Action Replay: Another Club in Financial Crisis
Leyton Orient is facing a winding-up order over an unpaid tax bill and could face the threat of liquidation if they cannot settle their debt to HRMC, thought to be in the region of £250,000. This would be a disaster for the crisis-hit club who would therefore face exile from the Football League after 112 year’s membership. An Orient spokesman has declined to comment on either the winding up petition or the size of the unpaid bill. A Football League spokesman said only ‘we are aware of the situation at Leyton Orient and in contact with the club…’
Members of the Leyton Orient Fans Club (LOFT) have set up a fund to raise a £100k rescue package to protect the club, should current Italian owner Francesco Becchetti decide to sell up or if the club goes into administration.
Becchetti is unwilling to part with Orient for anything less than £4 million he paid to Sports Promoter Barry Hearn to purchase the club in 2014. Hearn became Chairman of Leyton Orient in 1985 after the club was put up for sale for £5 by the then chairman Tony Wood. He has admitted that he now regrets selling the club to the Italian businessman but has ruled out buying it back. He has also remarked ‘thank goodness I kept the ground because otherwise goodness knows what would have happened.’ Leyton Orient’s home ground was originally called Brisbane Road but is now officially known as the Matchroom Stadium after Hearn’s sports promotion company.
Much has been made about Becchetti’s ‘malign’ influence over the club as a ‘foreign owner’ despite the fact that several clubs in the English Premier League are owned by foreigners, e.g. Manchester United and Liverpool (American) Chelsea (Russian) Manchester City (Arab) and Leicester City (Asian). The nationality of the owner makes no difference.
It is short-sighted and stupid nationalism to blame foreign owners for a football club’s decline. Football, as well as being a sport, is also a business that attracts investment from foreign or home-based capital if there is the prospect of a profitable return on investment. Football operates within capitalism as does any business enterprise and that’s why profit and loss has precedence over a long term ‘footballing strategy’ and why the balance sheet is more important than where the club plays, especially if that provides a chance for property speculation.