Following on from our February meeting with the CEO, we have received welcomed contact and a detailed explanation with evidence from Hotelrooms4u director Michael Halliwell to offer some clarity on the overall situation. Michael confirmed the club does not pay for this service and it is purely a commission settlement between each hotel provider and Hotelrooms4u. Evidence has been provided to confirm contracts are between each hotel and the club. We thank Michael for reaching out and understanding especially given the last 12 months that transparency and honesty is vital in building trust with the fanbase and is a major component to how we believe the club we all love, should be run. Michael has also provided fans with the following update and background to Hotelrooms4u;

“I have 25 years experience in both professional sport and the hospitality industries. I first started arranging travel for golf professionals after I had finished competing myself. Through time, it evolved into arranging travel on a worldwide basis for corporate clients. Through my contacts and eventually through buying power it allowed me access to substantially discounted fares and hotel rates. I was involved for many years organising travel for the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United (this was mainly directors and staff travel such as flights for scouts and coaches as they kept the team travel in-house), Liverpool, Everton, Spurs and Rangers as a partner to Thomas Cook Sports. As you can imagine, booking accommodation for football clubs is quite complex and time consuming as their requirements are very specific especially when it comes to the food, meal times, private dining facilities, meeting rooms for team talks, physio room etc. and also requires a degree of discretion. I had purposely avoided many of the lower league clubs because quite frankly it wasn’t worth exposing ourselves to the risk of not getting paid, especially as I had a bad experience from arranging Bury FC’s pre-season tour to Portugal and also struggling to get paid by a Scottish Premier League side under a previous owner.”

“18 months ago during a conversation with the football club, I was asked by the Sporting Director and the Chairman whether I would look at how they procured travel and see if it was possible to make any savings as they felt their hotel costs were particularly high. Having done an analysis alongside the FD, it was decided savings were possible and that they also needed to be looking at more venues as options. This didn’t mean lowering the standards but I would be able to give them access to a greater number of options at reduced prices”

“It was agreed that I would work alongside the MD, Club Secretary and Head Coach at the time for each away game, whether it was a pre-match meal en-route or an overnight stay and I would liaise with the venues and once the club decided which option worked for them I would ask the venue to arrange a contract between the venue and the football club. No contract would involve myself and the club would pay the venue directly by pro-forma invoice. As is standard in our industry, the venue would pay us a commission on the total bill.”

“I was doing this as a favour and therefore I agreed to give the club back a percentage of the commission I was paid in the form of sponsorship giving them a further saving on away travel. I have done this by joining the Business Club, I have sponsored George Blackwood for this season (albeit in another company name which I subsequently decided I didn’t like) and have made other payments which the club has invoiced me for as a generic sponsorship.”

“In my time working with the club, Oldham Athletic have only ever made 2 payments to either myself or the company. One was when Shahed asked me to book flights from Australia to Manchester for George Blackwood after he had been quoted a quite ridiculous price from a 3rd party website. I was able to book the flights which were rather complex given we were in the midst of a lockdown from Perth to Melbourne to Abu Dhabi to Manchester and to return to Australia at the end of May 2021 at a price some £2k less than the club had been quoted. I did these flights at cost price to ourselves with no mark-up added on and the club paid the company by credit card after I had provided an invoice. There was one other occasion prior to Christmas whenu a hotel was chasing payment for an overnight stay which I paid. In fairness to Shahed he made a BACS payment to me several days later for the full amount”

In response to the queries around Barry Owens business interest/ conflict of interest;

“With regard to Mr Owen, he was made a Director of the company only about 9 days previous to your meeting with the CEO. As you will be aware, it is quite normal to be trading as a sole trader prior to renaming the company and registering as a limited company. I was going to trade this part of the business as a sole trader but having decided to develop this business and bring in existing clients to the new company I had a number of offers of investment. Mr Owen has no day to day involvement in the company.”

“I understand the need for clarification given he is a Director of the football club but as I said it was only a matter of a couple of weeks ago and he has notified the Chairman and other board members. To my knowledge, there has not been a board meeting at the club since Mr Owen made the decision to become a shareholder and I’ve no doubt it will be clarified at the next board meeting.”

Should supporters have any questions in relation to the update by all means let us know and these questions can be asked. The more transparency within the club and between the fan base can only be seen as a positive.