Please read the full proposal below, and then vote via the link in your email. And if you have any further questions, or discussion matters, post them below
Matchday Centres (MDC), our present landlords, have formally offered Clapton CFC the lease of the stadium at Wadham Lodge from next (2019/20) season.
The proposal here, which is supported by the Matchday, Men’s First Team and Ground Maintenance committees, is that we accept this offer.
Without disclosing the exact sums involved for reasons of commercial sensitivity, the terms on offer, following some negotiation, are as follows:
- The whole package, once training pitch is included, is just £1,800 more than we would pay for the Stray Dog + training pitch next season.
- The offer includes negotiated reductions of:
- 36% off the standard hire for the stadium pitch on a 17-game package (which is the same contract we have this season)
- 18% off the standard rate for a half-pitch training package (upgraded at Men’s First Team’s request from this season’s quarter pitch) for the season.
- Scope for further reductions on small pitches for new activities, to be determined.
What does the stadium have that we don't already have?
To answer this we have to start with the assumption that we all share ambitions to see our club playing senior football - ie step 6 and higher.
The standard of our current facilities – specifically pitch dimensions, the lack of perimeter fencing, a proper turnstile and floodlights - is not good enough for senior football which means we would only be able to advance one more level in this ground.
In basic terms, the stadium has covered seating, toilets inside the ground, space for refreshments and other stalls inside the ground, plus greater security.
The stadium pitch has held up well this winter, and MDC have said they will be doing work on it this summer.
It is also worth adding that, should Clapton CFC climb just one more level, playing in the stadium could allow us to enter the FA Vase, something that would not apply if we continued to play at the Stray Dog.
Can't the required improvements be made to the Stray Dog?
Put simply, no. Matchday Centres looked into this before, but the size of the space and the proximity to houses, to name just two issues, mean it just isn't practical. For this reason the Stray Dog was only ever going to be a temporary measure.
Surely we can wait for another similar offer later on when we really need it?
This could be a very risky path.
It is true that we do not need improved facilities yet, even if we do get promoted this season. However, we will need a better ground if we ever want to move up more than one level – and it is very, very hard to come by grounds that do meet the criteria.
To give a frame of reference: when we were looking for a ground suitable for the kind of crowds we anticipated this season, we started by looking at proper football grounds. That meant almost every senior nonleague ground in north-east London. Not one had space for us. All already have the maximum two established clubs.
Take the Essex Senior League grounds for example.
Mile End Stadium has Tower Hamlets and Sporting Bengal. Cricklefields has Ilford and Barkingside. West Essex are lodging at Barking. The only exception was at Redbridge and even they share with Newbury Forest, a club that, while step 6, are nonetheless well established. None of those clubs are moving out any time soon. Plus the Terence MacMillan stadium in Newham is being bulldozed right now, creating two extra local clubs seeking a home.
Elsewhere we have Haringey Borough, Dagenham & Redbridge, Hornchurch, Romford and Aveley – all probably too far outside our catchment area, but all double-booked anyway.
It is also worth noting that there are currently two London ESL clubs (Enfield and Woodford) currently sharing Harlow Town’s 4G surface (the ESL has mysteriously waived the two-max rule for this season...). We can expect at least one of these to be in the market for a ground closer to their roots this summer.
Of course, this leaves two glaring omissions: the Old Spotted Dog is obviously out of the question at present(!). So that leaves Wadham Lodge.
And why is the stadium suddenly available?
It is currently home to two ESL clubs, but Matchday Centres have served notice to one of the clubs for next season. And as an existing customer, we have been given first refusal.
What's so great about Wadham Lodge?
Not only is this an unusual opportunity but arguably, given the relationship we have built with Matchday Centres (who have done all they can and more to meet our needs since we moved in) and the facilities that come with the pitch (proper changing rooms, training pitches and a decent bar and hall), aside from the Dog itself, there couldn't be a better home for us.
In short, this is an offer that has materialised earlier than perhaps we need it, but which we should take now that it has because another like it probably will not materialise any time soon. Plus as outlined above it won't cost us much more.
What about the money and effort we spent on the Stray Dog?
There's no easy reply to this. We have made the Stray Dog into something special in a very short time, and all involved can be rightly proud. Plus the pitch has held up really well.
Nevertheless it is a limited ground (see above), and as our friendly at Walthamstow FC (not to mention several Clapton FC away games there down the years) have shown we can make the tin sheds at the Lodge every bit as noisy and colourful. Plus with the new teams now being looked into by our Development Committee, who's to say we won't still have a stake in the Stray Dog?
With regards to the stand we built (and paid for), we have a few options. As per the original proposal by Ground Maintenance, the materials could be resold, recouping much (around £4k) of the outlay we made to build it; we also received enquires from other clubs about buying the stand.
Or we might want to look into keeping the materials for future use (at the Spotted Dog, even), or even leaving the stand in the Stray Dog - it does increase the value of the ground to MDC. This would be something we could consider separately to ensure the most prudent solution for the club.
What if we say no?
Between the exiled east London clubs and the new competition for senior grounds created by the new step 6 league, Wadham Lodge would be snapped up. And Clapton CFC’s advancement would probably depend completely on getting the keys to the Spotted Dog. Should that prove an even lengthier struggle than we expect, we could be stuck playing away games in playing fields with zero fan facilities in West London for the foreseeable future.
By accepting it we would at least have the insurance of having our progress in our own hands and at a stable, welcoming place to continue to grow our club unhindered.
The members are the Club, and the Old Spotted Dog is our true home. Until we get back to E7, we should consider every opportunity to allow the club to grow sustainably.
Members can vote on this proposal via the link in your email.