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.”
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.
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.