The second instalment in the Vince McBean Files, a series looking at Clapton chief executive’s track record working in football and the charity sector. Here we look at Mr McBean’s stewardship of Clapton’s home ground, the Old Spotted Dog.
We have previously reported that Mr McBean is attempting to liquidate the leaseholding charity that runs the Old Spotted Dog – and that he claims he has loaned it £164,000 and wants his money back.
These are not the only dramatic moments in Mr McBean’s era at the Old Spotted Dog. Here are five things you might not know…
1. HOW THE CLUB ALMOST LEFT THE OLD SPOTTED DOG
When Mr McBean arrived at Clapton FC and the charity Newham Community Leisure Trust in December 1999, he inherited plans to move the club out of its Old Spotted Dog home.
The idea had been rumbling on for several years, and in February 2000, the club announced it wanted to move to the Terence McMillan athletics stadium in nearby Plaistow.
The bid for outline planning permission, unveiled in the Newham Recorder, involved upgrading the Terry Mac’s then very basic facilities to make it suitable for football. At the time, even the field inside the athletics track wasn’t big enough for a football pitch.
The Old Spotted Dog would have had a synthetic pitch laid and be used for reserve and youth team games plus other sports, including hockey, plus an indoor sports centre, gym, bar and cafe.
The club admitted: “We need National Lottery money to improve the stadium. For that we will need a proper business plan, which have not got.”
That backing appears not to have materialised as the plans were shelved a few months later.
2. FORCED TO LEAVE OLD SPOTTED DOG FOR A SEASON
Clapton FC spent the entire 2001/2 season playing away from the Old Spotted Dog.
The Isthmian League and the FA closed the ground before the start of the 2001/2 season with officials claiming ground improvements they’d ordered to be undertaken hadn’t.
Nick Robinson of the Isthmian League told the Newham Recorder at the time: “We had a number of complaints last year and we went there in July and gave Clapton four weeks to carry out the necessary improvements. When we went back the work hadn’t been done.”
He added that a further inspection in September revealed that seven items were still outstanding.
Mr McBean told the Newham Recorder: “I don’t believe we have a problem. There is nothing of substance which I could say is a real problem.
“As it stands, we are having to pay a lot of money to play elsewhere and I am writing to the league to ask them to answer a number of concerns.”
In the words of Mr McBean at the time: “The 2001-02 season ended with Clapton not playing a single game at our ground and having to scrounge around for alternative venues to play all our home games.”
The Tons played most of their ‘home’ games at Aveley but also ground-shared at Purfleet (who became East Thurrock), Barking & East Ham United (now Barking), Wembley FC and even Hertford Town.
The home FA Cup tie against Somersett Ambury V & E, now known as Broxbourne Borough, had to be switched to the away team’s ground, with the result being a 5-0 defeat.
The club were summoned to a meeting in October to discuss how to resolve the issue.
However, they were forced to continue to pay ‘home’ games at neutral venues for the rest of the season.
Mr McBean has previously claimed he inherited the situation from previous ownership – for instance on April 26th he wrote “when we arrived… the ground was condemned”.
However, it was 18 months into his stewardship, and in his third season, that the Isthmian League intervened, and after several warnings.
3. TRIED TO BUY THE OLD SPOTTED DOG
Conversely in January 2003, at the time he was trousering £9,050 per week salary from the Knights Millenium Foyer homeless charity which collapsed soon afterwards, Mr McBean tried to buy the freehold of the Old Spotted Dog himself from the brewery which owns it.
The brewery declined the offer, writing: “Unfortunately, your offer has not been accepted and it is the company’s position they would prefer to retain the income stream for the time being as this outweighs any liabilities that we have on the land.”
Note that this offer did not come from Newham Community Leisure Trust, the leaseholding charity, but Mr McBean himself.
4. TRIED TO TRANSFER THE LEASE
Mr McBean wrote on his website on April 26th that “there has never been an application to sell the Old Spotted Dog, transfer it into a company… or any other action”.
However, court documents that we have seen show he applied to the High Court ten years ago to transfer the lease.
The Newham Community Leisure Trust charity had been struck off in 2003 and deregistered by the Charity Commission due to maladminstration.
Mr McBean opened up a ‘doppelganger’ company with exactly the same name as the charity in order to carry on trading.
From court documents we know that this plan stalled. So Mr McBean instead went to the High Court to apply for the original Newham Community Leisure Trust charity to be restored.
Mr McBean’s aim was of ‘transferring its leasehold interest in Clapton Football Ground from its ownership’. In other words, the charity needed to be reactivated, at least temporarily, in order for it to transfer its lease to someone else.
The restoration of the charity was granted in the High Court in October 2008. It’s unclear what happened to the plan to transfer the leasehold interest and who it was to be transferred to.
5. SELF-PROCLAIMED ‘DEVELOPER’
Finally, it should be noted that on Companies House, just prior to his interest in Clapton and the Old Spotted Dog, Mr McBean listed his occupation as ‘developer’ on one of several firms he has been connected with that have been liquidated or struck off.
So Mr McBean has tried to transfer the lease, buy the freehold, moved the club to Aveley temporarily and inherited plans to move it to the Terence McMillan stadium permanently.
Now Mr McBean, by his own declaration, wishes to sell part of the ground. Fortunately an ACV (Asset of Community Value) listing forced by Clapton fans in 2017 will make any sale and development on London’s oldest senior football ground that little bit harder.
If you are concerned about Mr McBean’s handling of London’s oldest senior football ground, the Old Spotted Dog, sign the petition calling on authorities to safeguard it here. The petition is closing on May 28th.
We have asked Mr McBean for comment via Clapton FC but the club have recently reiterated that “we will not be responding directly to Clapton FC News on any issue relating to the club, its members, officers, players or activities.”