The Fall Of Leyton Orient: The tragic victims of bad ownership

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 26 April 2017, 12:29

THREE YEARS AGO The Chuckle Brothers sat in Wembley’s Royal Box and watched their beloved Rotherham come from behind to beat Leyton Orient in the League One Play Off Final.

Little did they know that the defeated opposition that day would end up becoming a joke club.

If you’re over six years old there’s little to laugh at in Barry and Paul Elliott’s slapstick stage act - but Orient’s demise is a real tear jerker.

And as is always the way, the blame game has kicked off and overshadowed the sad state of a once proud club which has dropped out of the League for the first time in its history.

Now, the thing about football is that you can lose as well as win and this is something everyone needs to get a handle on.

The Football League is taking hits from all angles for allowing rubbish tycoon Francesco Becchetti anywhere near The O’s, now that he has dragged them down into non-League.

Their much-criticised ‘fit and proper person test’ has been derided as about as useful as sieving water.

But the EFL only looks into a person’s business history and possible criminal past to see if they are suitable to take over a substantial company under their umbrella.

Francesco Becchetti

One must assume Becchetti, who made his cash recycling trash, came up clean to have been waved through into English football.

After all, he was making his debut in football by snapping up Hearn’s 90 per cent holding so no previous there.

It may seem criminal what Becchetti has done in the meantime to Orient; once described as London’s ‘second most popular club’ by O’s fanatic Hearn.

Eleven managers in three years is the crux of the beef between the supporters and the hierarchy as it has robbed their team of stability and performances have plummeted.

Yet however distasteful it appears, Becchetti is legally entitled to appoint as many managers as he wants as the owner of a football club.

If he wants 11 managers in one week, so be it.

You cannot blame the Football League for that. And as one source at the EFL pointed out this week:

"How would fans react if we started dictating who can and who can’t buy their club because they might not run it to everyone’s liking.

"Football is a highly subjective industry. What one person considers bad practise may be considered perfectly acceptable by the next.”

Of course, holding the players to ransom in the team hotel and holding back the wages of hard-working staff is unacceptable.

Hearn admits that while he can’t argue with the £6 million or so his successor has put into Orient:

"I sold to the wrong guy".

As ever all of us are wise in hindsight. Hearn has taken stick himself for handing over a club originally founded in 1881.

Hearn stands accused of cashing in on the sale three years ago. Are you kidding? Boxing and snooker impresario Hearn made his huge pile of dosh long before taking on a labour of love at the old Brisbane Road.

He was never in it for the money. Few chairman are as few clubs actually make a profit.

The problem with Orient is that they are the tragic victims of bad ownership but one which few people could have done anything about beforehand.

It’s a bit like one of those goals which are just impossible to defend.

But while few of us like it we have to lump it. Football clubs are never guaranteed success, the uncertainty and risk is what makes it so attractive.

It’s a fair bet Orient have lost more matches than they’ve won over the years.

Becchetti is a wrong ‘un and the sooner he goes the better. If he then tries to buy another football club, this will go against him.

Hearn was actually spot on when he said Becchetti would take Orient to a ‘whole new level’ - he just got the direction wrong.


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