Football club CEO disqualified as trustee after decade-long investigation

12 Apr 2023 News

Old Spotted Dog ground (now under new ownership)

Clapton Community FC

An organisation that leased London’s oldest senior football ground has been removed from the register of charities after a decade-long investigation by the regulator.

The Charity Commission has disqualified Vincent McBean, who was a trustee of Newham Community Leisure Trust (NCLT) from January 2000 until October 2022, from holding any trusteeships for 12 years.

It concluded that there had been serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity over a sustained period of time in particular by McBean, who is also Clapton Football Club’s chief executive.

The Old Spotted Dog football ground in east London, which was the historic home of Clapton FC, was bought by Clapton Community FC in 2020 and is now operated by another charity called the Old Spotted Dog Ground Trust.

McBean told Civil Society he was unhappy with the inquiry process and outcome and was considering what further action to take.

Charity closed

The Commission opened its second statutory inquiry into the charity in 2013 after concerns were raised about its relationship with Clapton FC.

NCLT previously leased the Old Spotted Dog football ground and operated from there until it lost the leasehold in 2019.

The charity entered voluntary liquidation following a resolution to wind up passed by its members in March 2017, which became compulsory a year later after a court order to wind up the charity was issued.

NCLT was removed from the register of charities in February 2023 as it no longer operates.

Its main assets have already been acquired by a community group.

Inquiry findings

The Commission froze all the charity’s bank accounts during the investigation and transferred funds to the Insolvency Service in November 2021.

It concluded that the charity was poorly governed, poorly managed, and had poor financial management since it was reinstated as a registered company in 2009.

The regulator said the misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity eventually led to its winding up due to the long-term debts that the charity appears to have accrued.

It concluded that the trustees had not complied with or fulfilled their duties as trustees under charity law and failed to:

  • Ensure the charity carried out its purposes for the public benefit.
  • Comply with the charity’s governing document and the law, including failing to register the charity with the Commission and to file accurate accounting information on time.
  • Act only in the charity’s interest and ensure that conflicts of interest were identified, recorded and managed.
  • Manage the charity’s resources responsibly and ensure sufficient financial controls and procedures were in place to protect the charity’s property and assets.
  • Act with reasonable care and skill in the execution of their roles and to manage the charity’s resources responsibly solely in the best interests of the charity.
  • Ensure the charity was accountable and follow proper decision-making processes.

Amy Spiller, head of investigations at the Commission, said: “The trustees of Newham Community Leisure Trust allowed the charity to accumulate debts for activities which they could not evidence as being in the charity’s best interests, and which led to its financial collapse. 

“It is right that one of the trustees has been disqualified from acting as a charity trustee or senior manager for a period of 12 years for their part in the mismanagement of Newham Community Leisure Trust.”

McBean: ‘We haven’t seen the evidence’

McBean expressed dissatisfaction with the inquiry saying he was prevented from seeing evidence during the process.

“Somebody’s made an allegation and you can’t have the evidence until they’ve made a decision,” he said.

McBean said he was considering what further action to take.

“There’s lots of things we can do,” he said. “But I think some of the systems have got to be dismantled for anybody to have a fair trial in these sorts of incidences.”

Clapton FC now plays its home matches at the Terence McMillan Stadium 281 in Plaistow.

Meanwhile, Clapton Community FC women’s team is already playing at the Old Spotted Dog Ground, while the men’s team is due to make its debut there on 22 April against Kensington Dragons.

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