PORTER: Postponements have hurt the club financially
Three home games called off and Orient are still waiting for their FA Cup money
WHEN Orient’s home match against the MK Dons fell victim to the weather on Boxing Day it was the third successive League One game at Brisbane Road to have been postponed.
That loss has not only caused a fixture headache for Orient boss Russell Slade, but it has also hit the club financially.
Christmas fixtures are lucrative for the club and chief executive Matt Porter admitted: “The loss of three home games has hurt us financially without a doubt, but we will be able to overcome it.
“The FA Cup run has helped mitigate the loss and we will not have to press the panic button, but the loss of three successive home games is almost unprecedented.”
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However, the club are still waiting for their FA Cup prize money following a second round success against Droylsden.
“The FA do not pay the money out until the second round is completed and there is still an outstanding fixture between Hereford United and Lincoln to be played,” explained Porter.
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“So no-one gets their cash until that tie has been played and the same applies to the television money.
“Our last home game in the league was back on November 20 and that big gap has hit our cash flow. With no home games, it has also hampered our ability to sell tickets.
“At the moment we have probably sold around 200 tickets for the FA Cup game at Norwich, because there has been no-one coming to the club to buy them.”
The club are also counting the cost of a loss of income from the club shop.
“The two busiest times is when we have a new kit release and at Christmas,” added Porter.
“But although we have had a lot less customers, we have at least been able to rebuild some of the sales because people can buy online.”
Orient now have three home games to rearrange – against Carlisle United, Plymouth and MK Dons, as well as the home match against Swindon on Saturday, January 8 as the O’s are in FA Cup third round action.
All will have to be re-arranged for midweek and with gates lower for evening games coupled with the loss of commercial opportunities, it’s estimated that the club loses up to �15,000 when a weekend fixture is postponed and has to be rescheduled in midweek.
“For the Plymouth game just before Christmas we had 180 restaurant bookings, when it’s played on a Tuesday night we will have nowhere near that number, so we will take a hit there and the away support always falls for midweek games too,” explained Porter.
“Fortunately, Plymouth and Carlisle both have big exiled support in London and, hopefully, those fans will still come to a midweek game, so the gate might not be drastically reduced, but it’s unlikely we would get too many fans coming from Plymouth and Carlisle.”
The Orient chief executive expected gates to fall this season and so many midweek fixtures are likely to drive down average attendance figures further still.
“We have lost Leeds, Norwich and Millwall this season and they are big, well-supported clubs that help push attendance figures up and we also played Charlton on a Friday night, as it was a televised game,” said Porter.
“So we were always expecting our attendances to be down this season, but having to play so many home games in midweek will not help.
“We are facing an horrendous period of congestion, as the match at Hartlepool has got to be rearranged too.
“In an ideal world it would be better if we could play them later in the season, but the rules are that postponed matches have to be rearranged as soon as possible. I don’t think there has been a season like it where we have experienced such an imbalance of fixtures. We have only played eight league games at home so far and still have 15 to play.
“It really is awkward and it’s unprecedented to lose so many games before Christmas. We have still got to go through January and February and if they are bad, then it’s going to get really difficult.
“I don’t think I can remember a time when we will go into the New Year having played just 19 league games.”