A story that has been gaining attention in England and in all of Europe. English professional football is about to say goodbye to one of their proudest clubs based right in the nation’s capital. The stadium capacity may not compete with the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham or Arsenal but Leyton Orient stand as one of the proudest and most followed clubs in England. A club that is 125 years old and has proudly boasted their football league status for 112 consecutive seasons. They have been relegated from League Two (the 4th tier of English Football) in the climax of their horrific three year nightmare. So how did a club who was in the English 3rd tier and banging on the door of the Championship, get sunk out of the football league? Let this historic club be the prime example of Football Association incompetence, and tyranny up in the owner’s box. Not all that glitters is gold.
Who Is Leyton Orient?
First you must know who this historic club is and what their made of. Orient was founded in 1881 as Eagle Cricket Club. They are the 24th oldest club in all of the English Football League and the 2nd oldest club in London behind Fulham. In 1905, The Os were promoted to the Football League and have been rooted in it ever since. They were promoted to the top flight in 1961 which was their only season ever in the English top flight in their history. For most of their history, Orient has spent most of their days in the English 3rd and 4th divisions and flirted with promotion to the Championship as recently as 2013. They’ve also had a few impressive runs in the FA Cup throughout their history including a Round of 16 appearance against Arsenal in 2011. In 2013/2014, Orient finished 3rd in the 3rd tier of English Football and just missed out on promotion to the Championship, losing on penalties to Rotherham. In 2014, the club was sold to Italian millionaire businessman Francesco Bechetti. Under Bechetti, the club has suffered two relegations in three years, immediately after their 3rd place finish.
What once began as a rough start to the Bechetti era has quickly become a circus according to Orient fans. In addition to their two relegations in three years, The Os have gone through ELEVEN managers in their three years under Bechetti, that’s a new manager every three months. As if a merry go round of managers and multiple relegations in a few years is bad enough. Bechetti has plunged the club into millions of dollars in debt which has resulted in players and staff not being paid in months. Due to this, the club has been forced to field a side full of reserves and youth players who quite frankly do not have the ability to keep the club up in professional football. What once began as a glimmer of hope for Orient to be promoted up into the top leagues of England with a new wealthy owner has become a nightmare of the highest order for any club. Orient are now preparing to enter the jungle of non-league football for the first time in 112 years with an owner who couldn’t give Due Merdas about the fate of the club.
Incompetence and Abandonment
With all these events happening in quick succession, the biggest question that rings through Orient fans’ ears is where is the FA? Where is the English Football League? Is the governing body of England really going to just sit back and watch this man sink an entire club? Normal relegation can be fought, you can always change managers or look to improve your squad, but there is nothing that can be done for a careless owner. There is nothing players, managers or fans can do about an owner who leaves his club for dead and doesn’t have the want to even pay their players or staff. You can’t just sack an owner if you’re a manager. In baseball, the Montreal Expos had owners who didn’t have the resources to run the club anymore, so Major League Baseball stepped in and took temporary control of the club until a competent owner could be found. Why is the English Football League just sitting back and doing nothing? Why won’t the English FA take temporary control of the club in order to pay players and staff? The only thing stopping the FA from assisting Leyton is the FA. They chose to not intervene and as a result, one of London’s proudest squads is dying. Even Scotland put Rangers into administration and had them sunk in the lower leagues until a suitable replacement was found for their incompetent owner. Where was the FA to at least do that. Instead Leyton have suffered and the FA watches as the club gets thrown down the gutter. No hope, no future, no help is coming for a club who’s been handcuffed to a cinderblock and thrown down the abyss of conference competition.
Enough is Enough
There is a sense of beauty in this horrific tragedy, however. A proud club like Orient has a deep following and the passionate fans of East London refuse to sit back and watch their club die like the FA. The fans have pleaded for intervention, pleaded for a rescuer of their club but he has not arrived and now the fans are taking it into their own hands. With multiple protests at the end of each home game, fans take the pitch at the conclusion and stand under the owner’s box, demanding that their tyrant exit their beloved club. A rich and ripe hatred for the Italian millionaire has dug deep into the Leyton fan base and their cause is gaining momentum around the football world. Their protests have been gaining traction, although intervention from the governing body still refuse to stick their fingers into the situation. Their protests went to the next level on April 29th in their final home game as a professional club. After their doom was confirmed on April 22nd after their loss to Crewe Alexandra, the fans took to the pitch with 10 minutes remaining in their 3-1 defeat to Colchester, insuring that the fans wouldn’t go quietly into that awful night. They invaded the pitch in the 80th minute and began protesting, ordering that their owner leave their club once again, and their protest captured the imagination of the away supporters who also began to chant for Bechetti to leave. “We invade the pitch to stop a match, that’s when the FA will finally listen to us,” deemed a frustrated Leyton fan during their invasion. “125 years, generations of football, and you’ve ruined it in three years,” cried out another Orient supporter. Leyton Orient is the most ringing warning to the rest of world football. A man who potentially could pump money into a club sounds nice, but an owner could also destroy an entire club, an entire foundation, an entire way of life for the football fan.