Richard Bowden discusses fan protests and the club’s future prospects
Oldham Athletic supporters are still adjusting to the fact that their team will not be in the Football League next season. The Latics were relegated from League Two in a tumultuous manner on Saturday, with the closing minutes of their eventually fatal defeat at home to Salford City having to be played behind closed doors due to a pitch invasion by home fans against club owner Abdallah Lemsagam.
With 11 minutes left in the game, enraging fans flooded the pitch at Boundary Park, causing the game to be significantly delayed when it was paused by match officials. The home team was behind 2-1 at the time, and the game ended almost two hours later than scheduled and in an empty stadium. Oldham will now play in the non-league next season. As a result, they become the first team since the Premier League’s inception in 1992 to be relegated to non-league football.
Hundreds of supporters had entered the pitch for the previous protest, with one of the most dramatic sights being fans holding aloft a giant banner reading “Get out of our club” – intended at the absent Lemsagam. The club has been owned by the Moroccan former football agent since 2018, but his premiership has been nothing short of a disaster, with a second relegation in that time the lowest point. He’s been keeping a low profile lately, which is understandable. Oldham fans last heard from him in January, when he stated that he was open to selling the club.
Bowden had a terrible day, especially knowing how the game had finished behind closed doors the day before. He shares his sorrow, adding, “It was a tragic day, and regrettably, all of our greatest concerns were realized.” They had been on the verge of relegation all season, but there was a glimmer of hope in the last few weeks, and it all ended very badly.
He doesn’t want fans to come onto the field of play and end games like that but he acknowledges their anger. He claims that they don’t necessarily want to see that kind of behavior, that it’s bad for the game, and that it could have long-term consequences for the club, which is unfortunate. Since John Sheridon’s arrival a few weeks ago, the fans have been fantastic.
He’s been to a few homes and away games in recent weeks and has been blown away by the fan support. Protests against the owners, on the other hand, have resurfaced. Oldham’s social media channels have been devoid of updates since Saturday’s announcement of the postponed finish, with no comments from manager John Sheridan, remarks from Lemsagam, or interviews with the club’s players.