WHY CLAPTON FC ARE PLAYING ITS NEXT ‘HOME’ GAME AWAY FROM THE OLD SPOTTED DOG

The new patch of grass can be viewed on the right of the picture

Essex Senior League side Clapton FC are set to play their first competitive home game away from the Old Spotted Dog in 15 years this weekend.

The Errington Challenge Cup game vs Enfield FC has been switched from the OSD to Aveley’s 3G pitch with a 11.30am kick off time.

The reason why is because the pitch needs time to recover after a new strip of turf was laid on one flank, in front of the famous Scaffold stand.

According to Peter Dudley on the Grassroots Football Show, the pitch was dug up by Vodafone. The company presumably carried out some work concerning the phone mast they have to the side of the Scaffold.

So is it a one-off? Dudley said on his radio show he felt it was “touch and go” whether the pitch would be ready for the next home game, on Tuesday.

Jason Maher, manager of Essex Senior League side Saffron Walden Town, felt it would take up to three weeks for the new turf to bed in. By that time, Clapton are scheduled to have played another five home games.

The action must have been carried out under the direction of the liquidator, ST Bennett & Co, which has been tasked with overseeing the Old Spotted Dog since March 2017.

The charity Newham Community Leisure, which used to run the facility, was placed into voluntary liquidation by Clapton FC chief exec Vince McBean and associates, because they wish to sell part of the ground. This process is being disputed in the High Court.

A spokesman for the Save The Old Spotted Dog community campaign said: “Any work at the Old Spotted Dog Ground must be carried out under the direction of the liquidator, using contractors appointed by him.

“Anything else strongly indicates that former trustee of the liquidated charity and now tenant Vince McBean remains in effective control of the ground.”

Fan groups connected to Clapton FC called a boycott of home games when Mr McBean, the club chief executive and former charity trustee, placed the charity in liquidation in March 2017, putting the future of London’s oldest senior football ground in grave peril.

The boycott has proved so watertight since that it’s understood there was just one paying customer at a recent home league game.

Campaigners argue that every penny handed over will help fund Mr McBean’s legal case as he attempts to seize control of the Old Spotted Dog lease in order sell off a portion of it,

A long-running High Court case rumbles on over this issue with a full trial not expected to take place until 2019.

Tons fans, life members and former committee members set up a team this summer under the name Clapton Community Football Club, and run entirely by members, as Clapton FC used to be.

Clapton CFC currently has just short of 1,000 members, playing its ‘home’ games at the newly-named Stray Dog in Walthamstow, with former Tons captain Geoff Ocran as player-manager.

Clapton FC spent much of 2002 and 2003 playing ‘home’ games at neutral venues, mostly at Aveley’s former ground but also Purfleet and Barking & East Ham United among others.

This was a few years into Mr McBean’s time at the club – he took over in 1999 – after the Isthmian League ordered ground repairs were needed that took a long time to be completed.

Clapton FC have a public policy of not answering our questions and have yet to respond to our last 20 requests for comment.

 

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UPDATE – OLD SPOTTED DOG CASE RESPONDENTS WILL BE CROSS-EXAMINED IN THE HIGH COURT AFTER WITNESS STATEMENTS FILED

The latest stage in the battle over the attempted liquidation of the charity that used to run Clapton’s historic home, the Old Spotted Dog, took place in the High Court on Friday, 14 August.

Chief Registrar Nicholas Briggs, sitting at the Rolls Building, presided over a costs hearing involving Vince McBean, who is attempting to liquidate the Newham Community Leisure charity, and those petitioners who oppose it.

Chief Registrar Briggs set down a strict timetable leading up to the trial, beginning with Mr McBean and his fellow respondents Trevor Gordon and Ransford Taylor, being asked to refile their witness statement, this time with signed statements of truth, by Friday, 21 August‬.

We can now reveal that three statements of truth WERE submitted on deadline day on behalf of, we assume, all three of Mr McBean, Mr Gordon and Mr Taylor,

All three will now face cross-examination before the court, as Chief Registrar Briggs decreed, otherwise their evidence will still not be accepted.

Mr McBean had no legal representation in the High Court and instead represented himself, and Mr Taylor and Mr Gordon too, in court.

Further deadlines were laid down by Chief Registrar Briggs, including for submission of skeleton arguments and for submission of bundles of documents.

If the process adheres to those deadlines, the case would next be due in court after ‪9 November 2018.‬

A full trial would take place over at least four days and likely not till next summer, Chief Registrar Briggs said.

Mr McBean declined to come to an agreement over costs, which were estimated by the petitioners as £64,000 for just a two-day trial alone.

In the meantime, the liquidator is nominally in charge of the Old Spotted Dog, which currently has Mr McBean’s team and Step 6 side Hackney Wick as joint tenants.

in recent months, life members and fans have re-established a members’ run club, Clapton CFC in the Middlesex League, while the entire youth team set-up separately decided to quit too.

Chairman John Murray-Smith, assistant manager Wayne Seal, and first team coach Marc Nurse have also departed this summer, for a variety of reasons.

PICTURES SHOW HOW THE OLD SPOTTED DOG LOOKS DAYS BEFORE FOOTBALL NEW SEASON

A reader took a trip down to the Old Spotted Dog on Monday and sent us these photos of how it looks, just days before the new football season kicks off.

To recap, it’s been over a year since Clapton fans last graced the ground due to a tightly-observed boycott.

This was sparked by the club chief exec Vince McBean putting the OSD’s future in doubt by placing it in liquidation claiming the ground charity personally owes him £164.123.

This case is proceeding – very, very slowly – in the High Court.

Most Tons fans won’t have seen inside the Old Spotted Dog since spring 2017, aside perhaps from two occasions: a testimonial match for long-serving player Jerry Jairette (he was kicked out of the club after 10 years soon after for criticising clubs who had banned fans); and a couple of free entry youth team games (the entire youth set-up has since decided to quit the club),

So how is the Old Spotted Dog looking while we’ve been away? Well, the roof of the extended Scaffold stand has partially disappeared.

On the Scaffold stand itself, one of the Ultras’ forgotten banners lies forlorn in a ball at the back.

Considerable staying power given it has survived winds and winter.

In front of the dugout, it looks like some of the away team’s dugout had collapsed. though that may slot back in.

It’s fair to say the dugout area probably hasn’t had a spring clean in a while, judging by the leaves, litter and weeds.

photo5985836865091120711 (1)

 

For unknown reasons, the men’s toilets has become the women’s, and vice versa. It’s unclear what’s happened inside. Have the urinals been moved?.

Incidentally, it has now been revealed that these toilets were provided to the Old Spotted Dog for free by the building firm who worked on St Bon’s school across the road,

The Old Spotted Dog pitch, like most non-league football and other sports grounds, has been hammered in the heatwave.

There’s certainly nothing unusual in the yellow colour of the grass – lots of pitches and indeed lawns look similar after being parched of rain – though the multi-coloured patches are a bit strange.

photo5985836865091120712 (1).jpg

 

However, the pitch could do with a clean-up and a rake, with quite a bit of rubbish visible at the Disraeli Road end of the ground, and autumn leaves already covering the Margery Park Road end.

Litter strewn across the pitch

 

That could all be cleaned up relatively easily.

What is a little worrying that after the recent downpour of rain, there already appears to be a muddy goalmouth at the Margery Park Road end, as this picture taken ahead of the friendly with rebooted club Upton Park FC shows.

The spectator areas around the ground in general are in need of some attention, particularly weeding and mowing.  

The Old Spotted Dog is certainly not in quite the horrendous state that we saw it last season, when a photo gallery posted on the Clapton Ultras Twitter account finally got some major hazards cordoned off.

But it’s clear there’s not a lot of love and care being applied either. The entrance sign to the ground, for instance, still proclaims a welcome to ‘Clapto’, nearly two years on from being damaged by an errant ball.

We understand the liquidator currently in charge of the Old Spotted Dog has been allowing the previous committee, led by Clapton chief exec Vince McBean, to remain in charge of the ground and responsible for its upkeep.

A Save The Old Spotted Dog spokesman said: “It’s clear that nobody is currently thinking about protecting the future of the OSD as a valued community asset.

“The sooner it is returned to the people of Newham, the sooner it can be looked after by those who genuinely care about it.

“The woeful lack of care means it will need considerable investment when it is returned to local community control.”

The next stage in the legal tussle over the Old Spotted Dog will be a cost management hearing at the High Court, currently slated for August 17th, with a full trial perhaps as far away as early 2019.

Meanwhile Clapton fans, life members and former committee members announced plans to field a team in the Middlesex League next season under the name Clapton Community Football Club, and run entirely by members.

Clapton CFC will be playing home games at Wadham Lodge in Walthamstow although it has pledged to bring “members-run community football back to E7 as soon as possible.”

SAVE THE OLD SPOTTED DOG SUMMER UPDATE

The season may have taken a three-month break, but the fight to save London’s oldest senior football ground has continued over the summer.

Last month, Save the Old Spotted Dog protesters turned up outside the Charity Commission’s headquarters to deliver a 1.750-signature petition calling upon them to release their report.

The Charity Commission first investigated the charity that runs Clapton’s home in 2002 and concluded that “little or no charitable activity was undertaken at the Old Spotted Dog Ground”.

As the news report in trade journal Civic Society states, concerns were reported again in April 2013. Over five years later, the Charity Commission has yet to deliver its report.

However, the Charity Commission did confirm to Civil Society it has opened a statutory inquiry – its more serious kind of investigation.

A spokeswoman told them: “The Commission has an ongoing statutory inquiry looking into the governance and financial management of the charity, Newham Community Leisure Trust.

“We have not yet drafted a report, however it is our intention to publish a report setting out our findings and conclusions on completion of the inquiry.

“We recognise the interest that the local community and supporters of the football club have in this matter, and are fully aware of their concerns.”

Then in July, the Save the Old Spotted Dog campaign held a stall at Forest Gate Festival to find out what a proper. community-run football ground could be used for.

One of the dozens of Forest Gate Festival visitors to drop by was Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, who particularly liked the idea for outdoor cinema in the summer.

Other ideas suggested by Forest Gate residents included outdoor yoga, keep fit for the elderly and football games for local schools and clubs.

A Save the OSD spokesman said:”We are grateful for the enthusiastic support from the Mayor and for so many great ideas from local people at our consultation – from greater access to the Old Spotted Dog Ground’s club house to community events and healthy living activities.

“We believe this valuable resource will have a more sustainable future if it is genuinely open to Newham residents and run for the benefit of the local area.”

“Keep the ideas coming for a genuinely accessible community venue, to savetheOSD@gmail.com”

 

In other news, Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has officially responded to the petition, and pledged she is happy to meet with campaigners.

She said: “The Council’s ‘Local Plan: Detailed Sites and Policies Development Plan Document’ identifies the Old Spotted Dog football ground as protected green infrastructure, and our current planning policy seeks to improve the quality and accessibility of existing open spaces.

“I would be happy to arrange a meeting with the campaign to look into this case and discuss further”.

In the meantime, the Old Spotted Dog has been in the hands of a liquidator for over a year while a High Court case rumbles on over whether the charity can be wound up.

The next stage in the legal tussle will be another case management hearing at the High Court, currently slated for August 17th, with a full trial perhaps as far away as early 2019.

Clapton fans, life members and former committee members announced plans to field a team in the Middlesex League next season under the name Clapton Community Football Club, and run entirely by members.

CCFC will be playing home games at Wadham Lodge in Walthamstow although it has pledged to bring “members-run community football back to E7 as soon as possible.”

YOUTUBER MARK NORTH SET TO BECOME VINCE McBEAN’S NEW RIGHT-HAND MAN

Chairman John Murray-Smith is the latest departure from Clapton – but a replacement is due to be unveiled soon, we can reveal.

The chairman’s exit follows on from a string of departures in recent months: of fans’ groups to Clapton CFC; the last youth team quitting to join Hackney Wick; and legendary player Jerry Jairette, forced out after 10 years during his testimonial year.

Mr Murray-Smith’s replacement comes from YouTube football team United London, which has folded after two seasons. Its chairman Mark North is now lined up to become Vince McBean’s right-hand man.

United London had billed itself as ‘the world’s first managerless football club’ with users invited to download an app to select the team.

It had competed in the Essex Alliance Premier, Step 12 of the football pyramid, with home games played on the 3G pitch at Frances Bardsley Academy girls’ school in Romford.

The day after the announcement, the defunct club’s chairman Mark North, 39, responded to Twitter rumours that he would join Mr McBean’s team by admitting he would be unveiled ‘very soon’.

United London had been elected to the Essex Olympian League, and placed in Division 3, which is Step 10, this summer.

Their withdrawal leaves the division with just 11 clubs for the 2018/9 season.

Mr North will now join Mr McBean at Step 5 football.

Mr Murray-Smith is still listed as chairman on Mr McBean’s website but was described in passing in a statement on June 22 as the ‘ex-chairman.’

Sources suggest Mr Murray-Smith, who runs an insurance company, was chairman in little more than on paper. He did not attend games and there are no references to him in Google or on Mr McBean’s website except for the fact he held the post.

Mr North is expected to be more involved and told us: “I left United London to take up this post as I believe that the club has so much untapped potential and an iconic status in non-league.

“I’m here to work hard and give my free time like all the volunteers to help the club progress.

“I do not come into this club with a negative mindset, only focusing on the positive work that can and will be done over the coming months and years.”

When asked about specific issues over the management of the club and the Old Spotted Dog ground, which is currently in liquidation ahead of a High Court case, Mr North gave a more general reply.

He said: “I’m not blind to the previous issues and all know that there is a lot of work to do both on and off the field, however my sole focus is to look ahead to the future.”

We asked him how he would become chairman since Clapton Members Club has been ‘closed for restructuring’ since 2013, and its rules state you need to be a member to be elected chair. Does this mean membership has now reopened? Mr North declined to comment.

We  also approached Mr McBean for comment. However, readers will be aware the club has a long-standing policy of not responding to us. In fact we have not had the courtesy of even acknowledgement to over 20 requests for comment in the last year.

VINCE MCBEAN FORCED TO BACKTRACK ON ATTACK ON ANTI-RACISM FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT

Clapton FC’s team, led by Andre Thomas, with the Fans For Diversity flag at Proudly East London 2016

Vince McBean has been forced to remove an inaccurate article from his claptonfc.com website that attacked a local annual anti-discrimination football tournament.

The climbdown over the Proudly East London tournament came after the Football Association launched a probe into Mr McBean’s comments and Kick It Out chairman Lord Ouseley requested Mr McBean withdrawn his name.

Mr McBean had accused organisers of the non-profit, inclusive football event, involving teams such as Queerspace East, Stonewall and Football Beyond Borders, of lying about receiving support from the pioneering equality and inclusion group, Kick It Out.

However, in fact Kick It Out had generously helped to fund the community-driven event for the past three seasons through its Fans For Diversity fund run jointly with the Football Supporters Federation.

The Proudly East London football tournament logo

Included in the original article was a quote from Lord Ouseley, who has since told Clapton FC News this was a result of a misunderstanding and that Fans For Diversity had indeed provided funds for the maximum three-year period allowed.

Lord Ousley told Clapton FC News: “My statement may have been based on a misunderstanding. To avoid further misrepresentations or inferences, I have asked Mr McBean to remove it from his website. He has agreed to do so and to inform me as soon as done.”

Mr McBean’s website was taken offline completely for a week but is now back online. The article in question ‘Kick It Out support claim untrue’ is now a broken link, A tweet summarising the attack, however, remains online at time of publication.

A new article ‘Updated: KickItOut support claim’,  featuring a much longer statement, has been uploaded to Mr McBean’s website today but with Lord Ouseley’s quotes thankfully removed.

Lord Ouseley stressed he does not wish to take sides in the long-running and bitter dispute between fans and chief executive Mr McBean. He said: “Kick it Out does not wish to be caught up in this dispute nor to be seen to be supporting one side or another.

“We have used our best endeavours to get the football authorities to try to sort it so that we can support all good work being done through football in the local area.”

In the same article, Mr McBean also insisted Clapton FC had had no connection whatsoever to the tournament, which is avowedly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic and very inclusive.

However, Mr McBean’s management, coaches and players have entered official teams for each of the three years Proudly East London has been held to date.

Mr McBean’s own @claptonfootball Twitter account even posted many updates during the tournaments and praised the event and its organisers, the Clapton Ultras.

Last year, then-assistant manager Andre Thomas led Clapton FC’s team to victory in the men’s tournament for the second year in a row, while the Easton Cowgirls from Bristol won the women’s tournament.

In previous years, then Clapton manager Mike Walther and current first team coach Marc Nurse have led the Clapton team.

When contacted, the Essex Senior League committee chose to back Mr McBean’s original, now-deleted, article, insisting it was not their responsibility.

ESL secretary Michelle Dorling told Clapton FC News: “As this is an outside competition it does not come under our jurisdiction.”

This is despite the ESL’s own rule 8.14 which states they are responsible for overseeing what is posted on clubs’ websites: “Nothing shall be included on the website… which brings the [ESL] into disrepute.”

An FA spokesman said they had asked the London FA to investigate after their attention was drawn to Mr McBean’s statement and the subsequent handling by the ESL.

Organisers of Proudly East London did not want to comment when approached by Clapton FC News, except to stress they were hugely grateful for Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation for their amazing support since the tournament was launched.

Today they tweeted for the first time in 10 months to hint the tournament will once again take place this summer despite Mr McBean’s attack with details published soon.

We contacted Mr McBean several times but he declined to comment – in line with his long-standing policy not to speak to us.

In the meantime, follow Proudly East London on Twitter, and check out the amazing work by Kick It Out, Fans For Diversity and Football Supporters’ Federation.

Here’s a promo video made by Copa 90 for the tournament, whose slogan is: “Everything racists hate about east London – its diversity, multiculturalism and greater tolerance… the reasons why we are proud to call it home.”

 

NEWHAM MAYOR TO MEET THE ‘SAVE THE OLD SPOTTED DOG’ CAMPAIGN GROUP

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Rokhsana Fiaz responds to the public question about the Old Spotted Dog ground

Newham’s new mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has agreed to meet the Save the Old Spotted Dog campaign group in its battle to save Clapton’s historic ground.

The pledge came in the public questions section of Newham Council’s meeting last night and follows on from a campaign launch meeting followed by 1,750 people signing a petition calling on the council to help secure the OSD’s future.

Rokhsana, who has been in office for just a few months, said the council is committed to “maintaining the Old Spotted Dog Ground as an asset of community value, run for the benefit of local people.”

She added: “I would like to see the football ground, the Old Spotted Dog, remain, driven, shaped and overseen in terms of its governance by local people.”

Vince McBean, who sparked the current crisis by plunging the charity that ran the OSD into liquidation, was also present at the meeting but did not get chance to speak. We have asked him for comment but he has not responded, in line with his long-standing ‘no comment’ policy.

You can see the full question and answer in the video below, or scroll down to read it,

Question from Save the Old Spotted Dog campaigner

Kevin Blowe of the Save the OSD said: “In 2017, the charity holding the lease to the Old Spotted Dog football ground in Upton Lane, Forest Gate, went into administration.

“This was at a crucial moment in the investigation by the Charity Commission into conflicts of interest and lack of financial accountability by trustees.

“Although now nominally in the hands of the liquidator, however, the charity trust has continued to control the ground.

“The petition signed by 1750 people is calling on Newham Council to help secure a future for the Old Spotted Dog ground.

“We ask the new mayor for a statement on the Old Spotted Dog, a meeting with the campaign, and for the council to support a plan to replace the charity currently facing liquidation with a new charity to guarantee the sports’ ground’s long-term future.”

Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz’s response

“I view the Old Spotted Dog ground as a really vital and important Asset of Community Value, something that we as a council have recognised, acknowledged and accepted.

“I understand that there is an ongoing series of disputes between various pertaining to the charity, Newham Community Leisure Trust, and issues around ownership and governance of Clapton Football Club, and I’m also aware that there’s concern by a significant following of football fans, the Clapton Ultras, and other members of the local community here in Newham, and outside.

“I want to say this. In terms of the statement you are asking me, around the situation at the Old Spotted Dog, I say this. Let’s not lose sight of the central issue of concern to me. That this is an asset of significant community value.

“In our local plan, it features as a protected Green Infrastructure, and what I’m here to ensure is that while all the legalities between various parties is conducted, with liquidators or administrators, that we protect the inherent value of the ground, its history, the way it’s shaped the identity of the Forest Gate community, and ensuring that it remains very much an asset that is determined by local residents and the community.

“So I’m happy to arrange a meeting with the campaign, to look into more detail about the concerns they have, to see what we can actively do as a council to support the integrity of it being and remaining an asset of community value, and to ensure it does not get caught in a crossfire of very significant proportions.

“And I want to finally to make clear that I would like to see the football ground, the Old Spotted Dog, remain, driven, shaped and overseen in terms of its governance by local people.”

What’s next

The next stage in the campaign is to hand over the petition to the Charity Commission. They were told by the High Court to publish their report into Newham Community Leisure Trust last year, but have still not done so.

A tweet from the @savetheosd campaign Twitter account gives the details…

“Join us outside the Charity Commission (102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ) on Monday 25th June at 6pm.

“We are demanding the immediate release of its report on the charity controlling the Old Spotted Dog Ground.”

The next stage in the legal tussle over the Old Spotted Dog will be another case management hearing at the High Court in August with a full trial perhaps as far away as early 2019.

CCFC

The Old Spotted Dog situation took another twist last week when fans, life members and former committee members announced plans to field a team in the Middlesex League next season under the name Clapton Community Football Club, and run entirely by members.

CCFC will start the season playing home games at Wadham Lodge in Walthamstow although it has pledged to bring “members-run community football back to E7 as soon as possible.”

A CCFC spokesperson told us: “We are looking forward to returning to the Old Spotted Dog one day and so we welcome the mayor’s pledge for a meeting to discuss the council’s involvement in the campaign to have the ground run by the local community.

“We would love to be part of that, and indeed Community is literally our middle name. We still regard ourselves as a Forest Gate club and we will be making sure to maintain our strong ties with the area while we are playing in Walthamstow.”

Mr McBean’s own Clapton FC is by constitution supposed to be a members club but has long been closed to new members. It has made no public statement, and has taken its website offline, but is expected to start the season in the Essex Senior League, at the Old Spotted Dog.

You can find out more about Clapton CFC and become a member here. Follow the Save the OSD Twitter page here.