AN Oldham Athletic supporters’ group has expressed disappointment that the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, did not seek wider opinion from Latics fans before announcing a new task force aimed at giving supporters long-term control of the football club.

Burnham revealed at the weekend that, following discussions with members of the Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Foundation (OASF) and independent fans group Push The Boundary (PTB), he is spearheading a new task force to give supporters an active role in the future ownership of Oldham.

OASF already has a three per cent shareholding in Latics and a place on the club’s board, but these latest plans centre around a community share offer, which would allow supporter groups and individuals the opportunity to buy a stake in Oldham Athletic Football Club, in response to a dramatic decline in the four years since Abdallah Lemsagam’s takeover.

However, the announcement has been met with opposition from a group that goes by the names of The Realistic Oldham Athletic Supporters’ Group, and The Realistic Fans’ Group, who through a statement posted on their Facebook page said: “We are a fan-based organisation that supports the traditions and values of our football club with the main aim of securing its interests without prejudice to ownership matters.

“We are surprised and disappointed that the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, and the wider press did not attempt to approach the views of the wider fan base and has only listened to those whose sole motive is to damage the immediate interests of the club.

“The Realistic Fans Group notes that Mr Burnham has met an action group who have already demonstrated action against the club, the Mayor has done this without any apparent concern about their past conduct, conduct which has seen one of its leaders banned from attending games for three years.

“The Mayor has also chosen to act without any consultation or discussions with the owners or the club, furthermore, other fan groups have not had their voices heard. We will be writing to Mr Burnham to seek a meeting with him.

“Whilst the club awaits the outcome of the Tracey Couch Report, we would advise Mr Burnham and those he is supporting that Oldham Athletic is a private limited company controlled by its owner and remains for sale to the right bidder and is at the owner’s discretion.

“We understand that Mr Lemsagam remains committed to restore the fortunes of the football club and The Realistic Fans’ Group will support the club in every way possible to ensure that it returns to its rightful place in the EFL.”

Both PTB and OASF have refuted the claims that they want to damage the club.

A statement from PTB read: “Both PTB and OASF are two groups officially recognised and affiliated with the FSA (Football Supporters’ Association), one of which is a shareholder in the club, and have a large enough membership with regular dialogue to feel comfortable that we represent the views of a large majority of the fan base, while accepting we will never speak for all supporters.

“As supporters of the club for the vast majority of our lives, it’s ridiculous to suggest that we want to damage the club in any way. We want stability under new ownership and we have come to this conclusion after trying time and time again to engage with the owner and board. Their ineptitude and stubbornness to deal with the issues that supporters have raised have led us to two relegations in four years and this is absolutely not a coincidence.

“We have worked incredibly hard to bring supporter groups together, fundraised for local charities and tried to give supporters a voice while raising the importance of the club in the local community. We have engaged impartially with MPs, OMBC, The FSA and the Mayor of Greater Manchester to uncover a solution to the issues we face and have received their backing.

“We understand that challenging the club you support isn’t easy, but to suggest that the club has a bright future is a clear example of clearly ignoring all the red flags that have been raised in the last four years under this ownership.

“While Abdallah Lemsagam and his advisors remain at this football club, we shall see no improvements in the fortunes of the club we love and this is why we work tirelessly to create a platform for positive change.”

A statement from OASF said: “Over the last year OASF have made considerable efforts to communicate, listen to and connect with the entire fanbase. We have conducted surveys and consultations, organised a fans’ forum, delivered interactive live streams, published regular updates on our website and social media, built bridges with Push The Boundary (PTB), the Athleticos, the FLG and reached fans who do not align themselves with any group.

“Our approach has seen our membership grow to in excess of 1,200 - an increase of more than 1000 - since we formed a new board elected on our promise to challenge the club and listen to our members. We work for the fans, not the club.

“We have always understood that fans have differing views, opinions and ideas when it comes to how the club ought to be run and the fanbase organised. With this in mind, we have frequently extended invitations to all fans and any group they claim to represent, including the Realistic Oldham Fans Facebook group, the only group who have failed to engage with us.

“Our task force partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Co-operatives and the Football Supporters’ Association is an exciting development that should inspire all fans of the club.

“We find the statement from the ‘Realistic’ group regarding Andy Burnham’s involvement in our plans to purchase Boundary Park on behalf of ALL fans to help secure the future of the club for ALL fans unsurprising but no less disappointing.

“Despite being excessively critical of our work, this small group has done nothing to take the debate forward, to offer suggestions or alternatives on how to ensure the best for the football club.”

Andy Burnham’s office has been contacted by The Oldham Times for a comment.