Giving Orient fans a voice
Leyton Orient Fans' Trust
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LOFT's Summer Special

Yesterday, LOFT held its Summer Special at the Birkbeck Tavern in Leytonstone. First up was the 1st Annual LOFT Pool Competition, which was won by Dale Jacobs (his prize: a crate of lager) who beat Oli Button in the final (second prize: a pool cue).

Then, after a buffet lunch laid on by some members of the LOFT committee, came a talk and Q&A session on the subject of "Football in Politics and Politics in Football" with our special guests, Tony Banks MP (former Minister of Sport) and Harry Cohen MP (who is, of course, one of LOFT's trustees).

Among the subjects discussed were:

  • The importance of sport in the health and fitness of the nation, and how the elusive "feelgood factor" is often tied in to how the country is doing in sport.
  • Having pride in England, whilst interacting better with the rest of the world. Tony is fed-up of the media hyping up so-called "football violence", particularly that in Portugal recently which has been hundreds of miles away from England games.
  • The long-term commitment fans put in to their club: as Tony put it, "you can change your politics, your spouse, even your underwear, but not your football club!" and "the chairman, directors, players, they all come and go, but the supporters are always there".
  • On club ownership, the importance of Supporters Trusts, and Wimbledon FC: too many fans don't care if the owner is "a Nazi baby killer" (as one of Tony's Chelsea supporting friends apparently says!), as long as the team on the pitch is doing OK. The only time supporters get worried is if the club is "looking down the barrel of a gun, by which time it's too late". There is also "too much of a 19th century ethos in club boardrooms, with a 21st century income stream". Every football club owner should be subject to a bona fide test to protect clubs against unscrupulous owners, but there are also owners who made money in business but "left their brain at the gate when they took over a football club". Tony is against franchises in football.
  • On the Olympics bid: we need to get the transport infrastructure right first. Other countries spend what it takes to get events run, while the British always say "hang on, what's it going to cost and what happens to the facilities afterwards?". Also, a lot of cities bid for the Olympics to get investment decisions accelerated!
  • On rebranding the Football League: it reflects the polarization in football ("There are at least 4 different Premier Leagues now", according to Harry). There is also the problem of the EU competition authorities wanting to break up TV deals so that each club can sell its own rights.
  • On selling land for flats: on the one hand, it's a good way for clubs to raise cash to improve facilities, but on the other hand asset strippers must not be allowed to kill clubs. Tony thinks Orient fans have nothing to worry about as the council owns the land. Harry is for the plans at Brisbane Road as they will improve facilities for supporters and the community (notably healthcare), as well as affordable housing.

The quote of the afternoon came form Tony: "The short answer at the end of my long answer is that I don't know what the answer is!"

The afternoon ended with a Golden Goal competition based around the Germany vs. Latvia game, and the resulting 0-0 scoreline meant that the competition lasted right up to the final whistle!

Thank you to those who attended; we hope you enjoyed the day. Thanks also to Tony Banks and Harry Cohen, not only for taking time out of their schedule, but also for such an interesting and lively meeting.

Pictures of the meeting can be viewed by clicking here.

Many thanks to Roy (the Birkbeck's landlord and another of our trustees!) for the use of the facilities and for providing the pool cue; to Gudrun, Frank, Vicki and Jonathan on the committee for laying on the food; and, to LOFT's Chair, Doug Harper, for calling Tony Banks a hypocrite in the first place (for which he publicly apologised at the meeting), which was the genesis of the meeting!

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