Dear Mr Lemsagam
I note with interest your desire to recruit Non-executive Directors as “Fans’ Representatives” and welcome the initiative. I believe I have a number of relevant qualifications and attributes which would mean that I could make a positive contribution to the role including:
A long personal history as an Oldham supporter going back more than 50 years and via my father and grandfather to the founding of the club in 1895.
Experience with fans organisations including OASIS (Oldham Athletic Supporters In the South) and Secure Athletic’s Future Existence (SAFE) which could be thought of as a forerunner of the current Supporters’ Trust (Oldham Athletic Supporters Foundation Limited, “the Trust”).
A long career in the financial services industry with a particular focus on governance, compliance and company secretarial activity including at senior management and board level.
However, I cannot apply for the following reasons:
The position does not have a clear description of responsibilities (to the best of my knowledge) so it is impossible to judge its attractiveness and feasibility.
There already exists a mechanism for engaging with supporters via the Trust. It is unclear why this avenue is not being pursued; a position which is particularly puzzling given the Trusts’ shareholding in Oldham Athletic (2004) Association Football Club (“OAAFC”).
The loose use of language in the notification of the position is concerning and does not suggest full awareness of EFL requirements. The words “Fit & Proper Test” do not appear in the EFL Rules; I assume the reference is to the Owners and Directors Test.
I could not possibly meet the criteria to attend all home and away matches; very few people could do so and I would suggest that most of those who could may be those with fewer responsibilities and commensurately limited experience.
In my experience the prime responsibilities of Non-Executive Directors are to have confidence of good and appropriate corporate governance and to be in a position to critically assess corporate strategy.
It seems clear that at present the corporate governance of OAAFC does not meet what any reasonable person would consider to be best practice. To have a board with a single director well over a year since you acquired control seems to me to be unacceptable.
The position appears to be exclusively related to being the fans’ representative. As Directors have wider responsibilities than such specific considerations it is far from clear to me that the person(s) being sought actually need to have the status of Director (Non-Executive not being a specific role in relevant Company Law).
The above does not suggest that any individual who takes up this position will have the ability/status to assess or influence wider strategic issues
Any individual taking this role is likely to experience significant conflicts of interest as has (in reality or perception, it really doesn’t matter) occurred in the past. As a Director they must be privy to information which is not (and should not) be in the public domain and it will be very challenging for them personally to manage that conflict of interest as doubtless the fans they are representing would expect significant and frequent disclosure.
As you rightly say there is a serious disconnect between you as the owner of the club and its supporters. My conclusion is that this is not an appropriate way to resolve that situation for the following reasons:
There is an atmosphere of suspicion around the club regarding both your motives for becoming involved in the club and your style of management. Whether such suspicions are well founded I have no knowledge and it is of very limited relevance. Until such doubts are assuaged by specific actions they are only likely to fester and grow. For the reasons outlined above, particularly in respect of the actual or perceived conflict of interest, the appointment of any person to this role is unlikely to resolve that position.
All indications are that there is a very limited and potentially inadequate management structure in place at OAAFC. Making this appointment cannot go any way to solving that situation.
Rightly or wrongly there is a belief that you as owner and your associates are heavily involved in player recruitment, retention and team selection. While we as fans are clearly not fully aware of the truth or otherwise of such perceptions the weight of evidence, generally in the form of former employees making veiled, or more recently more explicit, suggestions that this is the case are a very significant factor in the disconnect. Again, making this appointment cannot on its own go any way to solving that situation.
I hope that the points above may cause you to consider whether this is a logical approach to resolving the difficult current situation. Should that be the case I have the following suggestions which I believe are more likely to bear fruit should you genuinely wish to solve this positon and move the club forward positively. Given the investment and commitment that you have made I cannot conceive that would not be your wish.
Engage with the Trust; their role already encompasses being fans’ representatives. It is my understanding that Trust membership has grown recently and I would imagine it would grow substantially if a positive relationship between it and you as owner was in place. That would negate any need for a Non-Executive Director(s).
Provide as much clarity as possible on the following issues (this being a non-exclusive list)
The nature of your current and planned future relationship with the landowners.
The extent to which any future manager will have autonomy over player and playing matters. If the many rumours on this subject are reflective of the truth it is hard to imagine many credible candidates wishing to become first team manager. This would naturally include some information regarding the nature and extent of the role of Mohammed Lemsagam at OAAFC.
The current state of OAAFC’s finances and your ability to ensure that the club meets its obligations. Stories in the press regarding the alleged non-payment of minor commitments suggest, at best, very poor administration and, at worst, a very parlous financial position.
Some insight into how, if at all, player transactions may benefit the agency with which you were formerly associated
Your plans for the future including any potential acquisition of the land and buildings, in particular specific detail regarding the North Stand given its capacity to provide income from non-football activities.
The truth or otherwise of rumours that either or both of the Main Stand and the Chadderton End require very substantial remedial work.
If you are not able to provide clarity on most, if not all, of these matters which are rightly causing great concern to the supporters there seems minimal prospect of the current disconnect being resolved.
These comments are made with the best of intentions from a longstanding supporter. The club was there long before I was and it is my very strong desire that it continues to exist and thrive long after I am gone. The current situation is parlous. On the playing side the club is at its lowest ebb for over 45 years, the ground is decrepit, the pitch is woefully sub-standard etc. I very much hope that you are in a position to turn the club in a more positive direction and you have rightly identified that you need the supporters, current and lapsed, on side to have a chance of doing so. I hope you can see that some or all of the steps suggested above may help in achieving that.