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.”

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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.”

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.

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.