The Leyton Orient Fans Trust has just published a ‘Fit and Proper Orient Test’, which understandably has caused a lot of response, at least on Twitter, where I’ve been following the discussions.
As a tool to promote the name and aims of the trust itself, it’s rather a natty little idea. But let’s just dispense with the idea that everything a group in the position that LOFT is in does everything to get publicity.
The values it calls for any prospective owner to meet are hardly demanding the unachievable. Previous owner Barry Hearn says that fans need to ‘understand the mindset of the type of investor prepared to underwrite club losses. They like to be in control if it’s their money!’, and he’s right inasfar as LOFT and supporters have no actual say in who becomes owner. Except they do have a lot of power and influence that they should use: they have an important role in creating the environment that clubs – and therefore owners – operate within. Ergo they’re important, ergo LOFT are entirely right to seek to influence the machinations around who comes in next (if there is a genuine change coming).
I happen to think that Barry Hearn was actually a bit underappreciated as an owner, even if he did sell to Bechetti, something I don’t propose to discuss. He came straight out against Wimbledon’s Norwegian owners franchising the club to Milton Keynes in 2001, and has often been outspoken about the difficulties that smaller clubs face. He is, however, one of those ‘outspoken’ types, and doesn’t always get it right.
But it’s also not like what LOFT is saying is unreasonable. This isn’t the height of pre-ITV Digital English crash football, when some owners were genuinely beginning to think they could do no wrong and were in fact geniuses.
Asking for owners to demonstrate that they meet fairly simple measures of honesty, integrity and reputation, competence and capability, financial soundless, financial openness, and their willingness to genuinely work with supporters is not some daft wishlist of unacceptable or unachievable sized proportions.
It’s bordering on the fairly-normal-to-expect as it goes. Many of the rules and regulations being adopted by The EFL and Premier League ask for the same or similar.
The environment we’re now in means that fans, and particularly their organised representatives, are a central part of decisions made, even where like at Orient they have no actual formal role.
My advice to any new owner is if you’re interested in buying Orient, best get revising.