As of 14th April, Trust Oldham had not received a response from the club to our letter of 28th March. A reminder letter was issued on the morning of the 15th April reaffirming our request for a response and requesting that Mr Lemsagam outline his intentions for engagement with fans over the short term.
In the same afternoon we received a response from Mr Lemsagam to our original letter, with an apology for the delay.
Summary of Mr Lemsagam’s letter of 15th April
The response received contains some commercially sensitive information and, regrettably, it would be inappropriate for the Trust to publish the response in full. However, we can summarise the salient points as follows:
- Mr Lemsagam states that mistakes have been made during his time as majority owner of the club but that he is “learning”. The nature of these mistakes are not specified in the letter
- Mr Lemsagam states that he has a “positive vision” for the club which he is working towards “becoming a reality.” What that vision is and what steps will be taken to make that a reality are not outlined
- Mr Lemsagam states that he has invested his life savings into the club. He states that he regrets making investments into the club in good faith prior to acquiring the club but his affinity with the club was such that he felt he had no other option
- Mr Lemsagam states that a process of financial restructuring of the club is being completed, including wage bill restructuring and changing the club’s “model of recruitment”. Mr Lemsagam states that this will take time and that we must be “prudent” in the process
- Mr Lemsagam states that he is “saddened” by the relationship he has with fans and that it is a “great tragedy” that fans have accused him of harming the club when that is not the case.
- Mr Lemsagam states that he agrees with the “principles” set out in our letter (those being the six fan expectations outlined) and states that he seeks a “strong bond” between Oldham Athletic and its fans. How he intends to achieve this bond and how he will meet our collective expectations is not outlined. He states that he would love fans to help achieve his aspirations for the club
- Mr Lemsagam states that he does not and has not interfered in team selection and that his involvement in team affairs has been limited to matters relating to squad size and associated wage bill management
- Mr Lemsagam states that the Board of Directors is being “reconstituted” to have greater local and professional representation. Who is involved, how that will be achieved and over what timeframe is not outlined.
Does the response address the issues raised?
We thank Mr Lemsagam for considering the matters we have raised. We recognise that he is operating under a number of constraints and that he may have inherited issues which could be affecting the club to this day. We welcome that he has confirmed that he does have a long term vision for the club and that he has stated his desire to build a positive relationship with fans, though this is of little reassurance in the absence of detail regarding these aspirations, what they are and how they will be achieved.
Our priority is the health and stability of Oldham Athletic and we want to see that our owner is acting responsibly and diligently in his stewardship of the club. This is notwithstanding legacy issues and Mr Lemsagam’s inexperience, both of which are suggested as part of the reason for the club’s current situation. Regrettably the response does not generally outline how the expectations we have as fans will be met and the questions we have put to Mr Lemsagam have, unfortunately, not been answered in full. The response does not in our view demonstrate a clear commitment to the more open and regular engagement we seek going forward, let alone how this will be achieved. We note that our request for Mr Lemsagam to attend a fan meeting has not been acknowledged in the letter.
We do not dismiss this response outright and recognise that it is the first stage in a process of engaging with Mr Lemsagam, making our presence felt and securing necessary changes. However it falls someway short of providing the reassurances we seek in relation to the matters raised.
The letter goes on to suggest a meeting with the Trust once the season is complete. Engaging with fans should be a priority at this time and therefore we do not feel this suggestion is appropriate. We are requesting, again, an immediate meeting with the Trust in the first instance. We will also again be requesting a full meeting with fans as soon as possible thereafter (before the end of the season). We will use our legal right and position as a body which represents our fans as appropriate in making these requests.
The Trust will keep Supporters Direct updated of our progress in relation to this matter. Supporters Direct will brief the EFL on our behalf.
We understand that it is every fan’s right to make a stand and voice their concerns as they see fit, within the parameters of the law. It is important that the Trust continues to approach this current exercise in a manner which is conducive to securing Mr Lemsagam’s commitment to engage more openly with fans. As such, we do not believe it is appropriate for the Trust to promote a confrontational form of protest at this stage.
However reflecting on the letter we have received, we also feel it is important and necessary to take steps to raise further awareness of the severity of our collective concerns. This includes ensuring Mr Lemsagam properly understands these concerns, our expectations and the potential harmful consequences arising from the continued dissatisfaction of our fans and, as far as possible, takes corrective action. The Trust is considering a number of options for taking further steps to reinforce these points via appropriate means. We will outline our intentions in this regard and ask for fans’ input as soon as possible.
Back our cause – join Trust Oldham
As we have outlined previously, the Trust can only be effective in our efforts if we have the backing of our fans. We need our fans to join the Trust to give it a louder voice and increase the prospects of our shared views and requests effecting genuine and positive change.
You can join Trust Oldham here https://trustoldham.co.uk/membership/