Oldham Athletic under fire for banning fans for ‘promoting dislike’ of owner Abdallah Lemsagam

Oldham Athletic under fire for banning fans for ‘promoting dislike’ of owner Abdallah Lemsagam

Football fans around the country are uniting to condemn Oldham Athletic for their decision to hand banning orders to three season ticket holders for ‘disliking’ the team.

The relationship between Oldham fans and owner Abdallah Lemsagam is broken, with a number of high-profile protests earlier this season bringing national attention to the club’s plight.

Latics are 23rd in League Two and three points from safety going into Christmas, and face the real possibility of becoming the first former Premier League side to drop out of the Football League. Currently under a transfer embargo and without a permanent manager after sacking Keith Curle, Lemsagam has made 10 changes of head coach or manager in just under four years.

Fans are upset at Lemsagam’s ownership, and some invaded the pitch for numerous games earlier in the season, as well as throwing tennis balls onto the playing surface in a Carabao Cup game. Hundreds attended a protest outside Boundary Park before the league game with Hartlepool, where a coffin was placed outside the club entrance and a plane flew overhead with a banner encouraging Lemsagam and his brother Mohamed – the club’s sporting director – to sell the club. The club took the unusual step of taking tickets off sale for that game for their own fans in anticipation of the protest.

For the last home game, a 5-5 draw with League Two leaders Forest Green, many fans including season ticket holders ’emptied the park’ in boycott of the Lemsagams’ ownership.

Now, the club have taken the unpopular step to hand out banning orders to at least three supporters, citing ‘deliberate steps to harm the club and cause distress.’

A letter from new General Manager Steven Brown sent to fans Bradley Knowles, Nathan Price and Dom Weiss reads: “I took the role of General Manager here at the club recently and have been asked by the board of directors to review actions of individuals that we feel are deliberately geared to harm and cause distress to the club, its fans and stakeholders.

“You have regularly displayed your desire to promote your dislike of Oldham Athletic Football Club, its management and its progression; and you are influencing others to do the same. You are taking deliberate steps to harm the club and cause distress.

“In light of these circumstances, I am writing to inform you that you are officially banned from all first team and youth games at Boundary Park and at any other ground where either team are playing for a minimum period of three years.”

Mr Knowles, an elected director of the Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Foundation, who have a 3 per cent stake in the club and a seat on the board, disputes the allegations and says the club are restricting his freedom of speech.

“I go home and away every game,” he told MEN Sport.

“I don’t know why you can’t say anything, I’ve not said anything bad about the club. It says I’ve promoted my dislike of Oldham Athletic, I worship this club. On a Saturday I go to the football. I’ve not boycotted, I’m a season ticket holder.

“I missed the Forest Green one, it’s been about five years since I last missed a home game aside from the Covid season. Nathan himself hasn’t missed a game since 2006 at home until Forest Green.

“I make no secret that I want Abdallah to sell. I want Mohamed to go. I’ve been to three protests, started off with 30 of us, I went to the Hartlepool one, I want change and what’s best for Oldham Athletic. I don’t want us to be second-bottom of the Football League fighting relegation, constant negativity with the ownership.

“I want us to be a well-run club, that’s why I joined the supporters’ foundation. I’ve not run on the pitch, thrown tennis balls, I made sure of that. Our stance at the foundation is we want legal protests for our voices to be heard. I didn’t get involved in any of that, Nathan’s the same. We’ve not been involved in anything illegal.

“Being a part of the Supporters’ Foundation we’ve been speaking to Steve Brown. He left me outside Boundary Park for a planned meeting on the day Keith Curle got sacked and said he’d get back to me but never has. As recently as Saturday we’ve been in communication trying to organise a meeting at the club for the Sutton game. All this while he’s banning one of the directors.”

The letter sent to fans was dated Friday December 17, and the ban applies until December 17 2024. Bradley accepts the club can prevent him from attending Boundary Park, but questioned their authority to ban him from attending away fixtures.

“He’s trying to bring the freedom of speech down,” he added.

Fans protest outside Boundary Park with a coffin before the Hartlepool game in September.

“We’ve done our best to communicate with the club, we want what’s best for the club, we don’t want to be fighting but they’ve left us no option for us to take our stance. To stop communication with us is appalling.”

After posting the letter on Twitter, Bradley has received hundreds of likes and retweets, with Oldham fans and supporters of clubs up and down the country reacting with outrage at the grounds of the banning order. Dozens of supporters have shared screenshots of emails sent to Steven Brown at Oldham urging him to reconsider the decision.

Club director Richard Bowden Tweeted on Monday night that he had handed in his resignation in response to the letter, saying he had no part in the decision and ‘would never have supported it.’

Oldham Athletic and Steven Brown were contacted for comment by MEN Sport, but did not respond.

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