Clapton Football Club Limited, the community benefit society behind Clapton Community Football Club, today became the proud new owners of the Old Spotted Dog ground.
Kevin Blowe from The Old Spotted Dog Trust said:
“For the first time ever, the oldest senior football ground in London is owned by a football club, and a member-run, non-profit, community-focused football club at that.
“Bringing Clapton’s spiritual home back into community use, after a season of boycotts of Clapton FC home games when it was placed into liquidation by the previous tenant, was absolutely central to the motivation for setting up Clapton CFC back in the summer of 2018.
“Finally having a ground of our own, owned by members, will offer long term stability for the club and also the chance to build lasting links with the local community.”
Clapton CFC was established in June 2018 by the life members and supporters of Clapton FC as a fan-owned, fan-operated community club. As a co-operative, each member of Clapton CFC has an equal vote in the direction the club takes.
Its men’s team play in the Middlesex County Football League Premier Division (tier 11) and the women’s team in the Greater London Women’s Football League Division One (tier 7). Attendances for both teams have been unprecedented for their levels, with a record attendance of 1,266 in May 2019.
In addition, the club has a women’s team in the midweek Super 5s League and a cricket team. It also offers two pay-what-you-can-afford weekly open training sessions, the ‘Young Tons’ for under 18s and another for women and non-binary people.
The club’s away shirt, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War, became a best-seller with over 15,000 shirts sold. It was inspired by the flag of the Spanish Republic and honoured the International Brigades, who travelled to Spain attempting to hold back the fascist tide of general Franco.
Located in Forest Gate, Old Spotted Dog is the oldest senior football ground in London and has been the spiritual home of Clapton supporters for over 130 years… but for the first time ever they now own it.
The previous owners, Star Pubs & Bars, had been looking for new tenants since last summer when it terminated the lease held by Newham Community Leisure Ltd due to non-payment of rent.
Clapton CFC were originally offered the lease in September 2019. A few months later, the plans changed and the club were given the chance to purchase the freehold outright instead.
In a vote of the club’s 1350 plus members, it was unanimously agreed to make an offer, which was accepted, and the process of changing the ownership has now finally been completed.
The famous old ground, which has played host to Dutch giants Ajax and 1966 World Cup winners, needs a lot of work to bring it back up to the required standard after a sustained period of neglect by the previous leaseholder.
It means both the men’s and women’s first teams will still need to play at their temporary home of Wadham Lodge Sports Ground in Walthamstow for the upcoming 2020/21 season.
However, the new Old Spotted Dog Ground board of directors, made up of Clapton CFC members and residents from the local area, are optimistic of raising the funds needed to restore the ground, and can bank on a sizeable number of Tons fans to volunteer.
Clapton CFC would like to hear from community organisations who would like to use the facility – email [email protected]
Photo: Max Crow Reeves