Leyton Orient’s near future is very much in the firing line. The decision to strip the first team squad so threadbare that the majority of the youth team were given the task of avoiding relegation, despite their lack of experience, was nothing short of madness. But the recent reluctance by Francesco Becchetti to pay the staff at the club without appropriate reasoning was simply disgraceful. Not only players but all staff at the club, from the groundsmen to those that run the ticket office, haven’t received any wages since the beginning of March. Intervention by the PFA and murmurs of strike action by the players has been the fan’s primary attention in recent weeks, given the resignation of relegation by many weeks ago. This was a moment for the EFL to intervene in the running of the club, a moment to admit the failings of the system previously in place and to right the wrongs.
Yet we see the EFL turn to the Fans Trust to help rekindle the costs that have been let down by the AWOL owner. That is a shameful turn by the footballing authorities where they would rather see the loyal supporters of all ages bear the brunt of Becchetti’s dirty work (or lack of), but it isn’t at all surprising. We’ve seen a number of clubs, not just of Orient, where ownership crises have distanced the fan base from the figures orchestrating their beloved club’s next move. Charlton Athletic, Coventry City, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool and Nottingham Forest have all held protests to not only bring their situations into the limelight, but also to use it as a cry for help to the authorities to intervene in some form.
While no rule has been strictly ‘broken’ in these examples of ownership, there remains incredible pressure by fans to refresh the obviously unsuitable rulings. The ‘fit and proper’ tests for new owners of clubs has in the past 10 years been exposed to be nothing more than based on promise, with the most striking example being of Orient who have fallen 45 places in the Football League ladder since the start of the 2014/15 season, and are destined for non-league obscurity. It’s disgusting that a club of Orient’s pedigree, the second oldest club in London and well respected across the entire country, has been left to seemingly self-destruct because of an owner’s ineptitude while those that herald themselves over their desire to pursue ‘Aspiration’, ‘Credibility’, ‘Community’ and ‘Progress’ (All their own admission!) have simply sat back in their executive offices and watched the club crumble.
I think I speak for all Orient fans when I say this. The ‘intervention’ of the EFL at Leyton Orient has been farcical. We’re not talking about multi-millionaire footballers that can do without wage for a month and not even notice it in their bank balance. We’re talking about ordinary working people. People with bills to pay, families to provide for, livelihoods to live. While it may simply be another club for those at the top, it’s an awful lot more than that for those that care about it more than others.