Those of you who check out the Trust Oldham website may wonder to whom the strange new mugshot labelled Chair belongs.  I have been in the hot seat for less than 48 hours and my backside is already smoking and my phone is melting!  The Board has voted me as Chair taking over from my good friend Elaine Ganderton who has been unwell for some time.  We wish her a speedy recovery and in time I hope she will be able to resume as Chair.

I am Philippa Whittaker.  I will be 66 at the end of the week and I have been a Latics fan since watching Latics beat Chester City 4-1 in December 1961.  I have been a season ticket holder since I had enough money to afford a season ticket at some point in the 1980’s.

I am married with 5 children.  We are a Latics family.  Born within sight of the ground in the then Boundary Park Hospital, I was brought up in Chadderton (anyone remember Eaves Lane Council School? – if not, well it was demolished around 1962) then Middleton.  I read Modern History at Wadham College, Oxford on a scholarship and am qualified as both a Chartered Accountant and a Chartered Public Finance Accountant. 

I qualified in Manchester with the predecessor firm of KPMG, leaving as a Manager.  I then worked at Woolworths Central Accounting Office in Castleton as Systems Analyst, Management Accountant and for 4 years as Financial Controller (when Woolworths was profitable).  I was then a Senior Lecturer in Accounting at the University of Salford specialising in financial management, performance management, financial modelling and corporate strategy.  I retired from the University in 2013.

For 8 years I was Senior Examiner setting and assessing the Final Test of Professional Competence for the CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy).  I have also been a trade union leader, being Vice-President of the UCU (University and College Union) Branch at the University of Salford and having been Elected Chair of the UCU North West Regional Committee.  Before that I was a union rep for 14 years.

I know how to negotiate, and I don’t get rolled over.  I always aim to be courteous and professional, but I am nobody’s patsy.

One of the Trust’s members was sharply critical of the Trust as a failing organisation.  As things stand, she is right. 

I am working to change that – and fast.  It speaks volumes that I have been a Trust Director for 23 months – and find myself as the third longest serving Director after Darren Ratcliffe and Vice-Chair Kenny Hopwood.  I regret that valued Directors decided to leave, and we have lost much of the collective memory and wisdom of the Trust.

The Trust exists to:

  • Ensure the Oldham Athletic – our Club – remains in Oldham (and I personally want that to be at Boundary Park);
  • Ensure that the Club is financially sustainable so that it has a sound base off the field needed for success on the field;
  • Act as a conduit for the views of fans to the Club and able to disseminate reliable information back from the Club to fans;
  • Use our representative on the Club Board to press for good corporate governance;
  • Build support for the team and have fun sharing all things Latics together.

The Trust does not have millions of pounds at our disposal, so we have influence for good over, but not control of, the Club.  In the drama that has surrounded Oldham Athletic over the last number of years there have been many actors, and some are profoundly antipathetic to each other.  Life would be easier if everyone could agree, but that isn’t where we are right now.

The Trust’s role is to stick to the above principles.  We talk to everybody, but are captured by nobody.  We are the “Critical Friend” of the Club rather than a protest group and we will remain so as the years pass and the Club’s story continues – and we will do everything we can to ensure that story continues to unfold.

The Trust has not been functioning well.  There have been deep disagreements, some directors have struggled to discharge their roles due to illness or work commitments and some people have become discouraged.  Our policies and documentation are patchy and we have been so preoccupied with the issues surrounding the Club that we have not been doing enough for members in other ways.  We have all been kicked into touch by Covid-19 and the lockdown – and professional football, including our Club, has been brought to a standstill.

Expect to see more communications with a better and more professional website.  Expect more fan events like the Peter Clarke Q&A.  Expect prompt posting of minutes and other updates to a professional standard.

Expect democratic engagement.  There will be fan surveys.  Any Directors appointed by the Board will stand for election at the next AGM.  I expect members to vote for Directors on the basis of what they offer to the Trust, not who they associate with.

We have asked for Trust members to come forward as Directors.  Two new people have come forward already with good skillsets, which has helped a lot.  The Trust still needs more Directors with the skills and commitment to cover the many roles that need doing.  Many hands make light work.  At the moment too few people are doing too many things – we are all unpaid volunteers and nobody should be expected to put in excessive time or effort. 

In some cases, things have not been done at all due to lack of numbers of Board members, or in some areas, lack of expertise.  What I do ask is that Directors work for the good of the Trust and its members as a whole. I would wish the Board to reflect the spectrum of opinion among fans but to remember that the Director’s duty is first and foremost to the Trust.

Finally, some more information about me:

  • I worship at Oldham Parish Church and am an elected member of Oldham West Deanery Synod and Manchester Diocesan Synod – and am doing a theology course;
  • I am a block signaller on the East Lancashire Railway;
  • I cycle 80 to 100 miles a week (or at least I did, until I took this role on)!
  • I am a keen walker and am a Level 2 Walks Organiser for Oldham Wednesday Walkers;
  • I was a keen amateur footballer – South East Lancs. League Standard and I also played league cricket;
  • I am a member of Oldham U3A and an active member of the British History Group;
  • I served for 4 years in the Territorial Army as a Driver in the Royal Corps of Transport;
  • I was an Elected Member of Senate, (Academic Staff Constituency) University of Salford (served maximum permitted 2 three-year terms);
  • I am an Equalities Trainer and Trans Rights advocate;
  • I am on the Committee of the Manchester Branch of the Oxford University Society.