(This update was sent to Trust members on 26 January 2019)
Paul Peros and Ali Wolfe met Tiger and OUFC Director Zaki Nuseibeh before the Portsmouth game. Chris Williams of OUFC and OUFC MD Niall McWIlliams were both at the meeting but had to leave early to attend to match day duties. Matt Everett, the Club’s marketing director, was also in the meeting. We decided to hold off on sending out any statement until the club had the chance to respond directly to the fans and we were aware of the upcoming interview of both Tiger and Niall McWilliams on Radio Oxford. This is a short update from the meeting, with our comments.
The meeting lasted about half an hour and anyone who listened to Jerome Sale’s BBC Radio Oxford interview with Tiger will have heard essentially what we did. This is no bad thing – we encouraged the club to speak directly to the fans.
We heard a little more detail on the extra expenses that the club are currently dealing with,
including the ongoing settlement of arbitration and the continued expenditure on developing the training ground. We also asked if Niall McWilliams had suitable levels of support with matters such as the building work at the training ground. We were assured that people had been put in place to deal with these issues.
On the matter of whether or not our questions have been answered, we would say, in a very basic sense most questions have been given an answer, but many more remain. The club has received three winding up petitions, has high net worth directors whose levels of involvement and investment are unclear, and the plan to move the club forward has not been communicated to fans. The club must now demonstrate far greater levels of competence and sustainability to try to win back the trust of the supporters.
Yesterday morning (25th January) on Radio Oxford the MD committed the club to release details of its long term plan to the fans, though no specific timetable for the issue of this plan was mentioned. We welcome this commitment but it must happen quickly. He also said that the club would revert to a player trading model to develop sustainability. Again, we welcome that commitment but recognise that this will take time, and in the short term investment in players is essential to maintain League 1 status, or if the worst happens, to facilitate a quick return to League 1 next season.
The club are at present a huge frustration to many fans. They see good work going on in the academy, the training ground and infrastructure, and some transfer fees being paid. However, it increasingly appears that the owner and board may be compromising the security and reputation of the club by running important bills down to the wire. There are clearly issues with cashflow and these cannot continue to be ignored.
We were assured in the meeting that Niall was being supported and that procedures would improve from January onwards, but we then listened to Tiger tell Jerome that no ‘emergency fund’ was needed. This is a question we also asked of Tiger as we are well aware of the vagaries of football. The reply, taken at face value, was worrying and again leaves us concerned about ongoing cashflow issues.
We as supporters are asked to take a lot on trust and we will often do that in hope as much as expectation, but what we as a committee cannot do is sit back and allow this situation to progress unchecked. To that end we will continue to ask difficult questions of the club and will not just take the owner and board at their word but rather judge them on their actions. We want to support the club in moving forward but remain vigilant in the more pressing role of making sure we do not slip backwards.
We face a testing time both on and off the field. At times like these we as supporters need to be at our best, vocal in our support of the team and united in the will to protect our club.
Thank you for your time and as always COYY.