The following email and statement were prepared this week and finalised following the OxVox committee meeting on Wednesday 20th. It was held back to allow us to investigate a couple of issues in more depth and pending an arranged meeting with Niall McWilliams. This was held today, Friday 22nd.
Over the last few days, we have sought confirmation that the winding up petition referenced in the media had indeed been filed. We have seen a document that suggests that Firoka intended to file the petition, but we have found no evidence of any such petition on record.
We cannot tell whether Firoka intended to file (perhaps on the back of the recent HMRC cleared petition) and missed the opportunity to do so, or if their own petition is lost in the system somewhere. That said, it is clear the club were a number of days late with an agreed payment to Firoka.
Our understanding is that the initial £240,000 instalment of the arbitration settlement has now been paid.
On pressing the club to be more open and transparent, Niall agreed that the club had made a number of mistakes along the way. In detailing the schedule for the remaining arbitration payments, he suggested that a club statement would be made towards the end of the month to better inform supporters of the process. We hope this will add some well needed clarity to a difficult situation.
From our discussions with Niall, and based on our own evaluations of the first year under Tiger’s ownership, OxVox estimate that Tiger is covering losses, from personal funds, very substantially in excess of the million pounds that we might have expected. We pass this information on to members not to excuse any of the poor decisions or inadequate communication with supporters from the board. The facts are documented here merely to ensure you have the information to hand that we have gathered.
On the field, our perilous league position has arisen despite what would appear to be a top eight budget. As a committee, we share the members’ and supporters’ predominant view that this is not acceptable.
What follows is the statement prepared for approval at the committee meeting:
In the wake of the winding up petition issued by Firoka, following the non-payment of the first instalment of the arbitration settlement figure, OxVox have been in contact with Niall McWilliams seeking explanations for the club’s continued failure to pay bills that they themselves have negotiated and agreed upon. On the morning of Tuesday 19th OxVox sent an email to Tiger, and the board, expressing fans’ concerns and asking for reassurances and answers. Niall acknowledged receipt of the email that morning and while trying to give information where he could, he suggested that the owner and board may not reply to the email. We explained that in the absence of a reply that members (and supporters of our club) deserved to be kept informed and that we would pass on the details of the email to them after our committee meeting (which took place last night, Wednesday 20th) if no response was forthcoming.
We have copied the email below and remain in contact with the club in the hope that honest and forthright discussions can take place. The club have been made fully aware of the feelings of our members and we will continue to press in the strongest terms for greater levels of transparency, honesty and communication.
If the club needs to re-evaluate its goals and spending to make us sustainable in the short term, then that must be communicated to the fans. If further investment is planned in the coming months then that must be detailed and a coherent and viable plan to lead the club out of its current sorry position must be detailed to the fans urgently.
Supporters of this club deserve more than this and it is incumbent on OxVox to keep pressing the club in the strongest terms until they get that. We will keep you informed of any progress in the coming days but will concentrate our efforts in seeking meaningful answers from the club.
To: Tiger and the directors of Oxford Utd
cc: Niall McWilliams, Oxford Utd MD
It is with sadness and frustration that we are once again in contact to discuss a winding up petition against the club. The issues that now surround our club have become so toxic and so worrying that OxVox feel urgent action is needed to stop the divide that is growing ever wider between the club and the fanbase. Moreover we fear for the very safety of the club that most of us have supported for decades and have seen too close to the abyss before to allow us to go there again.
Our view is that it is imperative that, as a first step, this latest payment issue must be resolved in a matter of days so that the petition can be withdrawn. We urge you to do so. If this is not done, we are fearful of repercussions with the EFL which could lead to a points deduction, which would make relegation, now a serious possibility, become a certainty.
The news that the club has again failed to meet a scheduled payment, this time to Firoka, came on top of the worrying events at Saturday’s game where some of the most vibrant supporters of the club were unable to lay out their flags. This in turn led to honest and hardworking members of your staff being abused both in person and on social media, and has taken the club to a low that I have not seen in many years. The club has lost its highly experienced safety officer, which in part appears to be due to the failure of the club to work positively with the stadium company. You asked us before to trust you to do the right things and to trust you as businessmen, but trust is earned, and we have been given little to make us believe that this situation is getting any better.
We ask that all available board members and stakeholders sit down with us to explain why we find ourselves facing another winding up petition so soon after promises were made that this situation would not be repeated. We rightly fear the money to keep us solvent and functioning, even at this level, is not readily available. We question why agreements have been made to settle arbitration debts when the money to make those payments is clearly not available at this time?
Our fans have become angry, disenchanted and resentful of what they feel is a lack of honesty, transparency and care for the club we all love. The hard work you have put in with our
fabulous academy and training ground now mean little as we are again dragged through the courts. The fact that in writing this email we as of yet have no emails or indeed understanding of the role played by two of our directors is quite telling.
We ask, on behalf of our 1000+ paying OxVox members who support the club, and indeed the whole fanbase, that you communicate where the club is heading and what the board intend to do to turn this situation around.
It is, as always, our hope that OxVox can help bring the club and fanbase back together but it remains our priority to protect the club and we will do that come what may.
I look forward to seeing and speaking to you all at your earliest possible convenience.