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.
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
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.
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.
England band filming
In June 2018, an advert of music video was filmed at the Old Spotted Dog with Ray Parlour, Paul Merson and the England Supporters’ Band.
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.
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.
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.