As previously announced, Clapton Community FC completed the purchase of the warehouse, dressing rooms and land that adjoins the Old Spotted Dog Ground from the Insolvency Service on 23rd December 2022.
As part of the club’s commitment to financial transparency, this is an abridged summary of the purchase and the decisions made. A longer version has previously been distributed to club members…
The price paid is £250,000. The total cost, including professional fees and refurbishment, will come to £293,130.
The club financed the acquisition through a £100,000 loan from Co-operative and Community Finance; a £75,000 loan from the East Wick Fund and £75,000 from the club’s reserves.
The Reach Fund provided a £13,130 grant to assist with fees associated with the purchase.
The existing 10-year loan with Co-operative and Community Finance, to buy the main Old Spotted Dog Ground site, has been reprofiled for repayment over 25 years. This was done to ensure repayments for the total loans are manageable and do not stress the club’s cashflow.
The warehouse contains changing rooms, albeit in a poor condition. Once we have refurbished them and met all the FA and league requirements, however, the men’s first team will be able to start playing competitively at the Old Spotted Dog Ground.
Our women’s first team already play at the OSD thanks to permission from the London & South East Regional Women’s League to use the Stratford School changing rooms across the road.
The purchase reassembles the historic of the Old Spotted Dog footprint, pre-2000, that had included the ground and the warehouse.
The project we announced in December 2021 to build new changing rooms within the ground, for which we had obtained planning permission, is formally closed.
The rising costs of this new-build had simply become unaffordable in the cost of living . The purchase of the warehouse, containing changing rooms and much more, became a comparatively better deal and more practical.
Thank you to all who contributed to the crowdfunder – your donations have been put to good use in helping the club purchase the existing changing rooms.
The intervention and support of the local MP, Lyn Brown, was absolutely crucial in the outcome as was the support of Newham Council and the mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz in extending and renewing the Asset of Community Value footprint.
The purchase of the warehouse (and of the ground) represents a triumph for community action. Without the Clapton Community membership, this outcome would not have been possible.
Clapton Community FC purchased the Old Spotted Dog Ground freehold in June 2020, during the pandemic, from Stars & Bars, a property managing subsidiary of Heineken.
Star Pubs & Bars had repossessed the ground in August 2019 for non-payment of rent by the liquidator acting for an insolvent charity Newham Community Leisure (NCL) that had previously leased it.
This was a point of jubilation but also a point of lingering concern. The neighbouring warehouse was not included which mattered as it contained the changing rooms and was also a valuable community resource that would be lost forever.
From the latter half of 2020 our local MP, Lyn Brown took a keen interest in discussions.
By June 2022, after a series of meetings with the Insolvency Service and the Charity Commission facilitated by Lyn Brown, an offer was made to Clapton Community FC to purchase it.
Newham Council and the mayor Rokhsana Fiaz also decided to act by extending the Asset of Community Value (ACV) footprint to include the warehouse. An ACV gives the local community the chance to buy the site were it ever to be put up for sale, providing some protection from being sold for housing.
The Insolvency Service appointed an auctioneer to sell the warehouse. After a series of bids, our offer of £250,000 was accepted. It was made clear the cost would have been much higher were it not part of the footprint of the ACV designation.
Once the IS accepted our bid, we arranged for a property survey in July 2022 and then began to look for the funds to cover the costs.
We approached Kevin Lloyd-Evans at the Co-operative and Community Finance, as they had financed the purchase of the Old Spotted Dog Ground in 2020. They were once again incredibly helpful. In late August 2022, they offered two repayment loans totalling £100,000 over 25 years.
They put us in contact with Daniel Wilson-Dodd of Impact Alchemy, whose East Wick Growth Fund provides financial support to social enterprises based in working in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Newham. In September 2022, Impact Alchemy offered us a repayments loan of £75,000, again over 25 years.
This left a further £75,000 to find and it came from our Clapton Community FC reserves that our members had diligently put aside for a rainy (or in this case sunny) day. The reserves were accumulated from the extraordinary windfall of shirt sales -nearly 17,000 sold since 2018.
We applied to the Reach Fund for support and received a grant of £13,130 to cover our legal and professional fees.
Kevin at Co-operative and Community Finance also indicated they could reprofile our existing loan used to buy the OSD so its term aligned with the new loan. We acted on it because it would ease the pressure on the club’s cashflow and set repayment levels for the higher loan amount (for the Co-Op part of the loans) at roughly the same level as we were currently paying. We maintain the right to increase repayments when it is prudent.
While this financing stage ran comparatively smoothly, the following three months brought frustration as we negotiated legal obstacles. A major obstacle was a simple reassignment of a covenant with the freehold property owners of Upton Heights (the flats next door the ground). Eventually, this was resolved, but not before a very significant and frustrating delay. The completion of the sale finally took place on 23rd December 2022.
There were glimmers of bright shining light during the purchase process too. The valuation of the ground back in the summer showed that, thanks to all the work we have undertaken over the last two years, its value had increased dramatically from the £96,000 we paid to £250,000 currently. This means that coupled to the warehouse, Clapton Community FC now has assets of half a million pounds and, for the first time ever, the whole of the Old Spotted Dog Ground is owned outright by a football club.
What happens next?
Clapton Community FC members decided a while ago to appoint The Old Spotted Dog Ground Trust (OSDGT) to operate and manage the site. It is a charity that is committed to ensuring the assets are used for community and sporting use rather than solely the football club.
The first issue is that we are formally abandoning the new build changing rooms because the warehouse contains existing changing rooms. This decision was largely made for us because the cost of the new build had risen so much that it made financial sense to buy the warehouse. All the financial costs incurred and hours spent on the decision making and planning are sunk and non-recoverable. Consequently, we have also returned the Football Foundation Grant in support of the new build changing rooms. We have learned much from the experience.
Turning to the warehouse, the OSDGT is leading on the urgent refurbishment of the changing rooms, with a confirmed budget of £28,000 plus contingencies. Contractors to assess the repairs needed and to provide us with quotes – and obviously completion dates.
In the longer term, the OSDGT (as does Clapton Community FC) wants the remainder of the warehouse of over 2,000 sq. ft to be used as a sports and community space and for the club. The purchase provides a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate we can provide benefits not only to our members but the local community too (incidentally, it’s a commitment that is in our governing Rules).
However, after the refurbishment of the changing rooms, we can pause for a moment and define the steps that will transform the rest of the space. Before any further plans are drawn up, we want to conduct a proper community consultation. We also need to raise significant levels of new funds from grants and also use prudently the funds we will raise from the return of regular football matches at the Old Spotted Dog Ground.
Also importantly, we need to recognise that after the warehouse purchase the club now has no reserves but still has to make monthly loan repayments. This is a challenge, but we can find a way.
Clapton Community members have made this possible. We have shown practically that community action is effective. We should be proud of the achievements but also steel ourselves for the challenges ahead.
Cooperative and Community Finance (loan) £100,000.00
Impact Alchemy South (loan) £75,000.00
The Reach Fund- Social Investment Business (grant) £13,130.00
Investment from CCFC funds £75,000.00
Refurbishment funds held by the OSDGT £30,000.00
Purchase cost £250,000.00
Inspection and report fees by surveyor £1,500.00
Property survey £800.00
Impact Alchemy South loan arrangement fee £750.00
Cooperative and Community Finance appraisal fees £1,000.00
Auctioneer fees £6,250.00
Solicitors’ fees £2,467.00
Estimated refurbishment costs £28,000.00
Refurbishment contingencies £2,345.45
Sundry costs to date £17.55