9th tier club Staines Town have chosen to release a remarkable yet miserable rambling statement with fans fearing for it’s future.
Three months ago, the club temporarily suspended all operations with immediate effect and at the time, found themselves bottom of the Isthmian League South Central Division.
They accused its landlords Downing LLP of “human rights abuses, child labour and murder,” amongst other things. See that statement HERE.
Staines have been involved in a protracted and bitter dispute over the club’s land since 2018 with a London-based Investment firm Downing LLP, the club’s current ownership has actively defended the club’s position using its financial resources.
In December 2020 the club’s ownership group launched a multimillion-pound bid to buy out the investment firm, believed to be in the region of £2.5m. In March 2022, Staines said it has suspended its operations due to a dispute with its landlord.
The club made several accusation against the Investment Firm including breaches of the modern slavery act which were denied by the firm, the club suspending all primary operations as a result.
CLUB’S LATEST STATEMENT:
Further to the Staines Town Football Club (STFC) statement that was made towards the end of March 2022 in regard of Downing LLP, the UK based investment fund that controls and funds the operation of STFC’s landlord, The Thames Club, STFC have had to make several difficult decisions in regard of the overall situation and future of the club.
As many of you will be aware, the club’s statement back in March 2022, attracted widespread attention from the world’s media and STFC received overwhelming global support for the strong stance that it took, from people and official bodies from as far afield as a classroom full of schoolkids in Botswana to the residents of a care home in Maentwrog.
You will remember that we regretfully had to announce that further to third party breaches of The Modern Slavery Act 2015, the club was forced to suspend all fixtures at its home stadium at Wheatsheaf Park and had to finish the balance of matches elsewhere, thanks to the goodwill of neighbouring clubs.
Our actions, as a full member of The English Football Association (The FA), were compliant and fully concurred with The FA’s statement on Slavery and Human Trafficking which adhered to The Modern Slavery Act 2015 and one which had been adopted by all other National Football Association’s within the United Kingdom, as well as its major member clubs.
STFC had been provided with vast amounts of evidence, that Downing LLP, were involved through some of its holdings, in the financing of Environmental Crimes, Price Fixing, Deforestation, Forced Evictions, Human Rights Abuses, Child Labour, Slavery, Gender Discrimination and Murder.
Further to that abhorrence, STFC had also been made aware, again via substantive and vast evidence, that Downing LLP were involved through its other holdings, in the financing of large scale bribery and corruption, namely in the funding of a Swiss Bank with International operations, that had been found guilty in the United States Federal Court of Law of conspiring to launder over $36 million USD in bribes to officials within the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and other football federations. These bribes were in furtherance of a scheme in which sports marketing companies bribed football officials in exchange for broadcasting rights to football matches.
Following our actions and the serious red flags that we had raised in regard to Downing LLP, STFC asked several bodies of significant influence including The FA, The Isthmian League and Spelthorne Borough Council for their support, advice and instruction. Despite numerous amounts of communication from us to all of these bodies in relation to this extremely serious matter, not one of them has had the morality or decency to offer STFC the courtesy of a proper reply. They have, it would appear, hidden once more behind their keyboards and decided to take the easy route out, which is to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that none of the abhorrent crimes we have highlighted, have actually happened, nor do they actually matter.
For the record, various members of The UK Government along with Member of Parliament for Staines-Upon-Thames and Secretary of State for Business, Mr Kwasi Kwarteng, have also flagrantly ignored these matters. Although Mr Kwarteng, says he represents the interests of all of his constituents, nothing he has done in regard of STFC’s sufferance at the outrageous hands of Downing LLP, has shown us anything of the sort. In short, Mr Kwarteng, as the clubs MP, has sat idle. We note that this avoidance of STFC and the incredibly serious matters we have brought to his attention, have not prevented Mr Kwarteng from attending several business meetings and functions at The Thames Club during our tenure, many of which were attended by senior management of Downing LLP’s funded entity.
The FA in particular, as the ruling body of English Football, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves given that for many years their organisation has purported that it ,‘Stands alongside clubs and all those who have come together to reject racism and to show support for the message. We’ll continue to stand firm against all types of discrimination.’ Maybe STFC have missed something as a club but seeing as though The FA have done absolutely nothing in regard of the serious situation that STFC has found itself in, their words are extremely hollow and appear to be nothing more than their latest attempt at virtue signalling. Given the complete gravity of the situation that the FA have wilfully and blatantly ignored, it is apparent that that the old school tie network is still well and truly alive and kicking in many of the UK’s corridors of power.
For the record, for Downing LLP’s part, despite their risible statements that were solely intended to deflect culpability away from themselves, they have never followed up on their continual and bullying threats of taking legal action against STFC for defamation and all else. Further to this, STFC officially informed Downing LLP and also placed on the public record, that STFC welcomed court action, so the world could see exactly where the truth lay regarding the damning statements that STFC had made about Downing LLP. Unsurprisingly, Downing LLP were once more found to be bluffing and their vacuous threats have long since evaporated, sadly, much like the lives of the many who have suffered via their continued funding.
Downing LLP remain as the funders and owners of STFC’s landlord, The Thames Club and as we had very clearly stated in March, that until absolute resolution was guaranteed in regard of the crimes being committed, STFC would not, and could not go back to Wheatsheaf Park to play beneath the bloodied shadow of the profits of slavery, child abuse and all else.
Unfortunately, nothing has happened since then to have changed the minds of the club’s ownership on this. There has not been any affirmative action or pressure from any government officials or football authorities against Downing LLP, nor has there even been an apology or an attempt at reparation from any of the guilty parties to a single one of their victims. This is completely disgraceful on all counts.
That being the case, with no home stadium to play matches in and hence, no incoming revenue whatsoever, the owners of STFC set about passing on the baton to other parties. Several members of the STFC Supporters Club had previously made suggestions of STFC being a fan owned club, so we made contact with them and offered them the chance to take over the running of the club. They were given a first and exclusive option to acquire the club based on two flexible structures including one in which it was confirmed to them that should they take over, the football club would be completely free and clear of any liabilities, outstanding debts or charges and they would have full and free use of all of the club’s inventory as well as other resources. Further to this, all outstanding Directors loans, amounting to several hundred thousand pounds that were made to the club in order to keep it running during the previous four years, would also be written off.
Unfortunately, the exclusivity period offered to them expired and despite meetings and correspondence between the ownership and STFC Supporters Club Members, the end result was that they were not willing to take on the responsibility of running or indeed operating the club under the auspices of a landlord such as The Thames Club. Prior to this, STFC Supporters Club Chairman John Blair had confirmed to us on behalf of their members,‘That in regard of the documents released about Downing LLP and its associated parties, that he understood why STFC chose to take the course of action it did’. We will always be grateful for John’s support and are sorry to see that he has now stepped down from his role at Wheatsheaf Park, which included amongst other things, the unenviable task of cleaning the away team’s toilets.
With The Supporters Club out of the running, we broadened our search for new owners and whilst several parties made enquiries, only a couple of them were what we considered to be viable options. One of these soon became the front runner and an agreement was reached with them subject to full due diligence being carried out. Indeed, matters had progressed to such an extent that we asked that both STFC Club Chairman, Kevin Rowell and its Club Secretary, Steve Parsons, be kept on in their respective roles as part of any agreement that was reached. Kevin Rowell was informed of this several weeks prior to his formal resignation from all duties at Wheatsheaf Park.
STFC gave full disclosure in regard of all relevant financial and legal matters regarding the club, and it was during the incoming new owners legal due diligence process, that an outstanding issue was highlighted. Namely that the parcel of land towards the car park end of the football pitch was being wrongfully occupied by STFC as part of its lease with its landlord, The Thames Club. The land does in fact rightfully belong to a nearby resident and that resident has now legally been given back their land.
This unfortunately means that there is no longer room for a full eleven a side sized football pitch at Wheatsheaf Park, namely that the penalty box now belongs to another party.
The Thames Club as Freeholder have also accepted this and in correspondence between Steve Lewis (Chairman of The Thames Club) and STFC, Mr Lewis has stated the following in relation to this parcel of land, ‘The issue is that STFC appears to be occupying land outside of the area set out in the lease (and indeed outside our own land). Some knowledge of the history, together with our initial view of the relevant plans, support this. We understand that STFC (well before your personal involvement and ours as freeholder) knowingly or unknowingly occupied the land in question, now belonging to a nearby resident, for its own purposes; purposes which presumably resulted in the position of the football pitch today’.
As owners of STFC, we can confirm that we only became aware of this matter sometime after taking majority control of STFC and that the club’s previous owner, Mr Matthew Boon, was fully aware of this matter but only informed us, as the incoming owners of STFC, subsequent to us taking control. In effect, a fact that was so fundamentally crucial to the running and future of the football club, was deliberately left out of the full legal disclosure we had asked for and expected prior to purchasing STFC.
It has been well documented and has attracted widespread criticism by many people over the years, as to why The Boon Family, as the previous owners/fiduciary agent of STFC, sold the clubs stadium and land. Whilst this was most likely hugely beneficial financially to somebody, these were actions that have demonstrably been to the complete and utter detriment of the football club in almost every facet ever since. This has been universally accepted within the local community, although whispered, and we will leave it to others to determine why Mr Boon fled and has never returned to the Club, nor responded to any of our correspondence in regard of any matters relating to the stadium or land at Wheatsheaf Park or anything else, including the receipt of chasers from business associates who his electrical services company, that is now in liquidation, allegedly owed money to. We doubt that even the starriest eyed of publicity hungry stargazers can shine a ray of light on what has taken place in this regard and in astrological terms, if the reclaimed penalty area at Wheatsheaf Park can now be used as a metaphor, then around the rings of Uranus, someone will definitely be taking another few inches in the box tonight.
So, the owners of STFC are now left with two thirds of a pitch and not one big enough to comply with FA rules. In light of this, we understand that there have been several ideas put forward to combat this shortfall including the setting up of a Middlesex over sixties walking football league, with the rationale being that the participants would not have to walk as far to attack each other’s goals.