Last Monday, Clapton Chief Executive, Vince McBean, followed up on his recent tirade against Tons supporters in the local press by once again taking aim at the Clapton Ultras and other fans in an extraordinary statement on the club website.
Responding to what he describes as ‘misleading statements’, Mr McBean hit back at criticism over his sudden, unannounced mid-season ‘hike’ in match day prices, by dishing out blame in a number of directions. Although again neglecting to address the lack of notice given to supporters.
‘After careful consideration’
The sudden rise in the price of entry also came attached to new heavy handed security, searching of bags and, as of Tuesday, full body scans with handheld metal detectors. The unorthodox timing of a mid-season increase suggests a more reactionary policy than anything long in the planning.
The reasoning behind the additional charge to supporters also appears a bit muddled. Following vocal protests by Clapton fans, Mr McBean took to the Newham Recorder to state that the extra gate revenue would go toward expenses incurred from fines relating to supporter conduct.
Although still keen to rake over alleged supporter behaviour in his latest statement, the Clapton Chief Exec since reverted to the line that the extra £1 would go to a player’s expenses fund. Citing personnel lost to clubs able to provide a playing budget; which makes his allegations over fines somewhat redundant.
Falling back on Clapton’s previous manager, Mike Walther and current boss, Jon Fowell, the Club statement also sought to shift responsibility for the increase onto to coaching staff. While it’s well documented that Walther was starved of expenses during his tenure, Fowell has done slightly better.
Speaking on the Clapton Ultras’ Dogcast, Fowell told proudly of having persuaded Mr McBean to finally provide a player’s travel budget for away games. The Clapton manager also spoke of his proposal that fans donate an additional 50p at the turnstile which would be then matched by McBean.
This seems to have been unilaterally interpreted by the Clapton hierarchy that fans would foot the full amount.
‘Make clear the facts’
Accusing the Clapton Ultras of making a ‘number of misleading statements’, Mr McBean launched into the assertion that the supporter group had argued that ‘pyro, fireworks and flares’ should be tolerated during matches. Although no such argument was made.
In fact, there hasn’t been a single incident of anything resembling the above being set off during matches at the Spotted Dog this season. There has, however been two reports of smoke displays at Clapton this term. Both well after the final whistle. Neither has attracted a fine, thus far.
Moreover, occasions of food not provided for opposing teams, changing rooms not fit for purpose and delayed kick offs at Clapton, as reported by other clubs, are things that do encounter fines. Jonny Fowell has admitted that he’s already accrued £140 of fines himself since arriving as manager.
Whether on going infringements by the club are already factored into the £800 McBean says it costs to host an ESL game is unclear. However, the figure belies the fact that based on average attendance this season, each fan could pay a flat rate of £3 and the club would still profit almost £200 per match.
That’s of course before factoring in the rents Mr McBean collects from London Bari, the mobile phone mast, the mechanic’s yard and clubhouse. Clapton runs on much the same model now as it did before attendances picked up dramatically in 2013, making the extra yield from supporter income a bonus.
Taking into account the £40,000 that Clapton took over the turnstiles last season, as reported by the Newham Recorder, the case for an across the board £1 rise in entry prices is perhaps difficult to explain given the huge additional revenue the club receives on top of its existing operational takings.
‘We need to be unified in our approach’
Following a string of uncorroborated allegations made about supporters, as well youth team players and their parents, Vince McBean rounded off his statement with a call for unity. Demanding that fans fall in behind and support his administration in the same way they do the team.
However, the sudden £1 flat rate increase to all supporters represents a 17% rise for full paying adults, and a 33% hike for pensioners and students. In Forest Gate, an area in which nearly 50% of residents earn less than the living wage, the increase represents further division for fans on different incomes.
The additional cost will also be felt harder by adults claiming benefits as well as fans under 21 in work, as neither gets any concession at Clapton. The current minimum wage for 18 – 21 year olds is £5.30 ph. West Ham do a £150 season ticket for U21s at the London Stadium, the equivalent cost to the same age group paying into the Spotted Dog, eight leagues below, under the new tariff is £147.
While unannounced, mid-season price increases are unprecedented in football, Tons fans know well that Mr McBean has form in this area. In April 2013, the first time Clapton Ultras pushed publically to get a crowd of 100 + into the Spotted Dog, patrons were met with a sudden 50% increase to beer prices in the clubhouse. Cans were later brought down by 50p after sales took a sharp decline.
Clapton fans have on a number of occasions entered into meetings with Mr McBean, and did so prior to the game with Sporting Bengal on 22nd November, when the price of entry and security policy suddenly changed. Why neither of these issues were raised with fans before arriving at the ground remains a mystery and has clearly left the majority feeling taken for granted and disrespected.
As the coffers continue to swell, supporters have long spoken of need for Clapton to pay player expenses; hoping that with the efforts from the Clapton Ultras and others in significantly raising attendances, more support for the team would come from the club’s lucrative gate takings. Why the extra £1 is needed is still yet to be fully addressed.