Oldham Athletic FC fans are fundraising to buy Boundary Park in a bid to restore the glory of the club.
On Saturday 23 April, the football club was relegated from the Football League for the first time in its history, with a 2-1 defeat to Salford. During the 79th minute of the match, angry Latics fans invaded the pitch to protest the owner Abdallah Lemsagam’s recent handling of the club.
Next season, Oldham Athletic will play in the non-league – the first time in 115 years that the club has exited the Football League. Now, fans have set their sights on Boundary Park, as the stadium is not owned by Mr Lemsagam.
READMORE: What now for Oldham Athletic as protests, ticket bans and boycotts mark final EFL fixture
The popular fan group Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Foundation is running a large fundraising campaign to secure the stadium. The foundation holds a 3% shareholding and a seat on the board of directors at Oldham Athletic FC Currently, they have raised £31,314 for the campaign.
And a group of Latics fans have told the MEN why they have started their own fundraising campaign to collect more donations to the Supporters’ Foundation and ‘save’ their club.
The group say the aim is to attract investors who can pump money into the club and build it back up again. The rumored price to buy Boundary Park is £6 million, but the fans said even if they don’t raise that amount, they still want to raise awareness to stop their club from being expelled from the league like Bury Football Club was in 2019.
Lifelong Latics fan Stuart Cocker, 51, from Oldham, has started his own JustGiving page to encourage donations. He has already raised £850 in just a few days.
To donate to the JustGiving page, visit here.
Stuart, who works in security, said: ” I have been an Oldham fan since 1977, when my late father, great-uncles and brother started taking me to matches.My family goes back generations, going to Boundary Park.
“I have seen Oldham in the Premier League, playing against Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool. Ihave seen it all.
“And now I am seeing the club for the first time in its history, go out of the football league.Fans are heartbroken.At the last game of the season against Salford, there were men in their 50s and 60s crying. It means so much.
“The previous owners of Oldham Athletic didn’t really help. It’s not all Abdallah’s fault, but since he came into the club, they have suffered such a demise through the lack of money he has put in, or the local businesses alienating themselves from him.
“His relationship with the fans and the local community has gone downhill – and the club has suffered. I want to do something to help the supporters’ foundation to raise money.I think if we can raise a percentage of the £6 million, then investors would be willing to jump on board.
“If the fans can buy Boundary Park, the fans will own the ground, along with investors. Then we will be Abdallah’s landlord.”
Stuart explained why he believes that fans owning Boundary Park would help ‘save’ the club.
“If we do acquire the grounds,that would be a fantastic start,” he continued. “ It would mean that Boundary Park would be safe from being demolished and made into houses.
“That is something that a lot of previous investors have wished would happen. It’s prime land for development, it’s next to the motorway and the hospital.
“If fans can get a hold of that land, then they secure the safety of Oldham Athletic.”
Seeing the donations pour in from Oldham fans and the wider football community has been “brilliant” for Stuart.
I added: ” It’s fantastic to see strangers and fans from clubs all over the UK donating and wishing the club well.One lady said that she has supported Oldham for 50 years, so she donated £50. The campaign is about proving that Oldham fans and the Oldham community are ready to back the club and put money into it.”
Also promoting the campaign is Stuart’s niece, Faye Booth, 42, a viewing agent from Leeds, who said she feels “helpless” watching the “demise” of Oldham Athletic.
She said: ” Football was a huge part of growing up in Oldham, and it still is a huge part of my life. In the late 80s or early 90s, the players would meet fans in the shopping center.
“It was such a part of the community and I think that it has completely gone. We need to get back to that and get the people of Oldham supporting the club again.
“This campaign is not just about the fact that we have been relegated. I think that it is just a symptom of the disease.
“It’s about getting the club back to owners who love it, who understand the community and can get it thriving again. I think there is a very real danger of the club ceasing to exist altogether. We could end up like Bury FC- it’s very sad and worrying.”
Echoing these sentiments is Richard Cocker, 36, an electrical designer and a nephew of Stuart. He said: ” The only way to build the club back up and get back in the league is to purchase the grounds and force the owner out.
“We need to get the word out there for as many Oldham fans or football fans that we need money ready to go. £6 million is a lot, but every little helps.
“Abdallah has slashed the players’ budgets and now the club has been relegated. Buying the stadium will allow fans to own the stands and the car park.
“At the moment, the stadium seems empty.There’s paint on the floor and you can’t hear the speakers in the stands and some of the toilets aren’t working.
“You don’t get the pre-match build-up anymore. The club needs to get its soul back.”
Steve Shipman, a representative of the fan group Push The Boundary, is also backing the campaign. Push The Boundary was set up over two years ago for Latics fans to vent their frustrations and become a voice for supporters.
Steve added: “T he message we try to convey is that owning the stadium is the best logical step. But £6 million is an unrealistic number.
“Having the asset under the control of supporters, that would massively secure the future of the club and the town of Oldham.”
Steve described that being a football fan is “so much more than turning up to watch games.”
I have added: “O see the last 12 months, with the European Super League and things like that, it has made football supporters believe that we can make a difference.
“Even in this murky world of football, it’s great to see supporters are getting up to raise money and they are fighting for the future of the football club, rather than accepting what they have been told.
“People can get in touch with us, as we are open to ideas of fundraising and getting this money together- let us know and we will try and work with you.”
To donate to the JustGiving, click here.
Oldham Athletic FC has been contacted for comment, and confirmed that for the time being, there will be no comment from the club.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.