It’s bad enough when teams change their names in an effort to sell more fizzy energy drinks for a global corporation. But nothing beats your club changing its name because it turns out the founder, chairman and driving force behind your small club in the community had led a double life for forty years as a “manipulative and ruthless paedophile” exploiting his access to children through football. Such is the curious case with what is now Oldham Boro FC, formerly Oldham Town FC, and their former chairman, Ken Hughes.
I stumbled upon this story in non-league English football solely because someone posted the photo below to our photo pool on Flickr:
Why, I wondered, had someone painted over part of the name?
It soon became apparent that Oldham Town F.C. had taken the very rare step of officially changing their name with The Football Association midseason, when in October 2009 news broke that the club’s chairman, Ken Hughes, had resigned after being charged with thirteen counts of sexual offences against children.
The club, plunged into crisis, was swift to act, almost immediately changing its name to disassociate itself from Hughes, releasing an official statement with all-caps for emphasis:
Most people will no doubt be fully aware of the recent events as reported in the media regarding KEN HUGHES, an individual who held the office of Chairman at this club (Oldham Town FC) UNTIL HIS RESIGNATION THIS WEEK.
His arrest and subsequent charges are so serious and so appalling, that we, the players, staff, officials and all the members wish to make it clear that we are all deeply shocked, upset and disgusted at these revelations.
There has been a hive of activity in and around the Club since this unsavoury matter has come to light, with daily meetings held to try to find a way, if possible, for the football team to continue to compete in the Vodkat League.
To this end, the recreated committee of the Club has applied to the FA in London and to our local County FA to rename the football club, as we all want no connection WHATSOEVER with what was Oldham Town FC and its former chairman.
We are pleased to confirm that the ‘new’ club can now be named ‘Oldham Boro Football Club’.
There will no doubt be many hurdles to overcome in the near future, but all we want to do is preserve our football team.
WE ASK THE LOCAL MEDIA, THE LOCAL COMMUNITY AND EVERYONE CONNECTED WITH THE CLUB TO PULL TOGETHER AND HELP US THROUGH THIS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TIME.
There will be no other statement issued from the Club until such time as our future position is clarified.
Signed by: Harold Stock & Co, Solicitors for the Club.
Hughes had founded the club as a works team in 1964, and in the 2009-10 season, played in the North West Counties Football League (known for sponsorship purposes as the Vodkat League), somewhere around the ninth level in the English pyramid.
Earlier this year, Hughes, 65 years old, pled guilty to 39 separate offences, and was sentenced to at least seven years in prison without possibility of early release.
Despite the club’s wise efforts to entirely distance themselves from Hughes immediately, just days after Hughes’ arrest, vandals broke into the club’s facilities, doing £10,000 worth of damage and stealing £2,000.
David Shepherd, Secretary at Oldham Town and of its successor club, said: “We knew nothing of what was going on.
“We were deceived and used for what he was doing. We are disgusted.”
There’s not much more to say about this horrible tale. But it’s one hell of a backstory to the white paint on the sign above.