A detailed update from the owner, Abdallah Lemsagam.
The below sets out my vision and plan for Oldham Athletic from 2019 to 2022. This will be supported by more detailed annual plans for each year, but serves to set out the ambitions and milestones which the Club aims to achieve during this period.
I do have a clear vision for Oldham Athletic. It is to play entertaining football in the Oldham Athletic tradition. This will be fast-paced and tactically and technically good quality. It will be delivered by developing young talent through the academy system, as well as a Europe-wide system of recruitment and excellent coaching and management.
It is clear that the Club’s supporters and history expect Oldham to be competing at a higher level than League Two, and that League One status should be achieved relatively quickly. I share the ambition to achieve promotion – not just to League One, but over time to the Championship. I will make a commitment to try to achieve League One status within three years, and hopefully sooner. At this point in time, Championship football is best considered as realistic within a five year plan rather than in the short term. It is however, the long term ambition.
The achievement of these objectives – and any further long term progression - has to be set in the context of the Club’s financial situation, which is extremely challenging for both the playing and non-playing sides of the organisation.
My initial aim is to stabilise the football club, financially, organisationally and in football terms. This is the foundation on which to build a strong club, which is successful on the pitch and resilient as an organisation.
I am currently subsidising the football club from my own personal resources, and will continue to do so until a more stable position is reached. However, it is important that the football club establishes a robust system of financial management and becomes self sufficient. This is the foundation of future success.
In considering the options for achieving this, I have undertaken an analysis of the current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and from this have established a set of clear and measurable priorities and targets.
One of the strengths of Oldham Athletic is the commitment and enthusiasm of its fans and their desire to see a good Club, performing well on and off the field.
The football club is valued within the town, as an organisation which gains positive national attention, such as occurred during the recent FA Cup run.
The Club has completed a season in League Two with sufficient success to show that it has a realistic chance of promotion in the near future.
As owner, I have invested a considerable part of my own personal funds into Oldham Athletic, and intend to continue supporting the Club as it recovers financially.
I have begun assembling a Board of Directors with sufficient skills and experience to work with me and guide the Club to a stronger position.
I have also begun work on reorganising off the field and on the field affairs, with a view to achieving the best results, while recognising that the budget is restricted.
The Club has begun to make progress with the playing squad, which has achieved some success and acquired value.
The condition of the Club’s financial and commercial position is extremely challenging.
I bought Oldham Athletic Football Club in the spring of 2018. The previous management of the Club and the disarray in its basic financial management made due diligence difficult.
The ownership of the stadium, land and buildings, presents an additional challenge, as the previous owners appear to have placed them in a separate company, over which the football club has no control. This includes the Boundary Park pitch and stadium, the surrounding car parking and practice facilities and the new North Stand. It means a considerable amount of potential income is being lost to the Club, and in some respects, additional expenditure is incurred.
There are three additional areas in which the Club has not performed well for some time:
- The value of the squad which the Club has allowed to decline significantly. Players have been sold through uncompetitive deals, contracts have been short, and the value of the squad has been repeatedly depleted.
- Commercial income – through sponsorships and partnerships, has reduced to a level lower than at comparable clubs.
- Fan base – has not grown for some time, as reflected in season tickets and match day sales.
Through sensible recruitment, continuing support for the academy and use of my own extensive networks of players in Europe, the quality and value of the playing squad can be enhanced incrementally and over time.
There is scope to enhance commercial income, working with national and local business partners to reduce costs and increase income.
Although Oldham Athletic shares an area with two major Premier League clubs and is in competition with local clubs for supporters, there is scope to encourage new fans to attend and to extend support in areas of the town which have not previously engaged positively with the Club.
There is no doubt that the condition in which the Club has been left by the previous owners has been precarious.
The ownership arrangements in relation to land, buildings, the Oldham Event Centre and related assets has greatly diminished the Club’s prospects of financial and playing success.
I have been able to manage these threats by providing the Club with subsidy during the first year of my ownership and I shall continue to do this while managing a transformation programme to establish financial stability and improve the quality of the team.
However, I do need the support of all the fans and stakeholders to help make this transformation work. Unless the radical reorganisation of the football club is delivered, Oldham Athletic will remain in a precarious position. It operates in a very competitive football marketplace and has been hugely disadvantaged by a long period of poor management, which has taken assets out of the Club and drained its resources.
The Club can definitely be turned around, but it will need a collective, united, consistent and patient approach. To achieve these transformations I propose to focus on the following priorities:
1 - Organisational effectiveness - I have already improved this by reducing overheads, reorganising the non playing staff and making key appointments, notably:
- In finance where a team is introducing good systems and financial controls.
- A Head of Commercial who is building new partnerships and sources of sponsorship income.
- I am working on the appointment of a Chief Executive and the restructure of the non-playing team to ensure the Club has effective and efficient administration.
- I am also working on the appointment of an excellent Head Coach to lead the playing side of the organisation.
- Establishing commercially competitive policies in the contracting, purchase and sale of players.
- Developing the academy and the pipeline of talent.
- Being open to recruitment of players from across the globe with the potential to develop as players as they contribute to the success of the Club.
This will include coaches who can spot and develop talent and build a stable and effective squad capable of competing for promotion.
It is important to establish continuity and consistency in this aspect of the Club, so that Oldham Athletic establishes its own playing style, pipeline of players, and avoids short term overhaul.
Progress has been made in setting and managing detailed budgets for 2019-20. Progress has also been made in the appointment of the Board of Directors, with an appointment of a non-executive director from the fans.
The Club is in addition seeking external support from sympathetic partners and stakeholders.
And the Club will actively foster a good working relationship with Trust Oldham and work to bring them on board in the realisation of this plan.