In 2013, the three life members of the original Clapton FC re-established what we consider the ‘real’ club, which has an executive committee and a membership of over 150. Our aim is to transform the existing club into one that is democratically controlled by its members, with everyone having equal voting rights and contributing an equal share to the capital of the club.
At the moment, however, Clapton supporters are unable to participate with the club’s current regime, as membership was suspended for ‘restructuring’ back in 2013. There is also a complete lack of transparency or accountability about finances or decision-making, which was the trigger for the fans’ boycott of home games over ticket price hikes at the end of 2016.
We want to create a club where members are able to actively participate in setting policies and making decisions. However, we believe there is little realistic prospect of achieving this unless supporters take over the club.
For the last 18 months, we have explored the possibility of taking legal action, which is complex and expensive. We need to raise £10,000 to ensure this legal battle succeeds: but we also need to start planning and preparing for running the club when we win.
By the end of 2017 fans will run Clapton FC. We need the help every supporter to make sure this happens.
There are currently two battles that the current regime faces – one over control of the Old Spotted Dog Ground and another over control of the club.
Serious allegations of mismanagement of the Newham Community Leisure Trust (NCLT), which holds the lease to the ground, are currently under investigation by the Charity Commission. The self-styled ‘Chief Executive’ of the current regime is also an NCLT trustee but faces suspension and the possibility of disqualification.
If this happens, the Commission may insist on new trustees who are likely to demand payment of any unpaid rent and an end to activities that breach the terms of the lease. This could happen as soon as May 2017 and in the worst case, it might make it difficult for Clapton FC to return at the Old Spotted Dog next season if it is still under the control of the old regime.
This will not automatically guarantee fans take over the club: even with the threat of losing its ground, the existing ‘owners’ are still recognised by the Essex Senior League. New trustees at NCLT will help confirm more about the ‘unincorporated association’ that supposedly controls the club (according to the most recent programme), but we will still need a formal legal challenge against its refusal to allow anyone to join, participate or make decisions.
We plan to launch legal action by June 2017 if we raise enough funds.