bid to avoid the drop, but with the team’s fate now sealed, the pressure is back on the owners to make a decision for the best of the club.

"The owners of the club currently have to take responsibility for what they've done to the club. They're not doing that, they're not communicating with anybody. The honourable thing would be for them to turn around and say: 'We're not going to get the money we want for the club, we've invested badly."

Oldham Athletic's Supporters Foundation representative Matt Dean

“If you buy a car and trash it, you don’t get the value for what you paid for it when selling. So I think they need to accept that and say: ‘This is your club, you want to take responsibility for it, we don’t anymore, so there you go, get on with it’. We’ll deal with it, because it’s our club.”

 

‘Is relegation fatal? Absolutely not’

 

Relegation from the EFL will place new stresses on Oldham, from the loss of prestige from no longer being part of ‘the 92’, to reduced central funding and the potential for smaller attendances on the back of disappointing on-field performance.

Former boss Lee Johnson, who managed 103 games at Boundary Park in his maiden managerial role, feels the drop down could provide opportunity to “reset”, freshen up the squad and tinker with the infrastructure for a push back up the divisions.

“Do I think it’s fatal? Absolutely not. It’s a massive opportunity to reset the club from top to bottom and if you can get that realignment including the fans, for a club of that quality I honestly think it can rise again,” he told BBC Radio Manchester.

“I know it sounds difficult and fans will be feeling it deeply, I honestly believe and I’ve seen it, you can see it a little bit with Stockport County at the moment.”

Getting out of the National League will be no easy task, given the struggles of Notts County, Grimsby Town and Chesterfield – all sides that have endured the slide out of the EFL in recent times.

With one automatic promotion spot available and a competitive play-off series to overcome for the second, the National League is a tough environment with a mix of full-time, hybrid and part-time clubs vying for promotion.

“It’s really difficult to get out of the division,” Johnson continued. “It’s a strong league and sometimes stronger than the top half of League Two in terms of the way non-league players get paid and have other jobs.

“The way they often have other jobs, these are very good players who are supplementing their football wage with a working income, they drop out of the league but are still top players.”

Former Oldham chief executive Alan Hardy felt sadness at the plight of the current Latics side, having been involved with the club during their top-flight heyday.

The memories of Roger Palmer, Mike Milligan, Rick Holden and Andy Ritchie schooling teams at Boundary Park seem a long way away as fans contemplate life outside the EFL for the first time.

Somehow amid the disappointment, he remains positive.

“There’s a lot of hope, there are some wonderful fans, some very proactive fans groups who are helping to take the club forward,” Hardy told BBC Radio Manchester.

“If you look at the ‘Athleticos’ [fans] there now, they’ve never experienced what I was fortunate enough to experience in the Premier League days, they’ve only seen the club struggling.

“It would be nice to turn that round and get some success. We’ve had no promotions for years and years.

“They are still there, they’re still shouting and they’ve created a terrific atmosphere since John Sheridan came back and that’s full credit to them.

“The proactive fan groups are in a position to help take the club forward again I hope.”

Original article published 25.04.2022 on The BBC Sport website.

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