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We call on Newham Council and the Charity Commission to thoroughly investigate the charity controlling the Old Spotted Dog Ground in Forest Gate and to ensure London's oldest senior football ground is restored as a resource for the benefit of the local community in Newham as soon as possible.
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Why is this important?
The Old Spotted Dog Ground, adjacent to the pub of the same name on Upton Lane in Forest Gate, has been home to Clapton Football Club since it played its first match there over 130 years ago in 1887.
From May 1993, the sports ground and its 99-year lease have been controlled by a charity, Newham Community Leisure (NCL). From 2003, however, it has repeatedly failed to file accounts and the ground was effectively run as a private business, in breach of the charity's aims and objectives.
A complaint was made to the Charity Commission as far back as 2013, but it has dragged on for years without resolution.
Finally, in 2017, the Charity Commission ordered the NCL trustees to a meeting to provide evidence of how they made decisions about contracts, the charity's relationship with its main tenant Clapton FC and to answer concerns about conflicts of interest. A first meeting was cancelled due to “illness”. On the eve of a second attempt to hold this meeting, NCL announced it was going into liquidation and so the interview was postponed.
Around the same time, it also emerged that a company with the same aims and objects as the charity had been quietly set up, presumably to take over after NCL had been wound up.
Supporters of Clapton FC obtained an injunction against the liquidation in April 2017. Legal action against a charity requires the permission of the Charity Commission and so in July, a judge asked for their authorisation. Inexplicably, this was not provided until February 2018.
The Charity Commission has also produced a report on the management of NCL, but despite repeated requests, it has still not published it.
Now a further attempt has been made again close down NCL. This leaves the ground vulnerable to having its assets sold off and full control of the lease to remain in the hands of the people who have mismanaged the ground for the last 15 years.
We say this historic and treasured local resource must return to the community – managed and cared for by a charity that is properly run by and genuinely seeks to benefit local residents.
We call on Newham Council to support us in securing the future of the Old Spotted Dog Ground – and for the Charity Commission to release its investigation report on NCL immediately.
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