Leyton Orient supporters preparing for 'phoenix club' if League Two outfit is liquidated

The Leyton Orient Fans' Trust is treating the prospect of a new club as a last resort, but they are prepared for the worst case scenario

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The Independent Football

Leyton Orient supporters are preparing to raise money for a ‘fighting fund’ to go towards a new ‘phoenix club’ should the League Two strugglers be liquidated.

Orient were handed a winding-up petition by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, details of which were published in the official Gazette on Wednesday.

The east London club, who are owned by Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti, will have their case heard in the High Court on 20 March.

The Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust (Loft) will hold a meeting on Thursday and, although the formation of a new club is considered a ‘last resort’, the group are preparing for the worst case scenario.

“Our main priority is to rescue the existing club,” said Tom Davies, vice-chair of Loft. “There's a lot of things we need to do to facilitate that, like finding new investors, doing what fundraising we can and see if we can get some kind of resolution to the problem with the owner.

“The phoenix club idea is the very last resort, but if there's a choice between no club and a phoenix club, then obviously we'd have to put that proposal to our members to see if people are up for that.”

A document produced by Loft ahead of Thursday’s meeting details how the ‘fighting fund’ would be spent in the event of the club’s sale, administration or liquidation.

In the latter case, the fund would be used to secure the use of a stadium and cover the operational costs of forming the new ‘phoenix club’.

Orient currently sit second-bottom of League Two, six points adrift of safety ahead of Saturday’s trip to basement club Newport County. 

Daniel Webb, the club’s current manager, is Becchetti’s seventh since the Italian took over from Barry Hearn in July 2014, shortly after Orient’s defeat in the League One play-off final.

Our main priority is to rescue the existing club.
Tom Davies, Loft

The club was relegated from the third-tier the following season and though Becchetti’s reign has been marked by accusations of interference, he has not been seen at Brisbane Road since a protest against his ownership last November.

Alessandro Angelieri, Becchetti’s chief executive who had no experience in football prior to his appointment, released a club statement in defence of the owner in January.

Angelieri claimed that Becchetti's absence had affected the players, as the owner has “a great charisma”.

Following the news of the winding-up order, Waltham Forest Council leader Chris Robbins said: “This is a desperately sad situation on and off the pitch for the club, its fans and our borough as a whole.

“Having been based in Leyton for nearly 100 years, the O’s have become synonymous with Waltham Forest, and are a much-loved and valued local football club. And on a personal level, my family and I have been huge fans for decades.

“While we as a community cannot hide our disappointment, we very much hope the owners will be able to face up to their responsibilities and recognise the enormous support the fans give to the players. We all want to see the future of the club safeguarded for everyone involved,” he added.

“There is a limit to what the local authority can do, but we will certainly help where we can. We have already met with the Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust and have offered to have meetings with the club’s management.”