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.

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.”

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.

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.”

 

CLAPTON YOUTH TEAMS QUIT AND MOVE TO HACKNEY WICK

Clapton’s under 18s in action in the Ingilby Cup semi-final, losing on penalties to Buckhurst Hill

Clapton is without any  youth system after both its current teams decided to quit the Old Spotted Dog after just one year.

Clapton U16 and U18 teams were resurrected last season, having been axed by chief executive Vince McBean the year before.

However, this time it’s the youth teams who have decided to depart, and will now play under the Hackney Wick FC name with games at Mabley Green in Hackney.

A statement from the coaches, to confirm the news, said: “With great regret the youth section will not be at Clapton next year and all our teams and officers will be leaving to another club.”

The coaches’ new set-up at Hackney Wick is being expanded and will feature boys’ U11s, U15s, U16s and U18s teams and a girls’ U17s team.

The statement added: “Speaking to the parents and most importantly the boys, who play and train week in, week out during the season, we all believe we should continue growing away from Clapton.”

In Clapton U18s’ only season they won one cup, reached another cup semi-final, and finished runners-up in the league, the Eastern Junior Alliance.

Some of the youth players stepped up to make their debut in the Tons’ first team. One of them, highly-rated full-back Max Henry, is believed to have been given the chance to join the first team squad.

Several of the Clapton youth team games attracted substantial crowds and the coaches added: “We would like to say thank you to the fans who were wonderful to us during matches, the boys loved it!  I don’t think the EJA has ever had that much fans at a league game.”

The ‘Clapton FC Youth’ Twitter account is already no more, having been renamed Hackney Wick Youth Academy today, but still features some highlights of the past season.

 

 

Over recent years Clapton has axed its reserve team, U18s, U17s, U16s, U15s, U14s and U13s, as well as its women’s football section, before the U18s and U16s’ brief revival.

The move means Clapton currently fields only a first team.

Clapton FC News would like to thank all the players who served the Tons so well last season. All the best for the future. 

We have approached the club for comment but they have a policy of refusing to speak to us.

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.”