Francesco Becchetti taking a closer interest in Leyton Orient team affairs

tom collomosse
Evening Standard
Closer eye: Leyton Orient owner Francesco Becchetti: Getty Images
Closer eye: Leyton Orient owner Francesco Becchetti: Getty Images

Leyton Orient owner Francesco Becchetti has taken a renewed interest in team affairs as the League Two club face the danger of relegation.

The Italian businessman, who is willing to sell the club he bought for £4million from promoter Barry Hearn in July 2014, has been absent from fixtures at the Matchroom Stadium since late last year.

In previous seasons, Becchetti was accustomed to having an influence over team selection and tactics, and earlier this season he was thought to have had footage of training sessions sent to him.

Standard Sport understands that when manager Danny Webb was appointed in January, Becchetti initially had less involvement in matches and training.

Yet it is thought that as Orient’s situation has become more perilous – they are bottom of League Two, seven points adrift of safety with nine matches remaining – Becchetti has taken a closer interest.

There are potential buyers looking closely at Orient, while LOFT – the club’s Supporters’ Trust – are trying to raise an initial £250,000 fighting fund to protect the club in case of relegation to the National League, or further financial difficulty.

Former chairman Hearn has indicated that, if supporters take control of the club, he would allow Orient to play at the Matchroom Stadium rent-free for a season. The Matchroom Pension Scheme, a division of Hearn’s Matchroom Sport company, own the freehold and Orient pay £180,000 per year to play there.

Orient face a winding-up order at the High Court on Monday over an unpaid tax bill, believed to be £250,000. But the club met Football League officials last week and told them they had a “funding plan” to settle the bill.

An EFL spokesman said: “The EFL met with Leyton Orient last Thursday 9 March to gain a full understanding of the current issues that surround our member club.

“We were advised that a funding plan is in place to clear the petition debt, currently subject to a HMRC hearing at the High Court on 20 March, and to complete their remaining nine league fixtures.

“We remain in regular dialogue with the Club and the EFL will continue to offer whatever practical assistance is available to us as the club continues to navigate itself away from their current position.”

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