Oldham Athletic, once a Premier League founding member and one of the most successful clubs in English football history, now face ruin and relegation to non-league after a disastrous season.
Oldham have been Premier League founding members since its creation in 1992. They are now facing ruin and relegation to non-league football.
Mark Ogden, senior writer for ESPN FC, has all the latest news and reactions.
“It’s no secret that everything went bad from that point and the club has never really recovered,” Andy Ritchie, a former Oldham player and manager, told ESPN.
Oldham had been a model of consistency until 1994, with just two managers (Royle and Jimmy Frizzell) in 24 years and a promotion to the Premier League in 1991, a year after losing the EFL final and reaching another FA Cup semifinal. Oldham have never finished higher than 14th in the Championship (England’s second tier) since their relegation from the Premier League, and have spent the last 24 years in the lowest two levels. Since Royle departed for Everton in 1994, they have had four new owners and Curle, who captained Manchester City for three years in the 1990s, is the 32nd manager.
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“Although Ashton play in England’s seventh division, their quality is much worse than Oldham’s, they returned Sefil back to us after three games because he was so poor. On the other hand, Abdallah let go of excellent players like Peter Clarke and David Wheater, despite their experience being essential for a club in League Two.”
According to ESPN, Lemsagam ordered one previous Oldham manager not to choose the team captain and not to let players he no longer wanted to attend training. Lemsagam was approached by ESPN and given the opportunity to respond to the allegations and answer questions regarding his ownership, but he refused.
According to sources close to Lemsagam, who watched his first home game since March 2020 last week, there was some influence in player selection during his ownership’s early days, but that is no longer a problem. They also mention his £5.5 million investment in the club since his arrival in 2018.
Keith Curle was appointed manager in March and is attempting to keep the team viable. Getty Images/Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto
According to ESPN, Lemsagam’s colleagues have urged him to sell Oldham since the club is a major drain on his £40 million wealth. However, although he owns the team, he does not own the stadium, which adds to the complexity. The site, which includes four stands and a parking lot, is owned by Simon Blitz, a New York financier, and sources close to Blitz have informed ESPN that rent in excess of £200,000 is due, but sources close to Lemsagam have disputed this number.
When asked about his business strategy for purchasing the club but not the stadium, sources close to Lemsagam tell ESPN that he bought Oldham in the hopes of “Moneyballing his way out of League One,” then using his connections as an agent to recruit players capable of succeeding in the Championship, all while increasing the club’s value. Lemsagam, on the other hand, has nothing of value to sell since he just owns the club emblem and playing team.
Fans have asked Blitz not to sell the site to Lemsagam, fearing that it would be transferred to property developers again. That would be the worst-case scenario, closely followed by Blitz calling in any debts due by Lemsagam, the club going into financial administration, and Oldham receiving a 12-point deduction under EFL regulations.
Oldham, who took out a £490,000 loan from the EFL in February, would be in negative points after a 12-point deduction, putting them in danger of relegation (they have seven points from their first ten games).
Oldham supporters have become more dissatisfied with Lemsagam’s ownership and want him out of the club, despite his desire to stay in control. The club took the unusual decision last month of refusing to sell tickets to home supporters in order to avoid more disturbance at games this season, which included tennis balls, whistles, and pitch invasions organized by a group known as “the Athleticos.”
“We want Abdallah to sell the club, but we also want peaceful protest and to engage with the ownership to find a buyer,” Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Federation director Matt Dean told ESPN. “However, the pitch invasion and game interruption resulted in more publicity and national attention, thus it had a purpose.”
“But for the time being, our goal is to assist Abdallah in selling the club. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll try to apply as much pressure as we can to get it done.”
Fans want to convince a local billionaire, Britain’s wealthiest man, to buy the team and the stadium, returning both to dignity. Getty Images/Jan Kruger
One strategy used by supporters is to convince Britain’s wealthiest man, Jim Ratcliffe, to save the team. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ratcliffe, the CEO of chemical firm INEOS, was born in Failsworth, four miles from Boundary Park, and has amassed a wealth of £10.6 billion ($14.4 billion). Ratcliffe, a Manchester United fan, tried to purchase Chelsea in 2019 before completing a £91 million acquisition of French club Nice.
So, will Ratcliffe’s heart be tugged by the possibility of rescuing his hometown team?
“Jim Ratcliffe has been contacted,” Shipman added. “However, we have yet to get a response.”
Meanwhile, the battle continues. Fans protested against Lemsagam on his visit to Boundary Park for Harrogate’s home loss last week, but he is prepared to weather the storm.
A source close to Lemsagam told ESPN, “He’s had three years of s—-.” “He’s had to deal with some very difficult situations, but the whole club had calmed down at the start of this season, and the issue only spiraled out of control when the squad lost its first four games. But it’s still early. The club is still eight points out of a playoff spot, so there is still time for things to turn around.”
Curle, who took over as manager from Harry Kewell in March, is similarly optimistic that he can turn things around and steer Oldham away from danger.
He said, “I came here because I knew where the club may go.” “It may not go where I want it to go as fast as I’d like, but I’m confident that we’ll achieve the upward slope we need and then be able to bring in the players we need to help us move out of this division.”
The most pressing issue at the moment is how Oldham will leave the division. If they are relegated, their status as a former Premier League club in the non-league will mean nothing.
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