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.”

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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.

THREE SEASONS OF NATHAN COOK’S MAGIC COME TO AN END

Nathan Cook celebrating the Gordon Brasted cup win with a bottle of fizz

No doubt you’re aware there’s a fan-owned Clapton competing in the Middlesex County League with over 200 members already paid up. Find out more about Clapton CFC and become a member here

The departure of supporters to Clapton CFC, days after the youth team had left, perhaps overshadowed the news that the longest-serving player at the Essex Senior League Clapton team quit too.

Nathan Cook joined in the summer of 2015 and was part of both Mike Walther’s team that won the Gordon Brasted Trophy and Jon Fowell’s side that finished league runners-up.

He bagged 8 goals scored from midfield in 2015/6, went one better the next season, then finished an injury-hit 2017/8 with two goals in the final two games.

We caught up with the 28-year-old for an exit interview following his announcement on Twitter that he was moving on.

Asked about his early days at the Tons, Nathan, who had previously played for Portslade Athletic among other teams in his hometown Brighton, said: “My first ever game was a friendly for the reserves up in Chingford.

“Andre Thomas was managing and I remember doing pretty well so I was in the firsts for the pre-season friendlies.

“I couldn’t believe people were coming to watch these games and bringing banners even when they were miles away!

“My first league game was 2-1 loss to Basildon, poor game and I played terribly! I believe Tom Webb and Kristian Haighton were the two centre backs.”

A few weeks later though Nathan scored his first goals for the club in a marauding man-of-the-match performance away at Southend Manor.

That 5-1 win was immortalised in a memorable match report on the (much-missed) Red Menace website here.

When asked to select his best game over his three seasons, Nathan said: “My best performance personally was probably in the 2-1 win against FC Romania at Christmas 2016.

“I thought we did really well to win as they’re a very good team. I knew we’d have to really run to keep them out so I ran about like an idiot for the game! Jay Knight scored two on his debut I believe.

“My best goal was probably against Enfield at the end of the 2016/7 season. Great ball from Jerry and I managed to hook a volley (left foot if you’re asking) into the far corner.

“Modesty aside, it should’ve won goal of the season.”

And what about his favourite memories? “There’s a few good ones. Aside from the big wins (Newham 8-1, Enfield 6-2, Burnham 7-0), I remember the win against Barking 4-2 had a great atmosphere from the fans. That was a great game to play in.

“Also the 2-1 win in the semis to beat Wadham Lodge on the way to the cup win was huge. I remember the fans were louder than ever and we managed to win without really playing well.”

Tough question – what was the better achievement, the cup win that ended a LONG silverware drought, or the runners-up league campaign that followed?

Nathan said: “Coming second was a much better achievement, there were some very good players there that year. It was great to actually win something though…”

And what next? “I am going to keep playing for at least a bit more as long as I don’t get more injuries or anything.

“I had a great time at Clapton though, there’s really nothing like it.”

Since his departure, Nathan has been spotted playing for Isthmian League side Witham Town in a pre-season friendly. Wherever he ends up. we thank him for some amazing memories and hope our paths cross again once more.

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.

HOW VINCE McBEAN BOUGHT CLAPTON FC FOR JUST £4,800

The third instalment in the Vince McBean Files, a new series looking at Clapton FC chief executive’s track record working in football and charity sector.

How Mr McBean managed to get control of Clapton FC is particularly complicated and disputed.

Indeed, campaigners insist the transaction was never legal in the first place and this may still be challenged in the courts, 18 years on.

However, as much as we can surmise, here’s what we believe happened…

A company called Knights Securities Plc agreed a deal in November 1999 to pay £63.200 for Clapton FC.

Mr McBean represented the company in negotiations with the club, and had until recently been on its committee, but he had quietly stepped down, leaving his friends and former partners on the committee.

A cheque was issued for the sale, signed by Mr McBean, although it is point of dispute whether the payment actually went through.

Following this takeover by Mr McBean’s associates, the assets of the club were transferred to a new company, Clapton Members Club.

This proved to be a rather ironic company name since the previous life members, committee members and club members of Clapton FC were cast aside, and the club has remained closed to new members due to ‘restructuring’.

Seven months later, Mr McBean’s associates on Knights Securities committee pushed through one last deal, selling Clapton Members Club on to Mr McBean himself.

The price? Just £4,800! That’s around £7,600 at today’s prices.

That was Knights Securities Plc’s last act before it was struck off at Companies House in February 2001.

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.”

CHEQUERED HISTORY OF THE OLD SPOTTED DOG IN THE VINCE MCBEAN ERA

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.

Newham Recorder article on the attempt to move Clapton to the Terry Mac in 2000

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.”

Article from September 2001 on Clapton’s ongoing exile from the Old Spotted Dog

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.”

The letter to Mr V McBean, declining his offer to buy the freehold

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.”