HOW VINCE MCBEAN IS COSTING ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE RIVALS £14,670 PER SEASON

The actions of Clapton FC chief exec Vince McBean, which have sparked the long-running home fans boycott, have had consequences for other clubs too.

To be clear there is no boycott called on Clapton FC league away games – feel free to go to any of the matches on the road.

You won’t put anyone’s nose out of joint and there are some really warm and welcoming clubs in the Essex Senior League, most notably West Essex, Stansted and Barkingside.

Realistically, though, this season most Tons have thrown their weight into supporting Clapton Community FC, run by members in line with what Clapton FC’s constitution says it should be operated. And it’s hard to juggle two teams.

So away attendances have also been affected… as the figures show.

2019 attendance vs 2018 attendances

13 clubs saw falls in attendances in their game vs Clapton FC this season compared to the same game last season.

Tower Hamlets 82 vs 468 (384 down)
Leyton Athletic 29 vs 248 (219 down)
Barkingside 135 vs 273 (138 down)
Sporting Bengal United 79 vs 210 (131 down)
Walthamstow 88 vs 208 (120 down)
Takeley 42 vs 145 (103 down)
Woodford Town 35 vs 133 (98 down)
Redbridge 63 vs 160 (97 down)
Enfield
67 vs 146 (79 down)
Stansted 62 vs 122 (60 down)
Ilford 48 vs 101 (53 down)
West Essex 26 vs 70 (44 down)
Sawbridgeworth Town 37 vs 38 (1 down)

One club actually increased their attendance. Strugglers last year but title challengers this year, Hullbridge have seen home crowds soar, more than making up for the loss of Tons fans.

Hullbridge Sports 97 vs 81 (16 up)

We’ve omitted one club which banned away fans in both the league and cup last season. If there’s one club we’re not in a hurry to give cash to again, it’s these.

Southend Manor 44 vs 45 (1 down)

That leaves four clubs from last season who aren’t in the division this season. We’ve added up last season’s attendances at those clubs and compared it to the four new clubs for a rough comparison. However, there is the outlier of Hackney Wick away, which drew in 785 and skews the figures somewhat.

Hackney Wick, Basildon United, FC Romania & Burnham Ramblers vs Hoddesdon Town, Stanway Rovers, Saffron Walden, St Margaretsbury 1199 vs 377 (822 down)

Overall fall

When you add up the away attendances last season versus this season, there are now 2,336 fewer people attending.

With the Essex Senior League average ticket price at £6.28, that equates to up to £14,670 of income lost to its clubs due to the actions of Mr McBean.

And this is not just a one-off amount. That is the likely loss every season while Mr McBean clings on to power.

Perhaps something the Essex Senior League and its member clubs may wish to ponder.

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JONNY FOWELL QUITS AFTER THREE SEASONS

After almost three full seasons as manager of Clapton FC, Jonny Fowell has announced he will step down at the end of the current campaign.

The news was broken in an interview with the Newham Recorder’s Jacob Ranson with Fowell pointedly saying he was looking for a club that can challenge for promotion.

That the Tons finished second in his first season, but Fowell feels now it’s no longer possible to aim for a similar finish, is rather telling.

Taking Clapton FC to the runners-up spot in the Essex Senior League in the 2016/7 season will undoubtedly be seen as the high point of Fowell’s reign.

The form was spectacular – 10 wins in 11 away matches, 21 wins in the last 26 overall – and the points per game would have probably been enough to win the ESL title outright in many other seasons.

The Tons fans lapped up the talents of Johnny Ashman, Jay Knight, Ryan Reed, Steven Sardinha, Nathan Cook, Dylan Ebengo, Lanre Vigo, Tayo Awoderu, Emmanuel Olajide, and Jerry Jairette.

The season ended in the sunshine at the Old Spotted Dog with Jerry lifting the runners-up shield in front of 684 jubilant fans after a 7-0 thrashing of Burnham Ramblers.

Fast forward two years, and Clapton’s home game vs Hoddesdon Town last Saturday was apparently witnessed by just 10 people, 6 of whom were away fans. It shows just how much the club has been hollowed out since.

For chief executive Vince McBean chose that point in history, spring 2017, to liquidate the charity that runs the Old Spotted Dog, claiming it owes him almost £200,000 that he’d loaned it for unspecified reasons.

That, of course, sparked all fan groups into calling for a boycott of all home games that continues to this day, while Mr McBean’s liquidation is still being contested through the High Court.

Fowell has remained loyal to Mr McBean during this period – and indeed in his Newham Recorder interview stressed that ‘Vince has been a great chairman”. (A slip of the tongue, surely, as Mr McBean insists he is just chief exec, not the owner or chairman).

It’s fair to say in contrast that Tons fans never warmed to Fowell, and vice versa, But privately he must wonder what might have been achieved if Mr McBean hadn’t driven the supporters away.

From the highs of that first season – where Fowell showed he could build a decent team with no budget, with close to 400 people on average watching them – it’s been a steady decline on and off the field since.

The club sits in 14th place and is looking to fill vacancies for a chairman, manager, groundsman,  kitman and matchday secretary. The youth teams and reserves are long gone.

And of course the supporters have re-established a members-owned Clapton side, competing in the Middlessex County League, which is going better than anyone dared to have dreamed.

Yet Mr McBean clings on, as even without any gate receipts on matchdays, there’s enough income from other sources to make it a tidy little earner.

Clapton FC has posted a statement on Twitter confirming the news, adding: “Clapton fc wishes to confirm that manager @jonnyfowell16 is leaving the the club at the end of the season.

“Clapton fc is grateful to @jonnyfowell16 for his contribution and efforts to stabilise the club and wish him all the best for the future – committee Clapton FC.”

CLAPTON FC WITHOUT A CHAIRMAN, GROUNDSMAN AND KITMAN

Clapton FC have confirmed they still don’t have a new chairman, four months after the resignation of the last one.

Mark North joined in the summer to replace John Murray-Smith but lasted just a few months before quitting in November.

There had been no word of any replacement since, despite our repeated unanswered questions, and Mr North is still listed as chairman on the club and league website, four months on.

However, the club has now confirmed that there is a vacancy for chairman in a matchday programme that was uploaded online this week.

In the same programme, chief executive Vince McBean also appealed for a groundsman, kitman and match day secretary.

A groundsman is something particularly needed. Pictures from the Old Spotted Dog recently showed the surroundings getting increasingly dilapidated and the grass rather overgrown.

Redbridge manager Micky Wetherall mentioned the pitch in a post-match interview at the weekend.

He told the Ilford Recorder: “The pitch was terrible the grass is long and the surface is so bobbly.

“It’s very hard to get up for a game of football in these circumstances but we got in got three points and got out so for me it’s a job well done.”

There has been a gradual hollowing out of the club over the years.

All youth teams have quit the club in recent seasons – with the final team, under 18s, switching to Hackney Wick FC.

Chairmen Murray-Smith and North, assistant manager Wayne Seal, and first team coach Marc Nurse also departed this season.

The exodus isn’t helped by Clapton FC being closed for ‘restructuring’ for at least six years, despite being a members club by constitution.

The success of fan-owned Clapton CFC – with 1,300 members and dozens of volunteers pitching in every for no personal reward – shows the potential that Mr McBean had within his grasp.

If only he had opened up the club to this surge in interest, rather than driving it away by trying to liquidate the Old Spotted Dog and closing the membership.

 

A LUCRATIVE YEAR AT THE OLD SPOTTED DOG – BUT WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?

It’s still a lucrative time at the Old Spotted Dog, even while the charity that holds the lease is in liquidation.

We estimate the ground has generated income of at least £40,000 since March 2017, when liquidator ST Bennett & Co took over.

That’s good news – as long as the money is finding its way back to the liquidator, as it legally should.

As a reminder, the Old Spotted Dog and Clapton Football Club are entirely separate bodies.

The Old Spotted Dog is owned freehold by a subsidiary of Heineken and leased to a charity, Newham Community Leisure, which is now in liquidation.

Meanwhile Clapton FC is one of two football clubs who are tenants of the Old Spotted Dog. Clapton FC is supposed to be a members club, though has been closed to new members for at least six years.

The situation gets complicated because Vince McBean is the Clapton FC chief executive and he and his associates were also trustees of Newham Community Leisure.

They placed it into voluntary liquidation two years ago claiming it owed nearly £200,000 to themselves. That liquidation is being challenged in the High Court, but a date for a hearing has still not been set two years on.

Mr McBean’s handling of the charity is also the subject of a Charity Commission investigation, which began five years ago but has still not concluded.

Liquidator ST Bennett of Buckhurst Hill is supposed to run the facility on behalf of Newham Community Leisure. It’s our understanding, however, that the liquidator has instead entered a service level agreement with Clapton FC and Mr McBean.

Essentially, Mr McBean runs the Old Spotted Dog as before – mows the pitch, maintains the ground, deals with admin etc – and in return his club doesn’t have to pay any rent.

Mr McBean no longer has large gate receipts from Clapton FC home games to draw upon.  All Clapton fan groups and bodies – including us – have maintained an impeccably observed boycott of home games since his liquidation

Please note the below income derived from the Old Spotted Dog is all COMMERCIAL use. We can find no evidence of any charitable use. Newham Community Leisure is supposed to be a charity.

Hackney Wick FC rent

Hackney Wick is a great community football club, and have rightly won awards and acclaim for their excellent outreach work, particularly in youth football and reaching out to prisoners and ex-offenders.

However, the Wickers – previously known as London Bari – have always kept quiet on their close relationship with Mr McBean. His behaviour seems very much at odds with Hackney Wick’s ethos.

The Wickers decline to say whether they pay their rent direct to Newham Community Leisure and now to the liquidator, or whether they hand it over to Mr McBean. It’s their right to keep quiet if they wish.

We just have to hope that the Wickers – who are doing so much admirable work – are doing the right thing here and ensuring this money goes to the liquidator, and insisting on correct paperwork and procedures.

The going rate for a Step 5 ground for a season is somewhere between £8,000 to £12,000, so since the Old Spotted Dog has been in liquidation, they would have paid roughly £20,000 for two seasons’ rent.

Vodafone payments

The patch of grass dug up by Vodafone can be viewed on the right of the picture

There is a Vodafone phone mast inside the Old Spotted Dog, right next to the Scaffold, for which the company pays an annual rent for the privilege

That fee – assumed to be in the thousands – would obviously go to the leaseholder, now the liquidator, rather than a club that merely rents the facility.

But that’s not all. In October, the pitch at the Old Spotted Dog was dug up to allow Vodafone to upgrade the mast.

In doing so, Clapton FC were forced to play three home games at a neutral venue, and others switched to away grounds, as the Old Spotted Dog was out of action.

Experts in the industry have told us the fee for such inconvenience would have been at least £5,000. Payable – again – to the charity and its liquidator, we hope.

Breakers’ yard rent

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Chose the wrong day to shoot The Old Spotted Dog ground, as no one was home but will definitely be back on a match day to document properly (hopefully my team plays them again in pre season 🤞). Amazing historic feel to the place as it is the oldest senior football ground in London. Here's a few snaps from outside. . . The Old Spotted Dog Ground 🏟️📷. . . Future home of @claptoncfc ⚽. . . Capacity: 2000 (100 seated)👥 Built: 1888 (year opened) 📅 . . . . #awaystand #groundhopper #groundhopping #football #stadium #footballground #whereisfootball #london #clapton #ultras #claptonfc #theoldspotteddog #chickenbaltichronicles #mainstand #nonleague #claptonultras #awaydays #huaweip20 #nationalleague #grassroots #ecofriendly #eastlondon #photography

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Part of the Old Spotted Dog, to the right of the picture above, is used as a car breakers’ yard, having previously been a tyre fitters among others.

This is the only part of the ground owned freehold by Newham Community Leisure. The rest of the Old Spotted Dog is owned by a Heineken subsidiary with a long lease to Newham Community Leisure.

We have no idea of the rent due on this, however the cheapest rent we can find for a small commercial yard in East London is £5.000 per year.

Helicopter landing site

Forest Gate residents were concerned when a private helicopter landed on the pitch last April.

Complaints were made since helicopters are not allowed to fly within 500 feet of a person, vehicle or structure.

There were strong suggestions that the helicopter belonged to someone going to a West Ham game, since it landed and departed around the right times.

The cheapest helicopter landing fee we can find in London is £250. Let’s hope that went to the liquidator.

Urban Outfitters

Model Chris Amfo recently posted pictures of himself on the Old Spotted Dog pitch.

It turns out it was a photoshoot for fashion designer Liam Hodges’ collaboration with retailer Urban Outfitters,

The shoot took place in late January, judging by the photos. Sources suggest the location fee for this would be around £1000.

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Sunday league with Liam Hodges

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Other games

The Old Spotted Dog is also rented out for occasional games by other teams. Here is an FA Sunday Cup tie taking place on it in October.

The standard fee is usually around £150 to £200 to hire a pitch.

Trevoh Chalobah filming

In late October, the ground was hired out by JD Sports for filming with Chelsea player Trevoh Chalobah, on loan with Ipswich.

That must have involved a four-figure payment winging its way to the liquidator.

Eid celebration

 

The local mosque hosts an Eid celebration on the pitch every year.

A great local community service you might think – except it is understood the mosque is charged £250 for just a few hours.

Again, that must be paid to the landlord, surely.

BBC3 filming

Mr McBean appearing on BBC3

Over the winter of 2018/19, BBC3 came to film at the Old Spotted Dog for a rather ill-thought out documentary on Ultras culture, glossing over the fact that the ground was empty and has seen no Ultras since April 2017.

Mr McBean was interviewed – and would obviously be entitled to a fee for his services. However, any location fee is surely separate and would have to go to the liquidator.

Festivals and parties

Judging by Instagram posts, there were at least private parties and/or music festivals held on the pitch over May Bank Holiday weekend and the other in June. We know no more than seeing photos of people sat drinking on the pitch.

Whatever the rental fee, it’s all good revenue for the liquidator – or at least we hope.

So where is the money going?

The revenue listed above is only what we are aware of. Some events we only know about having noticing activity in the Old Spotted Dog when walking past, or seeing social media posts.

As the capital’s oldest senior football ground. relatively close to central London, the Old Spotted Dog will always be popular as a location for photoshoots, film shoots and adverts.

We do not discourage anyone from using the Old Spotted Dog in such instances. However, please ensure that the fee gets paid to the leaseholder – currently the liquidator – and not the tenant, Mr McBean.

We have asked ST Bennett & Co to confirm that this commercial income is being received by them but have yet to receive a reply.

In the meantime we’re looking forward to seeing the next set of Newham Community Leisure accounts prepared by the liquidator, and seeing at least £40,000 income on there.

VINCE MCBEAN TELLS BBC: THE ULTRAS ARE THE HEART AND SOUL OF CLAPTON

The BBC have published a bizarre video about Ultras culture – filmed in an empty and silent Old Spotted Dog.

In the BBC3 mini-documentary, disillusioned West Ham supporter Justin goes to Italy and falls in love with the noise and colour generated by Ultras groups.

He then discusses English non-league Ultras culture and visits the Old Spotted Dog to interview Vince McBean – interestingly described as Clapton FC chairman *.

Mr McBean, standing on the empty terrace, says: “This is the famous Scaffold.”

When asked about the Ultras, Mr McBean replied: “They’re the heart and soul of the club, Those guys are the ones who make the club.”

It is interesting that he has gone on record to praise the Ultras at this stage. However, his words are at odds with his actions, such as…

  • Decrying those fans in many articles on the club website and in High Court documents
  • Sacking the club’s legendary captain, Jerry Jairette, shortly after his testimonial, for being too close to those fans
  • Submitting dossiers on fans to away clubs in a bid to get them banned (it worked with two clubs)
  • Publicly attacking Proudly East London, a community football tournament run by the Clapton Ultras that is avowedly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic and very inclusive
  • Accusing the fans of being racist after they challenged his attempts to liquidate the ground with claims it owed him £164,123.

Justin and his film crew then stay for a game, where he talks about Ultras culture thriving at Clapton FC… despite there being no one in the ground and taking place in total silence.

For the avoidance of doubt…

  • The social media video clips used in the BBC3 documentary are all at least three years old but are spliced within the interview with Mr McBean so that it looks current
  • In fact, last summer the Clapton Ultras disbanded after six glorious years, 2012-2018.
  • This came after a long boycott of home games by the Ultras, and all other fan groups, due entirely to Mr McBean’s actions.
  • That means there have been no Ultras at a Clapton home game since April 22, 2017, almost two years ago
  • Average attendances at Clapton FC games this season are at 43, so not only are there no Ultras, there is no one else there beyond officials, players’ relatives, away fans and an occasional groundhopper
  • Members-run Clapton Community FC was launched in response to the intolerable actions of Mr McBean
  • For a BBC documentary crew to not know any of the above, when it is readily available on Google, is astonishing.

In short, the BBC managed to film a documentary about UK Ultras culture based around an interview with the one man in this country who has done most to destroy that.

We have contacted the film-makers in a bid to get some answers.

Watch the video in full here… https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/clip/f41124ba-6b55-401d-a976-be92114e6cdd

* Regular readers will know that Clapton FC’s chairman, Mark North, quit in November and a replacement has yet to be publicly announced.

 

 

CLAPTON FC LOSE THEIR CHAIRMAN AFTER JUST FOUR MONTHS

Clapton FC chairman Mark North has quit the club after little more than 100 days into the role.

We exclusively revealed North had joined on July 8th with the club announcing it themselves five days later.

On November 20th, however, North tweeted he had left the club and in fact was “officially retiring from football with immediate effect.”

On taking over from a very hands-off predecessor John Murray-Smith, North had told disaffected supporters that he would address the issue of the club’s closed membership issue as ‘one of his first tasks.

Clapton FC is supposed to be a members club, by its official, legal constitution, but it has long been closed for new members. That had caused friction between fans and club owner Vince McBean for years, a rift that came to a head when he tried liquidating the charity that runs the Old Spotted Dog ground, claiming he was owed a six-figure sum.

Unfortunately, we are not aware of any progress being made in regards to reopening the membership of the club.

North had indicated that social media would also be a priority, having previously built up 40,000 followers across all channels for United London, a now defunct club he had previously run where fans could choose the team.

Indeed there was a little flurry of online activity, with 8 articles published on the club website in July, an ‘official supporters website’ established and a new Instagram page. Some clips were uploaded to YouTube followed by a vow that games would be filmed.

However, things ground to a halt with the last article on the ‘supporters club’ website appearing on July 19th, the latest YouTube clip on October 2nd and Instagram on October 16th.

Nearly two months on from North’s tweet announcing his departure and there has been no mention of his departure nor word of any replacement on the club website. Curiously, he is still listed as chairman.

We offered North the chance to give a longer statement marking his departure, and he replied…

“I would officially like to thank Vincent, Shirley, Jonny and the players for their welcome and support during my brief spell with the club.

“I can only be impressed with the level of effort and commitment that goes on behind the scenes but sadly, my new job is taking up much more time that I envisaged.

“The club has a long proud history and I believe that it deserves someone who can devote more time to help the club move forward for the local community.

“As a committed family man, any spare time I have will now be spent enjoying watching my young son begin his journey in the sport we all love. I wish the team and the club all the very best for the future”.

We also contacted the club with a similar offer, though readers will be aware that Mr McBean has a policy of not giving any comment or even replying to us.

However, it doesn’t mean they don’t read our emails. Within 23 minutes of us hitting the ‘send’ button, the club tweeted this:

The Essex Senior League website still lists North as chairman and a spokesperson said they were “unaware of any internal changes at the club.”

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.