You will no doubt be aware of why we are contacting you. We are at something of a loss as to how and why the action of banning two supporters has been taken. The timing, not only is it a few days before Christmas, but also a matter of days before the biggest game of our season against Scunthorpe on Boxing Day.
The club have advised that they want to work alongside supporters and not against them, but (yet again), the action taken does not back up the words of the chairman. You will not need reminding that this action has also been taken against a director of OASF, who are a 3% shareholder in the football club.
Your action to date as General Manager has been to cancel 2 meetings with OASF (one at short notice when 2 directors were stood outside the stadium) and to issue these bans (as well as others). We fail to see any form of a collaborative approach to working with supporters to try and improve the situation, as purported by the Chairman. As far as we are concerned, the situation is far beyond recovering due to action taken by the current owner and board) in their tenure and we have made this clear. If the club think they can work with supporters, then take tangible steps to do so. If you do not think the situation is recoverable, then you should be taking every possible step to find alternative ownership and give fans a shred of hope.
What you cannot do (but are attempting) is to obliterate any form of free speech and opposition to the current regime, in an attempt to silence supporters. This has been done by banning flags & banners in the stadium, by taking tickets off sale for the Hartlepool game, attempting all ticket games for away fixtures and now this. The question is, what do you think that this will possibly achieve and how do you think this will be perceived by our fanbase as well as the wider footballing community?
In the Supporters Code of Conduct on the clubs website, it states the following “It is recognised that football is a passionate game and supporters will have their own way of expressing their support and reactions. This is acceptable and welcomed as it often adds positively to the matchday experience”.
You define ‘unacceptable conduct’ as “conduct considered to be violent or disorderly. Violent conduct includes any actual, attempted or threatened physical violence against any person or intentional damage to property.” This seemingly relates to conduct at home & away games, and not via social media. We fail to see, based on the justification in the letter, how the actions of both supporters can be seen to be fall under the guise of ‘unacceptable conduct’?
With regards to entry to away stadiums, we don’t believe the club can enforce such a ban unless a court order is obtained. After consulting the club’s customer charter, under the heading of ‘DATA’, it states the following:
Under no circumstances will Oldham Athletic disclose supporter’s personal data to any third party unless required by law.
As no criminal offence has taken place, we fail to see how passing details to other clubs in the division can be required ‘by law’. If you do this, it would constitute a GDPR breach so we would therefore encourage you to re-think this course of action in the event that this may come back on the club.
Your letter also states that you have been asked by the Board of Directors to review ‘actions of individuals’ and this forms part of this action. We have had verbal confirmation from a director, Richard Bowden, that he was not aware of the action being taken. Therefore, if this is indeed the case, the action taken is not unanimous? We understand that following this, said director has tendered his resignation to the board. This only adds weight to the concerns that the current board is not fit for purpose or indeed not even working towards a common goal.
As a group, we will work alongside both individuals and OASF to ensure that this decision is broadcast as far and wide as possible so that the club can be held to account for what it is doing. We have been in touch the Football Supporters Association, Fair Cop, local/national media as well as notifying the EFL of the conduct of one of it’s members.
On a final note, how much longer can this seriously continue? Whether people in the football club care to admit this or not, the situation is unrecoverable, and the position of the board and majority shareholder is completely untenable. We therefore ask all parties to come together and do what is required, to find an alternative owner before a community asset is destroyed once and for all. We would like to assume that given your previously involvement with Blackpool, that you would want to avoid a similar chain of events at another football league club.
You will no doubt be hearing further from us in due course.