Purpose of the Meeting – To establish a movement to assist Oldham Athletic Football Club to secure it’s future existence.
There was a broad base of Latics fans present with several representatives of the Official Supporters Association Committee, The Northern Representative of the National Federation of Football Supporters Associations, ex Members of Stop the Rot, and ex-members of the former Independent Supporters Club.
CM asked Jack Scott (JS) if he would be prepared to take the minutes of the meeting and he agreed.
CM said at the outset that although he had been previously been involved with Stop the Rot, this was an entirely new movement and he proposed the acronym S.A.F.E. as a title for the organisation.
He went on to explain that the acronym meant Secure Athletic’s Future Existence and the meeting agreed unanimously to adopt the name.
CM went on to say that he had been in regular contact with Dave Ogden, formerly Chairman of OASIS (Oldham Athletic Supporters in the South) and that Dave had already been active in establishing a database of ideas which could be used by SAFE to further the interests of the Club and to take steps to secure financial support for the Club. It was noted that anyone with any ideas/suggestions should contact Dave at :-
Carl then distributed a “Charter” which Dave had prepared, detailing the proposed aims of the new organisation. The document can be viewed below.
Carl stressed that this was a discussion document only, a starting point for debate.
Although Dave Ogden is currently away on a family holiday, he has started the ball rolling and has matters in hand regarding opening a bank account for the organisation and has made initial contact with various organisations who have previous experience in running campaigns of this ilk.
Carl then handed the meeting over to Brian Wood (BW), who has studied a copy of Latics’ last accounts (to 31st May 2000) in his capacity as an Accountant. Brian explained the financial situation at the Club as far as they are reflected in those accounts, the latest ones available, and those from previous years which he has also obtained and considered.
BW highlighted the following figures from those accounts – the corresponding figures for the previous year are in brackets
Turnover 2,545,318 (2,479,914)
Players and Staff Costs £2,008,231 (£2,259,021)
Match and ground Expenses £757,472 (£682,264)
Administration £107,686 (£124,263)
Commercial £469,938 (£435,753)
Profit on Disposal of Fixed assets £1,006,081 (NIL)
Retained Profit for the financial year 95,421 (Loss 1,044,699)
It was noted that these Accounts state that :-
“On 5 November 1999, the company sold the freehold land and buildings known as Boundary Park to Hiretarget Ltd for an initial consideration of £3,060,000. The profit on the transaction, after the release of grants associated with the assets sold was £1,006,081. There is no tax arising on the disposal.
A further amount is receivable by the Club based on a valuation of the land. However at this stage no value has been assigned to the land therefore no further profit has been recognised.”
Brian pointed out that the net profit from the sale of the ground has had the effect of turning the previous year’s loss of over a million pounds into a profit just short of one hundred thousand. However, it should be remembered that the Club has now disposed of its main asset and that there can be no future repeat of the exercise; certainly not on that kind of scale.
In addition, the disposal of the ground has a further downside in that the Club are now required to pay rent for Boundary Park of £240,000 per annum (equating to £20K per month).
Brian then went on to outline recent developments whereby Hiretarget, now known as OPP (Oldham Property Partnerships Ltd) have agreed to waive the rents due on Boundary Park for the current financial year.
This will relieve the Club of the rental charges for the year, but at a cost. A consequence of this concession is that the waived rental payments will ultimately reduce the value of the Club's remaining interest in the land surrounding Boundary Park. The effect of this is to reduce Oldham Council's holdings in O.P.P.
This is a further worrying development and further exemplifies the Club’s parlous financial position.
Latics sole assets now are the Chapel Road Training Ground, fixtures and fittings at the Club, and the Club’s Motor Vehicles. These have a net book value at 31st May 2000 of £397,837. In consequence, there is little future scope for using disposal of assets to cover operating losses and additional sources of funds simply have to be found if the Club is to survive. This is where SAFE comes in.
Carl then went on to explain that the Stadium Company (Stadco), which is to be formed to consider the redevelopment of Boundary Park, has still not been formed, even though this was due to happen in October last year.
It was decided that SAFE will approach the Oldham Council with view to setting up a meeting with them to seek urgent clarification of the situation and to explore with them what steps SAFE could take to help the situation. SAFE would want to know why the Council appeared to be dragging its feet over Stadco, and whether the money from the sale of land to B&Q (reputedly £7-8m) was still available for the purpose of the redevelopment of Boundary Park.
CM added that there was a critical uncertainty for the Club regarding the future of the ground and that until the situation with Stadco was clarified and tackled, the Club would find spending money on the ground - particularly to tackle the playing surface – problematic.
There next followed a discussion regarding subscriptions to SAFE. It was pointed out that SAFE would require funding initially for printing, stationery, postage and general running costs. CM suggested a subscription fee, with a reduced rate for students, the unemployed and retired people. The feeling of the meeting was that a subscription fee would imply membership and thereby people not paying would feel excluded. Since SAFE seeks to embrace the majority of Latics fans, to harness their skills and time, it would be better if financing was left to voluntary donations.
The meeting then moved to seeking ideas as to how the organisation should proceed.
It was established that SAFE would be non confrontational and would seek to carry the Club along with it as a partner, not as an opponent. The organisation will be non violent and no illegal activities will be considered.
It was decided that money raised would be kept independently of the Club and any financial help offered to the Club would have to be used in the specific way that would be discussed between SAFE and the Club.
SAFE would ask the Club to actively advertise the fact that shareholding in the Club was available for sale in order to enhance the prospects of securing sources of new investment.
It was agreed that SAFE will contact local firms and businesses and attempt to encourage/secure new investment in the Club.
It was decided that SAFE would actively contact the media both nationally and locally to publicise the campaign.
It was decided that SAFE would consider contacting previously interested parties to see if they still had an interest in acquiring the Club.
It was agreed that SAFE will approach supporters of Oldham Rugby to establish if they would be interested in becoming involved, since any demise of Latics would also have far reaching consequences for the Oldham Rugby, not least of which would be that they would not have a ground to play at. It was felt that they would be interested and the name of the organisation might be changed at some future date to signify their involvement.
The meeting was drawing to a close, when Danny Standing offered to hold a discotheque at The Bank Top Tavern to raise some initial funding for the organisation. This was welcomed and full details will be published later. This event is expected to take place on Friday 23rd February.
Carl pointed out that the bank account for the organisation would be set up as quickly as possible this week and that details of how people could contribute will then be publicised both on the Internet and in the Oldham Evening Chronicle.
The next meeting was provisionally arranged for 12 noon on Saturday 24 February in the Clayton Arms. It was felt that this venue would attract a larger interest. CM pledged that efforts would be made to contact prominent supporters of Bournemouth (the opposition that day) in order to get them to address the meeting with regard to their recent successful campaign to become Europe’s first “community-owned” Club. It was felt that their experiences and ideas could be of potential benefit for SAFE in the coming months.
At that meeting, it is envisaged that nominations and elections for the various positions would be held.
Carl thanked everyone for their attendance and the meeting closed at 2-15pm
SAFE is a new organisation which has been established in response to the deepening financial plight which appears to surround Oldham Athletic Football Club.
It is run by a small group of long term supporters whose primary interest is to raise awareness of the situation among all Oldham fans to ensure that apathy does not become a greater enemy than the more obvious threats to the future.
This charter sets out the initial objectives of the group. Once these have been achieved we intend to restate longer term aims
To establish the current financial position of the club.
To explore the alternatives available which may help to secure Oldham Athletic’s future.
To research the possibilities of ordinary supporters taking an active role in the management of the club.
To involve as many members of the Oldham Athletic fanbase as possible.
To communicate progress regularly through the use of all available forms of media.
To be open and democratic
To co-operate with the existing board of directors of the club.
There can be no doubt that the club is facing severe problems. Having sold the freehold of Boundary Park and having recently announced a further asset sale to cover existing liabilities there is now a situation which is unsustainable in the long term. Although commercial considerations will no doubt apply we will aim to establish the full financial picture of the club so that we can fully understand the seriousness of the current position.
We will actively publicise the club’s position so that any potential investors are aware that there is a possibility for them to become involved. We will undertake to contact local businesses and business people with a view to identifying any potential benefactors. To this end we will encourage the board to formally advertise their willingness to sell a stake in the club to suitable investors.
Oldham Athletic are not the first club to run into serious financial difficulties and they will not be the last. We must take heart from the fact that, historically, very few professional football clubs have gone out of existence but that is not a reason to be complacent. Over the past decade or so the finances of the football industry have changed out of all recognition and the problems faced by smaller clubs or those without the benefit of wealthy benefactors have grown accordingly.
Nevertheless, there is a need for positive thinking at this time and just because the prospect of Oldham Athletic firstly establishing a stable platform and then achieving success seems a distant one at present does not mean that this should be accepted as an impossibility. To do so would merely serve to continue the downward spiral which has ensnared the club since relegation from the Premiership in 1995.
There are organisations which have been established to assist supporters’ groups who wish to become involved in the management of their clubs, perhaps through taking a stake or through involvement in activities which extend beyond the traditional supporters’ role. We will research the facilities which these organisations can offer and assess whether they can make a positive contribution to the current situation.
In addition we will contact representatives of supporters’ groups of clubs that have found themselves in a similar plight in recent years to see if we can learn from their experiences. One feature of the changing environment has been an encouraging camaraderie between groups of football supporter’s, such as the fans day at Brighton, which can only be to the long term benefit of the clubs and the games in a much wider context than the purely financial.
If this venture is to have any chance of achieving meaningful success then it must be seen to be a well organised democratic venture which encourages the active participation of everyone who has an interest in the future of professional football in Oldham. We will actively seek suggestions through the media and all other available means and give full consideration to everything that is received. We will also seek offers of help of any sort and involve as many individuals as possible.
In return we will ask for a positive commitment in the form of a subscription which will be set at a low level. Funds raised will initially be used to cover administrative expenses and will be fully accounted for. Although we may seek to raise meaningful funds at some future date this is not the current intention.
We will attempt to keep all fans up to date with the progress being made by the group through regular contact with local media and use of the Internet. We will make sure that lines of communication to the group are well established.
As a group of supporters we feel that we have skills and commitment to offer which can make a positive contribution to the current situation. We do not assume however that we have any particular right to play a leading role in the future of the club but it is imperative that someone grasps the nettle and gets this project off the ground. Once we have achieved our initial objectives we will offer ourselves for election for the next stage of the project and anyone that has joined will be able to do the same.
We are not seeking any sort of confrontation with the existing administration of the club who we believe have the best interests of Oldham Athletic at heart. In the current situation there is a need for all interested parties to work together with a common objective.
Biography - David Ogden
I was born in Chadderton in 1962 and my first game as a Latics fan is sadly lost in the mists of time but would have been at the age of five or six with my father who, like his Dad before him, was a lifelong Oldham fan. Brought up in Greenfield I was educated at Hulme Grammar before moving to London to work in banking in 1980. I am now the compliance director of a major investment management house based in the City. I still have family in Oldham and visit them, and Boundary Park, whenever possible.
I now live in Hertfordshire with my wife and two young children.
From 1989 to 1997 I was Chairman of OASIS - Oldham Athletic Supporters In The South - and in 1999 published a book - A Fertile In A Barren Land - detailing the history of that still thriving organisation. The book sold enough copies to enable me to sponsor this season’s home game against Oxford with the profits.
Geography dictates that I cannot be on the spot at all times as this campaign gathers momentum but I feel that my professional knowledge as well as the organisational skills developed during my OASIS days can benefit this movement.