Push The Boundary – Club Q&A – 07 January 2020

A Q&A was announced by the club late in December 2019, which confirmed that owner Abdallah Lemsagam would be in attendance. The night was limited to 30 supporters and PTB were advised they would be allowed one seat to allow enough supporters elsewhere to attend. We were placed on the standby list initially but later advised that a seat had become available so as such, we sent a nominated person to attend. Club Staff and Board of Directors present at the meeting were as follows:

Abdallah Lemsagam (AL) – Chairman/Owner
Natalie Atkinson (NA) – Managing Director
Shahed Alam (SA) – Finance Director
Richard Bowden (RB) – Fans Representative on the Board of Directors
Darren Ratcliffe (DR) – Trust Representative on the Board of Directors
Dean Pickering Snr (DP) – Kit Man
Michael Brown (MB) – Head of Media & Communications
Sue Bowskill (SB) – Administration
Jamie Stoddart (JS) – Business Development Manager
Michael Beech (MB) – Club Secretary

NA made an opening statement for the night, advising the supporters in the room that she wanted the Q&A to be as informal as possible and insisted that AL, NA and SA were there to answer any questions put to them. NA also noted that they were filming (audio only) and that the aim was for notes to be released in due course by the club as to what was addressed within the Q&A.

Q – Do you think the recruitment process is working?

A – AL advised that the recruitment is with the manager/head coach. When asked whether this has always been the case, AL informed supporters that had not always been the case. AL was then asked what the role was of the Sporting Director if the manager/head coach had full control. AL went onto say that he believes that 2 or 3 heads are better than 1. The Sporting Director would be involved and have a say but AL insisted that the last decision stayed with the manager/head coach.

Q – Why is the squad size so high?

A – AL stated that we had 28/29 players and that the manager/head coach will have a look at who he wants to retain or try to get rid of. AL was then asked by a fellow supporter about the need in having a squad the size we do when we don’t have a reserve team. AL answered this question by explaining that we have brought in young players, admitted some hadn’t settled but they weren’t on much money. NA told supporters that we have a mix with younger players and senior players all within a budget. AL stated that he trusted Laurent Banide and he wanted 2 or 3 younger players so the club took a gamble. A supporter replied by explaining that players wouldn’t be that cheap when relocation costs are taken into account. AL stated mistakes had been made but trusted the coach when he wanted these type of players.

Q – We have a squad of 30 players but we don’t know where some players are? Urko Vera, Sonhy Sefil, Marvin Kokos etc?

A – SA advised that they cannot confirm where individual players are and NA advised that as and when they can update supporters of any player movements they will do. SA advised that any players who may be being brought in or let go, they need to go through a process before announcing anything. AL insisted once more that Marvin Kokos was brought in by Laurent Banide.

Q – Can we have a look at having some stability with a manager?

A – AL advised supporters that they trust Dino.

Q – Why is Dino the right man to take us forward?

A – AL saw last season that he finished 8th with Stevenage. We will give Dino a chance to get things right.

Q – Will you meet with Push The Boundary?

A – AL stated that he will meet with any fan. AL advised he would meet with PTB. NA added that when AL is not present at the club, he has empowered NA and SA to run the club on daily basis. SA went onto say that PTB shouldn’t have approached all sponsors and suppliers to not support the club*

*To clarify PTB have not done, however we did contact catering companies to apologise in advance for the Food and Drink Boycott. We realise it was not their fault but felt it was an action we needed to take. PTB has never spoken with suppliers or sponsors to stop them getting involved with the club.

Q – Billy Thompson left and was rather scathing branding the workplace as “toxic” is he incorrect?

A – SA advised supporters that if he worked in a workplace that was toxic he would resign. When questioned whether Billy is a liar, SB advised supporters that he has his opinion but in her opinion it is not a toxic environment to work in. NA advised supporters that they tried to keep Billy. SA advised that if Billy has any information or opinions that he wishes to raise, he can do and they will be taken onboard. AL went onto say that he wants the club to be a “big family”. AL advised supporters that he has put in £5m+ and takes no salary.

Q – Why did you buy the club Abdallah?

A – AL stated that he came here when we played Wigan at Boundary Park before he took over and really enjoyed the atmosphere. Before he came here he wasn’t aware of the club.

Q – Why hasn’t Barry Owen been suspended?

A – SA can’t give too much information as they have a meeting with the police later this month. SA advised that the club had done an internal investigation and club solicitors were satisfied that there was no conflict of interest. Barry went with the Club to the council meeting as Barry had a lot of information so was helpful for the club to have him in the meeting. SA advised that forensic accountants have gone through the last 10-15 years of information. SA then informed supporters that Barry received and was first to respond to the letters of enquiry sent out. When probed about the potential conflict of interest issue, SA advised that following reviewing the information, Barry Owen was not one of those directors implicated. SA informed the supporters present that if Barry Owen was found to negatively impact the investigation then Barry wouldn’t be on the Board of Directors.

Q – What is Barry Owen’s value to the club?

A – SA told fans that his Health and Safety expertise are extremely valuable. If we employed somebody with that experience for that role it would cost circa £50k a year. NA advised fans that directors had key responsibilities for areas in the business. Barry is a key support mechanism when it comes to health and safety and he supports Steve (safety officer) and Natalie in those areas. NA also advised supporters that he provides day to day advice whether that be with the club or regarding local businesses etc.

Q – Does Barry Owen hold a position within the FA at all?

A – NA advised supporters that she is not aware of him holding any position at the FA currently.

Q – Following last night’s meeting, is it true that Simon Corney holds 22% of shares in the Club?

A – SA advised that Simon Corney holds 0.1% of shares in the club, holding just 22 shares. SA didn’t know why he wanted 22 shares and said it maybe Simon Corney’s “lucky number”. When probed on the issuing of more shares, SA advised that this is solely down to whether the majority shareholder wants to do this. The supporter then questioned, whether the share percentage would increase as Simon Corney would have owned 22 shares of a much lower number of shares thus giving him a higher share percentage, SA once more confirmed that it was 22 shares that Simon Corney owned and not 22%. SA advised that a confirmation will be issued to Companies House to reflect that. PTB understands that the confirmation statement has now been submitted and published on Companies House. SA went onto say that it is easily confused between 22 shares and 22% but to an accountant it’s a big difference. SA said that everything is “above board” at this club now and insists there is nothing to hide.

Q – There’s a comment on twitter that not everybody has been paid for December, is this true?

A – NA stated that she had been paid. DP said that under Abdallah he has never not been paid. He went on to add that under Simon Corney, he was sometimes paid 7-10 days late.

Q – Whether all Staff members had been paid on time?

A – SA asked the supporter “what’s on time? Nobody has complained” NA confirmed there is not a pay date, there is a “pay period”, SA confirmed this is correct and NA explained that “pay periods” are common within football. SA stated that currently it takes him 7 hours each time as he has to pay people individual not as a batch but insists he is looking to rectify this when the time allows.

Q – Are there any monies owed to Brassbank?

A – SA advised supporters that there is a dispute regarding the rent and is part of the investigation. The club will not pay this until the investigation is completed. AL advised fans that it was not his debenture. Before he took over he says he was told the amount was 250k but when he took over it was increased to 500k. AL states he wants to know exactly and it’s with the police and will find out after that. SA said that if there is no evidence that this money is owed, then they will not make any payment.

Q – Can Blitz put the club into Administration and sell it to FLG for £1?

A – SA told supporters that the FLG wouldn’t take it. AL states “Tell him to try”. NA advises fans that he cannot just put the club into Administration, it would have to go to court. SA states that they are happy to put it to the court and let them decide.

Q – Current recruitment strategy seems to be very short term and feels a bit “non-league”, is this something we should continue to expect?

A – NA feels that this is a disservice to non-league. AL stated that if Doyle went back to Bradford, the statistics show that our squad is the second highest in value for the division behind Stevenage, valued at £4.5m. A Supporter then went on to quote the vision about the long-term recruitment strategy and asked if the clubs plan has now changed. AL states that the manager has changed since then. SA advises supporters that the club is and will continue to adhere to whatever the manager wants to do in regards to each player, whether that be permanent, loan or a free transfer and that the club will take a pragmatic approach with regards to recruitment.

Q – Is there a budget for us to sign players on a permanent basis this January?

A – AL tells supporters that the club might sign players on permanent basis but this will be up to the manager.

Q – Do you honestly believe that the current value of our squad is £4.5m?

A – AL says that this is on transfermarkt.com

Q – How likely is it that we will keep Chris McCann?

A – AL said that they are trying to keep him. They are currently in negotiations with him.

Q – Can you say that in your time of owning the club that it has been successful?

A – AL mentioned about getting into the 4th round of the FA Cup after beating Fulham and nearly finishing in the playoffs. AL states that building the club will take time.

Q – What will be considered a success this season?

A – AL believes we should be higher. AL advises that it will take time but we will move in the right direction.

Q – Why should I carry on supporting? What do I have to look forward to?

A – AL states… “Good question…The Future”

Q – Where is Giles Coke?

A – AL tells supporters that he has 6 months left on his contract but is currently on trial elsewhere

Q – Are there any plans to work with the FLG to maximise the potential of the North Stand for the Club?

A – SA states that he is unaware of who the FLG are. SA states that they have met employees of the OEC. He also insists that there are insurmountable barriers in regards to the SLA and advised supporters that the OEC want full control of the commercial department and the income. SA returned to AL and said there were 7 points where there were issues. 4 have been clarified and they can “work around it”. The other 3 points SA states that the club will not agree to.

Q – I represent Chadderton Supporters Club who provide transport to away games. On two occasions the club have cancelled official supporter’s coaches. We’re struggling to fill the coach and so are the club for away games at present. Can the club do anything?

A – NA stated that she will take the details of the supporter who asked the question and look into this further but no official affiliation or advertising can take place. SA stated that the 5 people who were booked on the official coach were okay so didn’t understand why people were unhappy with the decision to cancel. NA tells supporters that they will learn from it and it will not happen again.

Q – What is your thought on the current strikers?

A – AL told supporters that there are 2 strikers coming in during this transfer window.

Q – Do you think you made a mistake buying Oldham Athletic?

A – AL didn’t confirm yes or no but when pressed if the club was for sale, AL stated that it is not openly for sale but everything is for the right price, whether that be Manchester United, Liverpool or Oldham Athletic.

Q – How did it come about that you bought the club?

A – Al told supporters that he didn’t know Simon Corney and that somebody had brokered a deal between them. Simon Corney visited AL in Dubai. When asked further by a fan present, AL said at the start he wasn’t looking to get involved in buying a football club but enjoyed it when he came here. AL saw and liked the potential and atmosphere so proceeded.

Q – When you first bought the club what did you think that you were buying?

A – AL states that he was giving money to the club before he took over. AL didn’t confirm to supporters what he thought he was buying.

Q – Since you bought the club have you made a bid for the North Stand?

A – AL confirmed that he has made a bid for the North Stand which prompted the individual who asked the question to ask ‘why if you disputed the ownership?’ SA stated since February when he has been at the club, that there has not and will not be any bids put in for the North Stand. SA said that he looked into the documentation and felt that the ownership needed to be disputed following a forensic accountant review. SA advised supporters that he said to AL when he first looked through the documentation “why did you buy it?” SA then went on to say that AL felt it was taking too long, he had put a lot of money in so decided to proceed with the purchase of the club.

Q – What timeframe are you putting on this to be investigated and completed?

A – SA advised that the forensic accountants took about 3 months to complete their report. SA told supporters that Northampton Town’s dispute took 10 years so couldn’t tell supporters a timescale of how long they expect this to take.

Q – Can we change Mouldy Old Dough?

A – NA laughed and said that she changed a song at Southport with MB, who denied his involvement in this. NA said that she would not be doing it again.

Q – Are you here for the long term?

A – AL stated that he believes so and NA/RB confirmed that they were too as they see potential to make the club a success.

NA concluded the meeting and thanked everybody for their attendance. NA, SA and AL believed that it was a positive meeting and one that they hoped supporters present enjoyed.

Since the meeting has taken place, a date has been agreed between PTB and Abdallah to meet. We are waiting on confirmation of other staff who will be in attendance before, as always, giving supporters the opportunity to submit their questions to give people as much time as possible to send them into to us.