Prior to our FA Cup match on Thursday, 19th August 2017, a number of individuals dropped leaflets through the letterboxes of the neighbouring houses around The Old Spotted Dog Stadium inviting local residents to join them outside the ground to boycott. Firstly, we would like to thank those of you who handed these leaflets to us so that we knew what was being said.
So why are the Clapton Ultras boycotting? They allege a number of reasons, but these reasons change depending on the audience – gross mismanagement, lack of transparency, wanting a fans-owned club, the ground is in danger and the latest being health and safety issues, just to name a few.
“Tons Make Clear” is here to provide the facts and to answer questions being raised as a result of the bad publicity being spread.
Who owns Clapton Football Club?
Clapton is a fully constituted members club and the members own Clapton FC. These members have been at the club for over 17 years now. We closed our membership a few years ago to reorganise and to bring in new investment. Our plan is to re-open the membership in the future and to create a vehicle where investment and development of the club is at the forefront. However, with the agenda that some fans have, this is making it quite difficult.
Who owns the ground?
Newham Community Leisure Limited (NCLL), a Registered Charity, is the owner of the ground.
Is the ground being sold?
Absolutely not! Contrary to what is being said, no one has ever made an attempt to sell the ground. There is no intention to sell the Old Spotted Dog Stadium. Apart from which, as the ground is owned by a charitable organisation, it cannot be sold without Charity Commission approval.
Why are you in conflict with certain fans?
I (Vincent McBean) have not intentionally created any conflict with fans or individuals. Individuals such as Andrew Barr who we do not know or knowingly had any conversations with, has made it his business to create/manufacture a significant amount of what you read on the net. He and others have informed people that we have mismanaged the club, are conducting fraudulent activities there, and that I have a criminal record. The fact is that, due to my position in other capacities, I have an enhanced DBS certificate, which may only be applied for if the applicant’s job role is specified in both the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exception) order 1975 and the Police Act 1997.
The Clapton Ultras have now joined forces with Andrew Barr and his group, The Real Clapton FC and collectively are continuing their campaign.
The actions and comments being put about are libellous, false, and amount to nothing more than hate crime. For example, in 2013, Andrew Barr informed the Charity Commission that I had a criminal record when he was fully aware that I did not. The fact is, over 35 years ago I was found guilty of a crime that I did not commit and this was subsequently proven. Suffice to say that my legal costs were paid and I received an apology. These facts are not being put out and on social media! Instead, Andrew Bar and his ‘joint enterprise’ group and other individuals have set about a character assassination of myself and continually tell everyone that I want to “Sell the ground”. No proof of this has been provided but many now believe it to be true.
Is Clapton Football Club in danger?
In danger of what? This is what’s being said to galvanise support.
Why is Newham Community Leisure Limited (NCLL) under investigation?
Andrew Barr wrote to the Charity Commission in 2013 informing them that we were using charitable assests for our own personal benefit. We then received a phone call from the Commission asking if we were still a registered charity. We replied that no we had been de-registered by the Commission 5 years previously. We were then asked whether we were still using the ground. We said yes and they then said that this was a charitable asset and that they must therefore investiage it. The Charity Commission then re-registered NCLL so that they could carry out their investigation. That is the only investigation that we have been under by the Charity Commission.
Why are the fans boycotting the ground?
We believe that the boycott is the tool being used to destabilise the club. There seems to be many and varied reasons for boycotting, including:
- They say they want a fans owned club
- The want to take back Clapton Football Club
- They say if they attend matches the proceeds will be used by me (Vince) to fight the case against them. The fact is they are asking for money so they can make a case against me.
- First they said we do not have public liability insurance and have told visiting clubs not to come to the Old Spotted Dog. Then they said we don’t have employer’s liability insurance. They have no evidence of this, but it’s a good story to paste over social media designed specifically to scare people from coming to the ground and from supporting the club.
- Bad administration of the club has been stated. Some of these same fans were at the club 20 plus years ago when the ground was condemned, and they left the club and now want to return after a lot of hard work has been done.
How much money does Clapton receive from the revenue of the ground?
Nothing. Income generated from the hiring of the ground goes to Newham Community Leisure Limited.
It has been stated that Vince McBean pockets £40,000 a year. Apart from the fact that no individual receives money, the figures being bandied around are just not correct.
Although in recent times the club has seen match attendance at almost 6,000 for the season, it has been assumed that all of these attendees pay the adult cost of £6.00 (and now £6.50). The reality is that less than half of the fans pay the adult price and between 10-15% come into matches free of charge. The only income Clapton receives is from the gate, the bar and from members’ donations.
In putting out figures of £40k across the net, no account of costs have been considered. Furthermore, there is a lot of additional expenditure that gets paid personally by Vince and other individuals. Prior to the increase in the fan base, which has only been in the last few years, virtually all of the costs associated with being part of the league have been covered by the members. Now that the fans have decided to stay away, these costs will continued to be covered as before.
So what has Andrew Barr and others done?
- Contacted the FA, counties, the league, Charity Commission, clubs within the league, visiting clubs from other leagues and more, with his poisonous statements and spin on events.
- We have have had over 12 investigations as a result of the same third party correspondence
- Prior to these boycotts, Andrew Barr has been informing fans not to use the bar and not to support the club.
- A letter was sent on 21st June asking the member clubs of the Essex Senior League to vote them into the league in the place of us Clapton Football Club on the back of all the statements that the authors had put on social media about the club not having tenure at the Old Spotted Dog.
- Making himself and others out to be the ‘Real Clapton football club’ and officers.
- Contacting sponsors resulting in sponsorship being pulled and then smearing the names of those that do support the players and club
- Using intimidating behaviour and comments to people who just want to watch football at Clapton, but are being stonewalled by those boycotting
- Letting off flares / pyros at matches knowing that the club will be sanctioned
- Flooding the internet and social media with negative and misleading comments
The above actions are just the tip of the iceberg!
Andrew Barr and others do not attend meetings of Clapton Football Club, yet they make statements as though they are facts. The fact is that a small group of individuals have taken a condemned ground out of this sanction and prevented Clapton Football Club from going under. We have carried out major repairs and have worked tirelessly, with relatively little money to bring the club to where it is today. This job is far from being finished, but the present climate created by others is preventing the kind of support we are seeking to take the club to the next level.
Two years ago we won our first cup in twenty three years, last year we came second in the league, and eight of our players from that side have gone on to higher league clubs. That is an effective working mechanism that enables young people to use football via Clapton to develop their football career pathway. We want and will build a successful community club here in Forest Gate, East London that is reflective of all the society. Clapton is seen as the club to go to for young fresh, talented players and we have a good U16 and U18 teams that we looking to develop to create our next batch of future stars from.
We are grateful that so many of you have assisted Clapton FC in achieving the changes that we have made, which could only have been possible with your help. We have a long way to go, but can you imagine what could be achieved if the energy and time being spent by others in such a negative way were channelled into working to make this club the best it could be?