SHOCK AS ILFORD FC VOTED OUT OF ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE

The Essex Senior League is set to start with 20 clubs next season after promotion frontrunners Ilford were sensationally voted out.

We can reveal that 16 member clubs voted in a secret ballot at last night’s AGM to expel the Foxes, with just 6 backing them to stay in.

The Essex Senior League told community station East London Radio that the issue was “several missed overdue deadlines for League fees & fines”  – something that Ilford dispute.

They also claimed to have ‘bent over backwards to help Ilford’.

Ilford, Clapton’s historic rivals stretching back to the 19th century, vowed on Twitter last night they would fight against the decision.

However they tweeted they could not say more due to legal issues. They later added that it was ‘being dealt with right now.’

It’s unclear who will deal with their appeal and what the deadline will be.

Meanwhile the coaches and players are continuing to prepare for the new season.

Eton Manor had already decided to take a year out as ‘non-playing members’ of the league with a view to returning next season.

Meanwhile Clapton and Hackney Wick’s situation remains unresolved as both clubs are understood to have been given extra time to confirm where they will play next season.

Haringey & Waltham have also confusingly changed their name to Woodford Town 2017 – unconnected to the newly-reformed Woodford Town who are starting life again in the Spartan South Midlands League.

The current Ilford FC was founded in 1987 after its predecessor was one many clubs swallowed up into Dagenham & Redbridge.

However, the Ilford FC it carries on from were one of the giants of the non-league, founded in 1881 and winning the FA Amateur Cup twice and the Essex Senior Cup 13 times among many honours.

Clapton fans, and wider followers of non-league football, will sincerely hope the issue is resolved and Ilford can return.

The 20 teams set to play in the Essex Senior League are as follows…

Barkingside
Basildon United
Burnham Ramblers
Clapton
Enfield 1893
FC Romania
Great Wakering Rovers
Hackney Wick
Hullbridge Sports
Redbridge
Sawbridgeworth Town
Southend Manor
Stansted
Takeley
Tower Hamlets
Wadham Lodge
Waltham Forest
West Essex
Woodford Town 2017

CLAPTON GIVEN EXTRA TIME TO SORT WHERE TEAM WILL PLAY NEXT SEASON

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The Old Spotted Dog pitch pictured last week

Clapton appear to have been given extra time to confirm where they will play their home games next season.

 

The Essex Senior League and the FA had given the Tons a deadline of last night’s league AGM to prove they could continue as tenants of the Old Spotted Dog.

If not, they would need to arrange a groundshare somewhere else or even sit out the season as ‘non-playing members’ of the league.

However, sources at the AGM say the issue of where the Tons and fellow OSD tenants Hackney Wick FC will play was not discussed.

It’s understood both clubs paid their fees and will be included in the fixtures for the coming season on the assumption the ground issue will be sorted.

No one from Clapton has commented since but Hackney Wick this morning tweeted in response to a question about where they will play: “Will see when the season starts.”

All clubs usually have to confirm where they will play next season by the end of March.

However, a complication arose when Vince McBean, who is in charge of both the charitable company that holds the lease and separately Clapton FC, put the leaseholding company into voluntary liquidation.

That liquidation, which claimed the company had debts of £203,000 in the form of loans, is currently on hold. A High Court hearing will determine whether it can proceed, but no date has been fixed for this yet.

In the meantime, the liquidator controls the leaseholding company and only they can decide who can play at the Old Spotted Dog.

The ground issue will need to be sorted soon as the first of five friendlies – all at home – begin with captain Jerry Jariette’s testimonial on July 8th.

The draws for the FA Cup and FA Vase take place the day before, 11am on July 7th, and it’s unclear if the Tons and Hackney Wick will be included if the ground issue is not resolved by then.

The Essex Senior League season itself begins on July 29th though it is possible for clubs to be given away fixtures only for the first few weeks.

Last season Haringey & Waltham did not secure their ground, the Terence McMillan Stadium in Plaistow, until late September and hopped around playing one-off home games at several locations before then.

Clapton has played at London’s oldest senior football ground, the Old Spotted Dog in Forest Gate, since 1888.

Yesterday it was revealed that supporters had succeeded in getting it listed on Newham Council’s list of Assets of Community Value.

Under the Localism Act, the ACV gives The Dog an additional layer of protection in law and also means that the community would get first rights to buy, should the ground ever come up for sale.

CLAPTON FANS RESPOND WITH ACV TO HELP SAFEGUARD GROUND

Clapton fans have notched a major victory in the fight to save the Old Spotted Dog ground, having just secured ‘asset of community value’ status for the site following a six-month long process.
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Newham Council have today announced they have accepted the supporters’ bid to add London’s oldest senior football ground to the list of important local landmarks.
Under the Localism Act, the ACV gives The Dog an additional layer of protection in law and also means that the community would get first rights to buy, should the ground ever come up for sale.
Fresh fears were raised earlier this week over the future of the site, following concerns expressed by the Essex Senior League and the FA, over an attempt to liquidate the trust that runs the historic grounds.
An injunction won at the High Court back in March has put a stay on the liquidation process, a position hopefully strengthened by the award of an ACV.
Clapton FC adopted The Old Spotted Dog in 1888 following a relinquishment by St Barts hospital. The grounds had previously been used to stage test cricket before switching usage to football. 0a222a7369ab7526b040d40d24aff8ab
The old ground on Upton Lane has also previously welcomed heavyweights like Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax to Forest Gate and once saw West Ham United as regular visitors.
The OSD joins Queens Street Market and Christendom House as successful applicants for ACV status in Newham. The award, however, doesn’t guarantee Clapton FC will get future use of the land.

A spokesman for the council said the decision was made on 24th May but the decision was only announced on 22nd June.

Local residents in Waltham Forest successfully secured an ACV for the now derelict Leyton FC ground in 2016.

More than a year on, the pitch is still being used as a car park for a nearby function room.

Events at tonight’s Essex Senior League AGM could prove pivotal in determining whether The Old Spotted Dog will see any football in the near future.

CHIEF EXEC LIQUIDATION MOVE PUTS TONS’ SEASON IN PERIL

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The Old Spotted Dog is London’s oldest senior football ground

Well documented troubles behind the scenes at Clapton seem to have taken a dire turn this week, with the Essex Senior League and the FA demanding assurances from club Chief Executive, Vince McBean, over the immediate future of the club.

By taking the extraordinary decision to call in the liquidators for Clapton’s famous Old Spotted Dog ground in March of this year, for reasons as yet unclear, McBean has generated huge uncertainty over where (or if) Clapton will play for the coming 2017/18 season.

Now the Essex Senior League has called on the Chief Exec to clarify the status of the ground as a matter of urgency, with fixtures for the season due to be finalised following the League AGM this Thursday.

 

With liquidation initiated, Mr McBean must now secure permission from the liquidator to continue playing in Forest Gate or find an alternative venue to host Clapton home matches for the season.

With no club statement on the issue forthcoming, It is unclear whether either option is viable.

Hackney Wick – who have merged with London Bari and were also due to play at the Old Spotted Dog  next season – are also in the same position.

This uncertainty couldn’t have come at a worse time for Clapton, following the club’s most successful season in decades.

Clapton could even be forced to explore the same route taken by Eton Manor, by remaining in the ESL as a ‘non-playing member’ for the coming campaign.

Mr McBean took control at the Old Spotted Dog back in 2000 and presided over the club as it dropped out of the Isthmian League for the first time since the Tons were founder members back in 1905.

His previous club, Woodford Town, moved to groundshare at The Dog in 1999 following the demise of their own Snakes Lane ground.

 

SHOCK AS ONE OF LONDON’S OLDEST CLUBS QUITS ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE

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Alf Ramsey and the Eton Manor team in the 1950s

Eton Manor, one of London’s oldest clubs formed in 1901. have pulled out of the Essex Senior League.

The FA yesterday released the list of clubs set to start the 2017/18 campaign with The Braves noticeably absent.

Set up as a sports club for the poor and underprivileged youth of East London, they historically played at The Wilderness in Hackney Wick, on what is now the Olympic Stadium park.

In the 1950s they were coached by Alf Ramsey in his first managerial role on the rise to the England job and to World Cup glory in 1966.

The club have spent the last few decades ground sharing, kept alive by chairman Reg Curtis, but he has now been forced to step down.

It is claimed that Manor will be ‘non-playing members’ of the ESL next season, raising the slight prospect that they might return in 2018/19 season.

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The memorial to Eton Manor members who died in World War One

It means the ESL will only have 21 teams – meaning one team will have a free weekend each week.

Saffron Walden Town’s bid to switch from the Eastern Counties League was rejected.

Meanwhile the resurrected Woodford Town have been approved by the FA, but they have been allocated to the Spartan South Midlands League not the ESL as they’d hoped.

Finally, the merger between Hackney Wick and London Bari has been approved and the new club – named Hackney Wick – will be in the ESL next season.

The 21 teams in the ESL

EX CLAPTON BOSS MOVES ON IN BIG ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE MANAGEMENT RESHUFFLE

Mike Walther is moving on again

Former Clapton manager Mike Walther has left Stansted after less than a season with the Essex Senior League club.

Walther, who was the Airportmen’s number two, has departed alongside manager Mark Ashford after guiding the club to eighth place last season.

Ashford has completed his UEFA ‘A’ badge and is set to be looking for a challenge higher up the pyramid.

It is understood Walther, who left the Tons in September, may have an offer from a club above the ESL for next season.

Stansted have moved to bring in Hannakins Farm management duo Paul Pittuck and assistant Mark Healy.

They had led the Essex Olympian League side to promotion and narrowly missed out on the title last season.

Also giving a deserved chance to promising coaches from the Essex Olympian League, which sits below the ESL in the pyramid, are Basildon United.

The Bees have poached manager Marc Harrison and assistant Liam Wallace from their crosstown rivals Basildon Town after they achieved the league and cup double.

Meanwhile Tony Ievoli, who left Ryman North side Brentwood Town late last season, is back in the Essex Senior League, taking over at basement club Haringey & Waltham.

Ievoli will be looking to replicate the success he enjoyed at Wadham Lodge, where he took the unfancied E17 club to sixth spot in their first ever Essex Senior League campaign.

ANALYSED: THE RISE AND FALL AND RISE OF CLAPTON’S ATTENDANCES THIS SEASON

Clapton fans applaud Geoff Ocran and Jerry Jairette on the last day of the season, which saw a crowd of 684

The size of the Old Spotted Dog crowds continued to catch the eye in 2016-17 despite – or maybe even because of – the Clapton Ultras’ boycott which lasted almost a third of all home games.

In fact, the rise, fall, and rise again of the attendances provide an interesting subtext to a noteworthy season on the pitch for the Tons – and further consolidate the club’s position as one of the best supported at its level nationwide.

Clapton’s average home gate for 2016-17 was 276 in all competitions, with the league average 314, enough to rank in the top 10 for this level of football (Step 5) across the country.

This figure was dampened, though, by the seven-game streak during the winter when the home support’s walkout saw crowds drop to double digits – and included one game (the 1-1 draw with Takeley) where not a single paying supporter was declared.

This left Clapton with the remarkable record of registering both the highest and the (joint) lowest Essex Senior League (ESL) attendances of the season.

That high-point was the incredible 684 that watched the 7-0 demolition of Burnham Ramblers on the final day of Clapton’s season.

Empty Scaffold stand during the boycott

This, in turn, was just one more than the previous season’s best that attended the defeat to FC Romania in September.

Yet in between these twin peaks was the flatline brought about by the club’s unannounced price increase in mid-season.

Prior to the Sporting Bengal game, which saw adult and concessionary prices hiked by £1 out of the blue, the average attendance was 393.

For the following boycotted seven games (excluding the pay-what-you-like derby with Barking in January), which comprised 5 league games and 2 cup defeats, the total combined reported attendance was only 208 – an average of less than 30 per game.

Once the boycott was called off, though, crowds flocked back to the Scaffold, with the average gate for the remaining 6 home league games an even higher 403.

In fact, if the boycott games are removed from the equations, Clapton averaged 383 in the league in 2016/17 – enough to rank fourth highest in England’s Step 5, and higher than any other team outside the famously well-supported Northern League.

Clapton’s support continued to boost crowds on the road, as well, with 18 of their 21 ESL opponents’ highest gates coming when the Tons’ visited. These included 300+ gates at Barkingside and Tower Hamlets.

Season-by-season Clapton average attendances

2016/7 314 (383 for non-boycotted, 20 for boycotted)

2015/6 335

2014/5 183

2013/4 83

2012/3 43

2011/2 20