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.
- 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.
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.