Wheatsheaf Park. Home of Staines Town FC. Pic: The Guardian
By Harry Mottram: The latest association football club to be wound up has seen their Surrey ground turned into a derelict waste ground and the home of rabbits, weeds and vandals. Staines Town FC was founded in 1892 and until as recently as four years ago was in good shape with crowds of several hundred to see action in the Combined Counties League Premier Division North.
This summer all that was suspended over a decline in how the club was run by its owners and a dispute with the landlords Downing LLP. After several years run by successfully by a local business man Alan Boon who sold the freehold to a Sheffield United PLS who in turn sold it on toe Downing LLP. The club itself was sold to U.S based Joe Dixon (chairman) and Paul Jaszynski (CEO).
Staines Town supporter Mark Sandell takes up the story: “The new era begins with an attempt to buy back the freehold but nothing comes of it. It doesn’t take long before rumours circulate that players and managers aren’t being paid. Fans who meet Dixon (who travels on the team coach) say he tells them that he can’t spend as he’s taking on the Thames Club.
“What makes this more puzzling is Dixon is seen at a press conference in Bulgaria heading an alleged 250 million pound takeover of Levski Sofia. Again, nothing comes of it. The fans start a “boost the budget” fund so that the players would get something for their efforts.
“At one match last season, away to Guernsey, the fans paid out of their own pockets so that the players could have a pre-match meal. Staines still lose 6-2.”
By now there is a clear dispute between the club’s owners and the landlords which descends into acrimony. By March of this year the club closed as debts mounted up and the team played their final fixtures at nearby clubs before being suspended by the league. Supporters decided to take the club into their own hands and have sought to phoenix the club at the ground of another club in the town. The jury is out on that one while in the meantime the landlords at Wheatsheaf Park have an opportunity to redevelop the ground.
Ian Carrotte of ICSM said it should never have been thus since until fairly recently the Chelsea Women’s Football Team played at the ground bringing in much needed revenue. He said running a football club needs specialist skills and that there are sharks out there who only see the ground as a potential development site.
Since the 1980s Newport County, Bury, Rushden & Diamonds, Chester, Wigan, Mansfield. Wimbledon, Maidstone, Aldershot, Middlesborough, Tannmere Rovers, Walsall, Northampton, Kettering, Maidstone, Hartlepool, Barnet, Exeter, Gillingham, Doncaster, Millwall, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Chester, Portsmouth, Hull, QPR, Halifax, Notts County, Barnsley, Leicester, Port Vale, Derby County, Wrexham, Cambridge United, Rotherham, Crawley, Leeds, Luton, Southampton, Stockport, Northwich Victoria, Salisbury, Plymouth argyle, Rhyle and Coventry City have all hit the buffers owing collectively millions to suppliers, landlords and the taxman. Some entered administration and found buyers almost straight away, others lost everything including their ground and have been reformed by the fans and others have been able to negotiate a CVA with creditors. In each case suppliers – from the local printers of the match programs to the caterers supplying burgers and chips – were left unpaid. And yet most have either managed to trade their way out of administration of in effect done a phoenix.
Ian Carrotte of ICSM gives this sage advice to potential suppliers: “If you decide to trade with a club then don’t go in too deep, stick to your payment terms of 30 days maximum and be prepared to suffer if they go bust. It’s best to be a supporter of the team as at least that way you could argue you have invested in the club and could solve your conscience that way if the worst happens. My advice is treat clubs like you would any other business – and don’t let them fob you off with late payments.”
For information on ICSM visit www.icsmcredit.com or call 0844 854 1850.
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For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk