A football club has started banning its own fans – for expressing an opinion.
Officials at Oldham have written to three supporters telling them they are forbidden from watching their side because they ‘have displayed a desire to promote’ their ‘dislike of Oldham Athletic, its management and its progression and are influencing others to do the same’.
Currently managerless and second from bottom of League Two, the Premier League founder members are under the deeply unpopular ownership of Dubai-based former agent Abdallah Lemsagam, whose brother Mohamed is the sporting director.
Oldham have banned at least three supporters for expressing a negative opinion on the club
On the watch of Lemsagam, who took over in 2018, the crisis outfit have made nine managerial changes, have seen a vast turnover of players and staff, a relegation and continuous decline.
Fed-up fans have launched a series of protests and have pleaded with Lemsagam to sell up amid grave fears for the Latics’ future, to no avail.
Now, days before their biggest clash of the season against bottom-placed Scunthorpe United, scarcely believable letters have been sent to at least three fans by general manager Steven Brown.
Recipients of the letter this week have been told that they are banned from attending any ground where Oldham will play – home and away – for the next three years
Brown wrote that the board had asked him to ‘review the actions of individuals that we feel are deliberately geared to harm and cause considerable distress to the club, its fans and stakeholders’.
He added: ‘You are taking deliberate steps to harm the club and cause distress’ and tells the recipients that they are banned from Boundary Park and any grounds where Oldham or its youth team is playing for three years.
As many have pointed out, such a ban is not enforceable at other grounds without a banning order from court.
The letter also states that the supporters’ details have been passed to Greater Manchester Police.
One of those to receive the letter is Bradley Knowles, who is a director of the Oldham Athletic Supporters Foundation, which has a three per cent share in the club.
Its publication has already seen one director stand down and a threat from a sponsor to withdraw funding.
Back in September, prior to a match against Hartlepool United at Boundary Park, irate fans left a coffin outside the main entrance and showed up dressed as clowns to show their fury
Supporters’ group Push the Boundary have written an open letter to Brown – who worked for the Oyston family during their controversial reign at Blackpool – questioning and criticising the move.
Amid increasing protests, Oldham – who are three points from safety – already banned their own fans from buying tickets to a recent home match and also forbade banners and flags to be brought into the ground, with some comparing their behaviour to that of North Korea.
A petition against the move, named ‘Free the Oldham Three’ has been launched and has attracted more than 400 signatures.
Oldham have been approached for comment.