Fans of Hartlepool United's relegation rivals Leyton Orient prepare for the drop as Trust waits in the wings

Leyton Orient
Leyton Orient

Fans of crisis-hit Leyton Orient have backed proposals that could potentially see them relegated in order to save the club from extinction.

The emergency vote was held just a day after the League Two club were served with a winding-up petition by HMRC, amid reports of hundreds of thousands of pounds owed in unpaid tax.

Orient have been given a March 20 date at the High Court, and fans were warned the club faced the prospect of liquidation should owner Francesco Becchetti or any of his representatives fail to appear to challenge the claim.

Already six points adrift from safety in the bottom division, and with fears that the Italian businessman may no longer wish to continue his funding, supporters backed plans that would see the Leyton Orient Fans' Trust (LOFT) stand in court to have the club put into administration should Mr Becchetti opt not to show.

Orient are second bottom, six points adrift of third-bottom Hartlepool United who thrashed Crewe Alexandra 4-0 on Tuesday night.

When asked about the fans' meeting and Mr Becchetti's plans regarding the High Court date, Leyton Orient said they had no comment at this stage.

Administration would mean an immediate 12-point point deduction, and therefore almost certain relegation from the Football League for the first time in 112 years.

However, it would also open the door for new ownership - with LOFT claiming several potential investors have seen their approaches ignored by the club's current leadership.

Mr Becchetti, a waste management tycoon, bought Orient from Barry Hearn in 2014, months after they had narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship via a play-off final penalty shoot-out.

Since then, and despite millions of pounds of investment, fans have seen nine different managers, one relegation and a series of crises.

Hundreds of fans met on Thursday in nearby Leytonstone to debate plans to safeguard Orient's future, including proposals for a potential phoenix team - which in a worst-case scenario could be forced to start in the Essex Senior League, five divisions below their current standing.

The trust said in a statement: "While the best solution to Leyton Orient's situation is for Becchetti to sell the club as a going concern to a new owner, LOFT's remit as a supporters' trust means that we have to plan for the worst.

"To that end, LOFT members passed a resolution on 2 March 2017, approving the setting up of the Leyton Orient Regeneration Fund with an initial target of £250,000."

That fund could cover a range of scenarios, from administration to the formation of an entirely new team.

Explaining the options to supporters, Adam Michaelson, the legal representative on LOFT's board, said the club were desperate for any form of investment, adding: "We are begging."