Leyton Orient’s relegation could be confirmed tomorrow, but, in truth, the O’s have looked destined to drop out of the Football League for a while now, writes Fans View writer James Mealing.
The main concern for the O’s is the departure of Francesco Becchetti. The club won’t ever move forward under his toxic ownership. Failing to pay players and staff their wages for March is another example in a long line of Becchetti’s disgraceful actions. Omer Riza had a very small pool of players to choose from to face Cambridge. Injuries had ruled out a number of senior players and the issues with payment may have played a part as well, which is understandable.
As a result, the side that lined-up against Cambridge had an average age of just 21. It’s ironic that the EFL punish clubs for fielding ‘weakened’ teams in the EFL Trophy in order to protect the integrity of the competition - a competition that they have ruined in the eyes of many fans - yet they have allowed one of their clubs to deteriorate to such an extent that a competitive, senior team cannot be fielded.
The FA and EFL aren’t just failing to protect Orient, the likes of Blackburn, Blackpool, Charlton, and Coventry have all become victims of mismanagement. These owners may satisfy the criteria of the EFL’s fit and proper persons test, however, the test clearly isn’t fit for purpose.
In the absence of help from the footballing authorities, it is great to see O’s fans united in trying to safeguard the future of the club. LOFT have put a great deal of time and effort into contingency planning. Fans have donated money and items for auction. It is also nice to see former players helping out.
The support from fans of other clubs has also been amazing. There is empathy from football fans and an appreciation that situations like ours transcend the partisan divisions between football supporters. Visiting clubs have donated generously in financial terms and the vocal support from Wycombe fans produced united opposition to Becchetti. Despite the defeat that afternoon and our bleak predicament in general, it produced one of the best atmospheres seen at Brisbane Road and showed a spirit to be proud of.
On Saturday, the wider support continued. Like other clubs we have visited, Cambridge gave Orient fans permission to collect for the regeneration fund and the home fans gave generously. Even U’s CEO Jez George highlighted our plight in his programme notes. Such generosity and solidarity is very much appreciated.
Football clubs are institutions in their communities and their importance to fans stretches beyond the ninety minutes of action on the pitch.
One way or another, it is set to be another summer of change. Assuming the club avoids liquidation, Orient look set to be playing non-league football for the first time in 112 years. Players are also likely to leave. However, those changes would be bearable if the crucial change is made at the top of the club. It