BATTLE OVER LIQUIDATION OF NEWHAM COMMUNITY LEISURE LIMITED REACHES THE HIGH COURT

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The case of the liquidation of the Old Spotted Dog leaseholding charity/company is being heard at the Royal Courts of Justice

Last month we brought the worrying news that Newham Community Leisure Limited had applied for voluntary liquidation.

That is the charitable company which leases The Old Spotted Dog Ground from the brewery which owns the land, and allows Clapton FC to play there.

To recap: the trust appointed a liquidator, Stewart Bennett of Buckhurst Hill, on 1st March 2017 with the legal documents signed by Vincent McBean, who is also the Clapton FC chief executive, plus two other names.

The documents showed the trust owing £203,478 in long-term loans, £2,001 in accountancy fees, with the cost of liquidation estimated at £19,095.

Fans feared this liquidation would affect the club’s right to play at the Old Spotted Dog, its home since 1888, as well as that of fellow tenants London Bari.

All went quiet for a while… then on 12th April came a big update from the campaign group Real Clapton direct from Royal Courts of Justice in London – the proposed voluntary liquidation was put on hold by a judge following an urgent application for an injunction.

For the time being, this means liquidator Stewart Bennett is unable to proceed with the liquidation. This is a temporary situation with the case due to either transfer to the Chancery Division of the High Court in the next two weeks or the injunction will be extended.

The campaign group has now raised over £7,500 of a £10,000 target for its action fund, to pay legal fees in the short term and establish a fan-owned club in the long term.

So could this liquidation affect Clapton’s ability to play at the Old Spotted Dog next season?

After all, clubs need to demonstrate to the Essex Senior League they have a secure tenancy on a suitable ground in order to compete. That seems under doubt when the lease-holder is attempting to go into liquidation with debts of over £200,000, and there is no indication of how the owner of the ground will react.

The club itself says no, it’s business as usual. A statement on the official website on April 1st said the team “will be playing at the Old Spotted Dog Stadium., the same venue we will be playing matches at for seasons to come.”

Meanwhile correspondence from an Essex Senior League official to a Clapton fan, which CFC News has seen, has also dismissed supporters’ concerns as ‘rumour’.

We’ll have to wait for the conclusion of the court hearing to see if that is the case.

NEWHAM COMMUNITY LEISURE LIMITED FILES FOR VOLUNTARY LIQUIDATION

After reporting last month that Clapton Football Club 1878 Limited had failed to file its Confirmation Statement and was being threatened with being struck off, we can now reveal, in extremely worrying news for Clapton fans, that Newham Community Leisure Limited, the company and charity which holds the lease on The Old Spotted Dog Ground, has applied for voluntary liquidation.

In documents published by Companies House it is shown that the members of the trust entered voluntary liquidation and appointed a liquidator, Stewart Bennett, on 1st March 2017. The document is signed by Vincent McBean, Ransford Taylor and Trevor Gordon, who are listed as being the majority of the trustees of Newham Community Leisure Limited.

The documents also show that the trust owes £203,478 in ‘Long Term Loans’, as well as £2,001 in accountancy fees. The cost of liquidation until the payment of debts in full is estimated at £19,095.

At the moment it is unclear how this will affect Clapton FC. In the short-term it is understood that before the 31st March, the club have to provide the Essex Senior League and the FA with proof of their being able to play at the Old Spotted Dog for the entirety of next season. As the insolvency process can take some months, it is unknown how this could be provided. This may also affect London Bari FC who also play at the Dog.

The trust was set up in 1992 as Clapton Trust Limited before changing its name a year later to Newham Community Leisure Trust Limited. In January 1995, the then Directors of the trust negotiated a 99-year lease with the freeholder Grand Metropolitan Estates, securing the land for use as a sports ground.

It was struck off in 2003 after failing to file accounts, before being restored by Vince McBean in 2009. It appears from documents filed at this time that McBean attempted to transfer the lease from the trust, however it seems he was unable to do so. Since then the trust has regularly failed to file its Annual Return on time and has been threatened with being struck off twice. According to Companies House, the most recent Confirmation Statement (the newer form of the Annual Return) was due by 18th February 2017 and is currently overdue.

Clapton FC News understands that Real Clapton FC are in contact with the Charity Commission and the Liquidator in an attempt to safeguard the future of the ground. You can become a member of the club here and/or donate to their Supporters’ Action fund here.