2017/8 – CLAPTON’S SEASON IN NUMBERS

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1 – Lanre Vigo kickstarts our article by holding one finger up. Pic: https://www.piispanenossi.com/

 

Congratulations to the Tons playing staff, and thanks to the long-suffering fans, for another historic season in very trying circumstances.

2 – clubs, Southend Manor and Met Police, which banned Clapton’s away supporters due to fear of ‘pyro’ being used, despite a vote from the Ultras not to use them, which was rigidly adhered to.

3 – FA Cup rounds played, the first time we’ve won two FA Cup ties in a season since 1995/6.

4 – clubs who posted their highest ever attendance in their history when hosting the Tons this season – Hackney Wick, London Lions, Tower Hamlets and Wadham Lodge. 21 clubs recorded their season best crowd with the Tons in town.

5 – fifth season in a row the Tons finished in the top half of the table, for the first time since 1926/7.

6– articles on the official Clapton FC website relating to the team during the entire season, the most recent being on October 14th. The website went four months without any news update at all.

8 – Winning streak of games in the league from Enfield at home on October 3rd to Barkingside away on November 10th. The longest running streak since 1982/3.

10 – seasons of service that Jerry Jairette gave the club before being sacked, in his testimonial year, after criticising opponents who had banned fans. The club collected 36 in 17 games while Jerry was still there , at 2.12 points per game, and 27 points in 23 games afterwards, at 1.17 points per game,

11 – goalkeepers used , including outfield players Jerry Jairette and Nick Loblack, and including 6 keepers in 3 games.

18 – attendance at Clapton’s lowest gate of the season, the home game against Hackney Wick FC. The reverse fixture pulled in 785.

21 – goals scored by winger Jeffrey Cobblah in his first season at the club. Other top scorers were midfielder Steven Sardinha on 13, winger Aundre Spencer on 7 and defender Dylan Ebengo, striker Hassan Nalbant and midfielder Jay Morris all on 4,

53 – Average attendance at Clapton home league games this season, down from 388 for non-boycotted games the previous season.

63 – points gained this season, down from 92 in 2016/7 and 67 in 2015/6, but still the third best total since 1982/3.

64 – players used during the season as manager Jonny Fowell struggled to find a settled line-up.

186 – average attendance at Clapton away games.

273 – days the fans boycotted home games – the whole season. From the opening game on July 29th, through 20 league games and 7 cup games, to the final game on April 28th.

460 – the record amount, in pounds, that Clapton fans raised for the annual Newham Recorder Christmas Toy Appeal

785 – the attendance at Clapton’s away game at Hackney Wick, the largest in the Essex Senior League since Jimmy Greaves played for Brentwood at Billericay Town in 1976.

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OLD SPOTTED DOG GROUND LIQUIDATION IN THE HIGH COURT – LATEST SITUATION

Clapton FC chief executive Vince McBean’s attempt to take sole control of the Old Spotted Dog stadium lease was back before a judge in the Royal Courts of Justice today and there are some encouraging signs for fans who oppose to it.

The 20-minute hearing in court 10 of the Rolls Building was merely about how the case will progress. A timetable was agreed by all parties – Judge Sally Barber, Mr McBean’s solicitor, and the solicitor acting for some other members of the lease-holding charity, Newham Community Leisure Ltd, who say they do not approve of the liquidation.

However, in what could be a significant blow to Mr McBean, the liquidator ST Bennett & Co, who did not attend, is now believed to accept that the liquidation cannot be pushed through before the current court case is heard.

Until recently the liquidator is understood to have argued that a recent compulsory winding-up order – filed by struck-off solicitor Antoinette Olivia Taylor on behalf of Taylor Bridge Legal Services for an unspecified amount owed for legal services from 2008 – superseded the members’ voluntary liquidation process, so he should be allowed to disburse the assets and shut down the charity. There are significant reservations about the provenance of this debt which CFC News intends to investigate.

If you are confused by all this – so are we. However, basically it means the attempt to force through the liquidation through the back door, via a winding order from a third party, looks to have stalled. The current legal action will have to run its course.

Mr McBean hopes to liquidate the lease-holding charity and, it is understood, transfer its assets to a new company, Veercourt CIC, of which he is the only director. Other members of the charity are attempting to block this. Mr McBean disputes that the other charity members were ever members, despite him personally appointing some of them, and others preceding his own appointment. The judge declined to go into the rights and wrongs of those arguments, that will be for another day.

The next case management hearing is scheduled sometime in late August with a full trial perhaps as far away as 2019.

Incidentally, Mr McBean’s new company Veercourt CIC, is already in danger of being struck off, being two months overdue in filing a confirmation statement. This document is merely an annual statement of basic details, such as who a company’s shareholders are and how much capital the company owns. It is a criminal offence to not file this document every year. Mr McBean, believed to be the only director, now risks prosecution and Veercourt CIC being struck off.

In the meantime, campaigners have renewed their appeal for those who care about London’s oldest senior football ground to sign the Save the Old Spotted Dog petition, calling on Newham Council and the Charity Commission to act.

You can also join the mailing list and follow the Twitter account.

WHO WILL BE IN THE NEW EASTERN SENIOR LEAGUE? THE CLUBS IN THE RUNNING FOR THE ESL2 DIVISION FOR ESSEX

UPDATED: 18/05/18 More details of the new Step 6 league for Essex have been revealed…

Here’s what we understand so far…

We have referred to the league as Essex Senior League Division Two in the past, but it will actually be called the Eastern Senior League.

The new Step 6 league is a collaboration between two existing Step 5 leagues – the ESL and the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League, which covers North Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. In fact we believe the league is going to be mainly run by the existing Eastern Counties League officials.

The Eastern Senior League will feature a north and south division, with the geographical split being roughly at Ipswich. So what we have been called ESL Division 2 before is really the Eastern Senior League South.

Over the coming years, any Essex-based clubs currently playing in the Thurlow Nunn League set-up will more than likely end up in the Essex Senior League or Eastern Senior League South.

For instance if a Thurlow Nunn club like Felixstowe & Walton or FC Clacton were promoted to the Isthmian League but later relegated again, they would be placed in the ESL not go back to the Thurlow Nunn. Likewise if they are relegated from the Thurlow Nunn, they would be relegated to the Eastern Counties League South.

In short, the Essex Senior League and Eastern Senior League South are going to be covering all of Essex, with Thurlow Nunn and Eastern Senior League North more of a East Anglia only set-up.

There will be 16 clubs in the Eastern Senior League North and South, which means that midweek league games won’t be needed unless there are lots of postponements.

So who will be in the Eastern Senior League South?

We still don’t know the full make-up of the league yet, but there’s been no shortage of clubs applying, from as low as Step 12, six divisions below, and some clubs that aren’t in the pyramid.

We’re going to go through all the clubs we think could be in the new Step 6 league.

 

Clubs promoted from lower leagues

These clubs applied for promotion to the new ESL South from the Essex Olympian League, and are not included in the EOFL leagues for next season, therefore are assumed to have been successful…

Benfleet – Essex Olympian League Div 2 (Step 9)
May & Baker – Essex Olympian League Premier (Step 7
Newbury Forest – Essex Olympian League Div 1 (Step 8)
White Ensign – Essex Olympian League Premier (Step 7)

These clubs are also believed to have been approved…

Coggleshall United – Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier (Step 7)
Felixstowe & Walton Reserves – Thurlow Nunn Reserve League (non-pyramid)
Harwich & Parkeston – Essex & Suffolk Border League (Step 7)

These club are believed to have been turned down…
Frenford – Essex Olympian League Premier (Step 7)
Laindon Orient – Southend Borough Combination (non-pyramid)
Rayleigh Town – Essex Olympian League Premier (Step 7)
Southend Sports – Essex Olympian League Div 4 (Step 11)

These club are believed to be possibles…
AEK London – Middlesex County League Div 1 (Step 8)
Brightlingsea Regent Reserves – Thurlow Nunn Reserve League (non-pyramid)
Fire United Christian – Middlesex County League Div 1 (Step 8)
Hashtag United–  YouTube club (non-pyramid)
Lopes Tavares London – Essex Alliance League Premier (Step 12)
Sporting Hackney – Middlesex County League Premier (Step 7)
Wormley Rovers – Herts Senior County League Premier (Step 7)

Most of the clubs should be self-explanatory but here’s a bit more information about the clubs without a place name in their title: AEK London are a club set up by Greek refugees from Turkey who play in Edmonton; Fire United Christian are a Brazilian church club who play at the Terence McMillan in Plaistow; Hashtag United are a team who play behind-closed-doors friendlies at New River Stadium in Haringey for a YouTube audience; Lopes Tavares London are a Brazilian club who play at West Ham Memorial Park in Plaistow.

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There could be some interesting stadiums in the new league – Harwich & Parkeston’s is a beauty as you can see from the Flickr gallery from when Clapton visited for a friendly in 2013.

Meanwhile Benfleet play at Conference South side Canvey Island’s home, Braintree Town Reserves at the Conference South club’s stadium, Holland FC at FC Clacton’s home, Laindon Orient at Bostik North side Bowers & Pitsea’s home, and Newbury Forest at Redbridge FC’s Oakside Stadium.

Clubs relegated from the Essex Senior League

At the start of the 2017/8 season, it was announced ‘up to 4 clubs’ would be relegated from the Essex Senior League. For most of the season, however, it was assumed it would 3 at the most, with Eton Manor, ‘non-playing members’ at the moment, expected to be automatically relegated.

However, in early May after the end of the season, the Essex Senior League announced that the bottom four had been relegated, subject to appeals. They are all expected to be placed in the Eastern Senior League.

Hackney Wick
Burnham Ramblers
Wadham Lodge
Stansted

Clubs in Eastern Counties League in the North Essex area

At least some of these seem highly to be in the new Eastern Senior League South…

AFC Sudbury Reserves
Braintree Town Reserves
Cornard United
Holland FC
Halstead Town
Little Oakley
Wivenhoe Town

So we think these 16 could be the line-up

Benfleet
Braintree Town Reserves
Burnham Ramblers
Coggleshall United
Felixstowe & Walton Reserves
Hackney Wick
Halstead Town
Harwich & Parkeston
Holland FC

Little Oakley
May & Baker

Newbury Forest
Stansted
Wadham Lodge
White Ensign
Wivenhoe Town

This would cover a large footprint from Little Oakley to the north, down to Benfleet at Canvey Island to the south. Journeys would be up to 120 mile round trips.

We’ll know the real line-up in the next few weeks.

FOUR ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE CLUBS RECORD HIGHEST ATTENDANCE EVER AS TONS COME TO OWN – ANALYSING FIGURES DURING CLAPTON FANS’ BOYCOTT

An empty Scaffold stand as Clapton take on local rivals Ilford during the fans’ boycott – a game that has attracted crowds over 750 in recent years

Anyone who has caught a glimpse of Clapton’s paltry home crowds this season due to the fans’ boycott might be wondering how the fanbase is holding up.

Quick reminder: the boycott was called by fans’ group Real Clapton, and backed by Clapton Ultras, at the start of the season chiefly due to the club chief executive attempting to liquidate the charity running the Old Spotted Dog, putting our 130-year-old home in peril.

Seven gruelling months later, the case still hasn’t been resolved, and therefore the boycott still stands.

But is the boycott holding firm or are attendances creeping up? Once people get out of the habit of going to home games, have they just drifted away from the club completely? We took a look at the stats.

Home games

At Old Spotted Dog games this season, boycotted by the Clapton Ultras and other fan groups, the average officially declared attendance is 45.

That figure almost entirely consists of away fans, officials, players’ friends and relatives as the Scaffold stand lies empty and forlorn week after week.

Even this low figure of 45 often appears exaggerated. Head counts of people inside the Old Spotted Dog is routinely much lower than the total declared by the club. (Clapton officials insist there is an automated counting device attached to the turnstiles and their figures are correct, despite head counts).

What’s more, analysing the stats week by week, there is no upward creep during the season. In fact one of the last home games, against fellow Old Spotted Dog tenants Hackney Wick, attracted just 18 people. The reverse fixture, not boycotted by Tons fans, saw 785 people turn up.

The average attendance at unboycotted games last season was 383, In other words, the boycott has led to an 88% drop in attendances – even if you take this seasons’s fishy figures as accurate.

Such a powerful fan protest is unprecedented in the British game. 25% of Liverpool’s crowd walked out last season in the 77th minute over prices, something heralded as perhaps the most impressive fans’ protest in recent years. For Clapton fans to sustain a near total boycott for nearly a full season is astonishing.

From boasting the biggest crowds in the ESL last season – nearly five times higher than the next highest club – Clapton are now in 10th spot.

Away games

It’s clear from the above figures that home attendances have shrunk by phenomenal levels, but how about away games? Have fans just stopped going to Clapton games completely, including away games?

The list of away attendances makes impressive reading…

  • Hackney Wick 785 – season best / best in history
  • Tower Hamlets 468 – season best / best in history
  • Basildon United 281 – season best
  • Barkingside 273 – season best
  • Wadham Lodge 248 – season best / best in history
  • FC Clacton (cup) 208 – season best
  • Waltham Forest 208 – season best
  • London Lions (cup) 197 – season best / best in history
  • Sporting Bengal 180 – season best
  • Redbridge 160 – season best
  • Enfield 146 – season best
  • Takeley (league) 145 – season best
  • Woodford Town (league) 133 – season best
  • Wadham Lodge (cup) 133 – season best (beaten by league game later)
  • Stansted 122 – season best
  • Takeley (cup) 114 – season best
  • Ilford 103 – season best
  • Hullbridge Sports 86 – season best
  • Woodford Town (cup) 73 – season best (beaten by league game later)
  • West Essex 70
  • FC Romania 68 – season best
  • Burnham Ramblers 65 – season best
  • Sawbridgeworth Town 38

That makes the average at Clapton away games a fairly substantial 187, though that fluctuates depending on whether it’s Saturday or midweek, whether it’s a London game or a far-flung area of Essex, and the accessibility of the ground by public transport.

It should be noted that we’ve not had a lot of Saturday away league games this season, which traditionally attract larger crowds than midweek matches.

The average attendance at Essex Senior League games not involving Clapton is 58. So it’s clear the Tons’ presence in the league is boosting attendances massively and giving clubs a much-needed payday.

Indeed several clubs will have enjoyed more than a third of their season’s total attendance in 1 game against Clapton than in their other 19 home games in the season.

There have also been three games where fans were banned, ostensibly over a fear of fines over historic use of ‘pyro’, despite fans’ assurances that none would be used.

Those games saw the following attendances…

  • Southend Manor 41, 45
  • Met Police 28 – season worst

An average of 35.

All three games have also featured large numbers of stewards employed to keep supporters out.

At a time when non-league clubs are desperate for funding, it’s crazy to see two spending good money keeping fans away, based on false or outdated information.

“GUARANTEE OF GOALS”: OUR ARTICLE FOR SAWBRIDGEWORTH TOWN PROGRAMME

The Sawbridgeworth Town programme featuring an article we wrote

We wrote this piece for Sawbridgeworth Town’s match day programme on March 17th 2018, which was postponed but then played on March 20th. The home side won 4-0 as Clapton played a team full of trialists.

Good afternoon all and a big thanks to Sawbridgeworth Town for the invitation to contribute to today’s programme.

I think all Clapton supporters would agree that the spirit of friendship and cooperation extended by the majority of Essex Senior League clubs has really helped put a positive shine on what has otherwise been a gruelling season.

As an awayday, Sawbridgeworth has always been a stand out fixture for us. It’s an easy train ride up from Stratford and must be unique in its pubs to per head of the population ratio.

It’s also the sort of place that if it wasn’t for following non-league (or for those with an interest in antiques), many of us East Londoners may never have discovered.

Our hosts today might not thank us for saying this, but even with its leafy location, Crofters End definitely has a feel reminiscent of our much missed Old Spotted Dog.

That’s not to say, however, that Clapton have found this to be a home away from home, with just one league victory here in the last 5 years.

The article in the programme

Although we’ve often struggled on trips to Hertfordshire, there hasn’t been much to choose between Clapton & Sawbo in terms of league position in recent seasons.

Both clubs have been mainstays in the top half of the table, with 34 goals traded between us since 2012 – 17 apiece!

From a supporters’ point of view, it’s the guarantee of goals in a hard fought fixture that gets the blood pumping on a Saturday.

With our boycott of home matches now in its seventh month, we’ve missed our usual weekends, which makes fixtures like these all the more special.

Clapton Ultras started in 2012 and joined with existing fan group at the time, the Friends of Clapton, in trying to raise the profile of the club.

We have had some fantastic highs over this period, as our attendances went from single figures to the high hundreds, although we find ourselves now at a difficult point.

Clapton aren’t alone in going through a tough time off the field, with a number of non-league clubs from London and the South East struggling through this season.

It’s the community around non-league, however, that has shone through and has demonstrated to everyone how important it is to support each other.

We all wish Sawbridgeworth Town a good game this afternoon and the best of luck for the rest of the season. Expecting another close one.

The inexperienced line-up that played in the game at Sawbo

CLAPTON GROUNDSHARERS HACKNEY WICK TO QUIT THE OLD SPOTTED DOG

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The Old Spotted Dog

Clapton’s ground share partners Hackney Wick have signalled their intent to move away from the Old Spotted Dog next season.

The club announced they are moving to the London Community Track Stadium, next to West Ham’s London Stadium, indicating it will be their home whatever league they are in next season.

The Wickers, who ‘merged’ with London Bari this season to move up to the Essex Senior League, are currently bottom of the table and heading for relegation to the new Step 6 League being set up for next season.

It is unclear who will be the second club to play at the athletics track, which was used as the marathon warm-up for the Olympics and has since been converted including a grass football pitch.

It is currently home to the Newham and Essex Beagles athletic club and, football wise on Saturdays. to Altis FC of the Amateur Football Combination.

However, CFC News understands that Sporting Hackney of the Middlesex League have also shown an interest in moving to the stadium.

It is not known if the ground meets current grading requirements for Step 5 or Step 6 football or if it needs work over the summer.

Sporting Hackney are one of two lower league clubs confirmed to have applied for promotion to the new Step 6 league for Essex, the other being Coggeshall United, a newly formed second team in the town, playing their first season in the Essex Border League.

It means little or nothing of Bari is left after the Hackney Wick merger, with name, management and players all gone and now vacating the Old Spotted Dog where they played since 2012.

So how will this move impact Clapton? At face value it will mean a loss of income of around £10,000 to £12,000 to the landlords, which we understand is the going rate for an ESL club groundshare agreement.

That’s where it gets confusing since the leaseholders Newham Leisure Trust. the charity which runs the Old Spotted Dog, is currently in the hands of a liquidator.

That came about because Clapton’s chief executive Vince McBean tried to put the charity (of which he was also an officer) in liquidation almost a year ago, a move blocked by fans group Real Clapton.

Confusing? Certainly. But even so, with few grounds available in East London after so many have been lost to property developers, it’s likely there will other clubs wanting to move in.

CFC News has heard whispers of at least two other clubs who would be interested in moving to the OSD.

Who they would pay rent to, or even if anyone at all will be able to play at the ground next season, will depend on what happens when the current liquidation case is finally heard in the High Court.

We contacted Clapton FC before publication to see if they wanted to comment.

CLAPTON’S SEASON ON THE PITCH SO FAR

Visiting Clapton fans at Waltham Forest, helping the home side to their highest attendance in decades

We wrote this piece on the season on the pitch so far for Waltham Forest’s brilliant match day programme on January 6th 2018. The home side won 1-0 in front of their biggest crowd in 20 years.

After finishing second last season, 2017/18 was never going to be easy for Clapton.

Missing out on promotion and without a budget, runners-up at Step 5 are always prone to seeing the talent move on.

Sure enough the Tons have had a rotating door with key players and staff moving up the leagues since the summer.

In their place we have a brand new coaching set-up, as well as countless cameos by loanees and trialists.

The squad has also endured a rotten run of serious injuries, and a goalkeeping crisis that you could describe as biblical (six goalkeepers in three games, anyone?)

And yet despite all this, the new-look team has continued to grind out results.

Having overcome some obstacles of our own, Clapton’s supporters have enjoyed some great young talent, a spot of cup heroics and a long winning run.

We have been treated to one of the league’s topscorers in the Sterling-esque Jeff Cobblah – whose 16 goals are more than any of our older fans can remember a Tons striker notching in an entire season.

And through it all, the team is still doggedly, amazingly in touch with the promotion race.

Of course, there has been plenty of drama off the field as well (just visit claptonfcnews.wordpress.com if you need more info).

But you might say that there’s been enough happening on the pitch for this preview to take a leaf out of other ESL commentators’ books/tweets/podcasts and quietly skirt around all that.

That, though, would be a disservice to one man who seems to have paid the price of a conflict not of his making.

Club captain Jerry Jairette is the only player at Clapton to pre-date the Ultras.

Or we should say he was; out of nowhere on 18 December, with Tons awaiting news of Jerry’s return from a nasty injury sustained when deputising in goal, he announced he was leaving the club after 11 and a half years.

He never made a secret of his love for the fans, and the feeling is definitely mutual.

Even throughout the tensions that flared up between the fans and the club in the last 12 months or so, Jerry managed to do right by both parties, giving his all for the shirt and the fans.

When Tons fans were controversially told not to attend two away games within a week, Jairette stood unequivocally by the supporters.

Ultimately this seems to be what led to one of the club’s most loyal servants being a put in a position where he has had to leave the club he loves.

And to be honest, we are all still a bit numb.

As sad as this outcome is, it is amazing it has taken this long for the noise off the field to affect the field of play.

Now all we can say for sure is that, players and fans alike, Clapton will still be adjusting to the post-Jerry era at Wadham Lodge today.

As the man himself says on Twitter, #wewinnsing2geva