BATTLE OVER ATTEMPED VOLUNTARY LIQUIDATION OF OLD SPOTTED DOG LEASEHOLDING COMPANY – THE LATEST

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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

In March we brought the worrying news that the charitable company Newham Community Leisure Limited, which holds the lease on the Old Spotted Dog, had applied for voluntary liquidation.

To recap:

  • Owner: The Old Spotted Dog ground is owned by Scottish & Newcastle Brewery
  • Leaseholder: NCL holds the long-term lease, which runs for another 75 years
  • Tenants: NCL then rents the ground to Clapton FC as well as London Bari
  • Vince McBean is involved with both the leaseholder NCL and tenants Clapton FC

On 1st March 2017, NCL appointed a liquidator, Stewart Bennett of Buckhurst Hill. The documents showed the trust owing £203,478 in long-term loans, £2,001 in accountancy fees, with the cost of voluntary liquidation estimated at £19,095.

Fans feared this voluntary liquidation would affect the club’s right to play at the Old Spotted Dog, its home since 1888, as well as London Bari (who next season will be known as Hackney Wick FC following a merger).

All went quiet for a while… then on 12th April 2017 came a big update from the campaign group Real Clapton FC direct from Royal Courts of Justice in London – the proposed voluntary liquidation was put on hold by a judge after an urgent application for an interim injunction.

application-pdf

The form filed for voluntary liquidation of Newham Community Leisure Limited

The liquidator, Mr Bennett, then had the opportunity to contest the injunction, but we are told he has since consented to it remaining in place until the main case is heard.

That means the next step is waiting for the court to fix a day when a judge will decide on whether the voluntary liquidation can proceed/

Real Clapton FC has now raised over £8,000 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 attempted voluntary liquidation of the leaseholder affect Clapton’s ability to play at the Old Spotted Dog next season?

All member clubs must shortly prove to the Essex Senior League – presumably at their AGM on 22nd June 2017 – that they have a secure tenancy on a suitable ground for the whole upcoming season.

That seems under doubt when the leaseholder 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 its website on 1st April 2017 insisted the Clapton team “will be playing at the Old Spotted Dog Stadium, the same venue we will be playing matches at for seasons to come.”

Meanwhile Essex Senior League officials have also dismissed supporters’ concerns over the consequences of liquidation as mere ‘rumours’.

That is surprising confidence since the leaseholder company is in the hands of a liquidator. The directors of the company no longer have a say in what might happen. Tenants Clapton FC and Hackney Wick don’t either.

If the liquidation goes through, any transfer of the lease to another company will have to have the approval of the Charity Commission. NCL and its directors are currently under investigation.

We’ll have to wait for the conclusion of the court hearing to see what happens next.

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HACKNEY WICK TO MERGE WITH LONDON BARI, GROUND SHARE WITH CLAPTON

Earlier this week we reported that Hackney Wick FC had announced they would be merging with an existing Essex Senior League team, however it seems the rumours of that team being Haringey & Waltham Development FC were incorrect.

Hackney Citizen have revealed that it will in fact be Clapton’s co-tenants at the Old Spotted Dog, London Bari FC.

Bobby Kasanga, The Wickers’ founder, is quoted in the article as saying that the merger would be a “mix of the two entities”, despite the team using the Hackney Wick name.

Apparently Bari’s existing manager, as well as some first team players and some of the committee will stay on at the rebranded club.

Bari have always struggled for crowds, averaging just 17 this season, so the new club will be hoping to see some improvement in that department.

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.