Twenty years ago, Brighton and Hove Albion fans staged a protest on their final day at the Goldstone Ground, which had been lost as collateral for unpaid loans taken out by owners Bill Archer and Greg Stanley. They were making a defiant stand as the club slid into the abyss, and only narrowly avoided relegation to non-league by drawing with Hereford United on the final day of the season. Now, Brighton are on their way to the Premier League.
Leyton Orient may take heart from Brighton's rise, although they will have a longer route to take: they have been relegated from the Football League, having been stripped bare by the dysfunctional ownership of Francesco Becchetti. Orient have been in the Football League for 112 years, but were relegated last weekend by dint of a 3-0 defeat to Crewe.
The London club were the subject of a winding-up petition brought by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs earlier this year over unpaid taxes, and avoided extinction last month after a debt settlement with HMRC, but their future remains in doubt. Becchetti has been told that he must pay off his debts by June 12th, or sell the club.
With five minutes remaining of today's game, Orient's final home game before relegation, play was suspended as Orient fans swarmed the pitch to chant in unison: 'Becchetti out!'.
They stayed on the pitch for over an hour, ignoring the amplified pleas of their manager to clear off to allow the game to finish. The game was abandoned, with Orient trailing 3-1 at the time of the protest.
Leyton Orient Protest
— GuardianOrient (@GuardianOrient) April 29, 2017
¡ODIO ETERNO?! "Franco Becchetti tu mama es una *****", cantan los hinchas al presidente del Leyton Orient. pic.twitter.com/XPFieiOkup
— Actual Fútbol (@ActualFutbol) April 29, 2017
It turns out that the game has not, in fact, been abandoned. It had been assumed that the game had been called off, but extraordinarily, resumed in one last, cruel twist of fate against Orient's fans.
Almost an hour and a half after the game should have ended, and the fans had cleared off, the referee decided to play out the final five minutes of the game. Journalist Iain Macintosh was at the game, and spotted the stirrings of life after 6pm this evening:
This game is rubbish. I could be in the pub by now. pic.twitter.com/yfv3jah5Kj
— Iain Macintosh (@iainmacintosh) April 29, 2017
One last indignity for the Orient fans to absorb. Remarkable.