|Hendon Football Club Supporters Trust|
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On Wednesday 6 August, the Board of the Hendon Football Club Supporters Trust (the Trust) held a special general meeting (SGM) at Hendon Football Club's Claremont Road ground. Trust members were asked to approve a proposal that the Trust should reach an agreement in principle with Hendon Football Club's (the Club) current owners, the Arbiter Group, to take ownership of the Club by 31st October 2008. All Trust members in attendance voted to approve the proposal and a letter setting out the agreement in principle has now been signed by both parties.
There are many details to be agreed but the two parties will now work together to execute a formal Agreement and to obtain the approval of the relevant authorities. In the meantime, the two parties will work together to ensure stability in the run-up to the coming season.
In addition, Trust members were advised that steps have now been taken to secure the permission of the relevant football authorities for the Club to enter into a groundsharing agreement with Wembley Football Club. All parties are working towards securing agreement in time for the Club to play at Wembley Football Club's Vale Farm ground. This agreement will be effected as soon as possible.
Simon Lawrence, Chairman of the Trust, said:
"The first key step towards Trust ownership was taken back in March 2006 when the Trust was formed. The agreement in principle to take ownership of the Club represents the second key step in the process and moves us closer to our goal of ensuring the long-term survival of the Club.
"While it is desperately disappointing to have to leave Claremont Road, we have been aware for some time that our time there will come to a close at some point and we have been in discussions with Wembley Football Club for quite a while.
"We are nervous about the challenges ahead but excited at the prospect of securing our great club's long-term future."
For more information, please contact Simon Lawrence on 07976-907486 or email him at email@example.com.
About Hendon Football Club:
Hendon Football Club was founded in 1908 and is, thus, in the process of celebrating its centenary. The Club plays in the Premier Division of the Ryman Football League.
Further details relating to the Club's history, honours and records, playing record and management and playing staff can be found at www.hendonfc.net.
About Hendon Football Club Supporters Trust:
Hendon Football Club Supporters Trust was formed in 2006 as supporters became aware of the increasingly precarious position of the Club. The Trust's mandate is "to do everything within its power to ensure the continuation of Hendon Football Club playing at the highest level of football consistent with its financial position".
Supporters of HENDON FOOTBALL CLUB, their club's future in grave doubt, are to form a Supporters Trust with a view to keeping the club alive.
A meeting was held at Claremont Road on Saturday afternoon, attended by more than 70 supporters, at which the club's parlous position was spelled out. Chairing the meeting was long-time supporter Simon Lawrence, one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Trust, and the current position was spelled out by Dave Bedford, Hendon FC's vice-chairman. Mr Bedford explained that the current situation is Claremont Road, Hendon's home ground since 1928, is unlikely to be available after the 2005-06 season. In addition, the Arbiter Group Ltd, who have owned the club since August 1994, have made it clear they wish to divest themselves of the football club at the end of the current season, which is Spring 2006.
Former Hendon FC chairman Ivor Arbiter, who died in July 2005, put in hand plans to move the club from the increasingly decrepit Claremont Road ground. The land where the stadium, clubhouse and banqueting suites stand was put on the market, to be sold for housing, while the plans were for Hendon FC to move to Barnet-Copthall Athletics Stadium. The move, however, stalled for a number of reasons, the most compelling of which was a deed of covenant preventing the land from being used for anything other than football. The validity of the covenant - regarding its relevance in the modern era - has been challenged by the Council and the matter is in the hands of the Lands Registry Commission, who will make the final decision on whether the covenant can be lifted. However, the cost of a move to Barnet-Copthall was significantly under-estimated when the move was planned and instead of £300,000, as originally thought, the figure is likely to exceed half a million, or approaching double.
Without any other backing, the club would not be able to afford such a move and plans had to be made for an alternative approach. With the prospect of the club losing both its owners and its ground, Hendon FC has to undertake a major restructuring. Four options were available: 1. Copthall: This was not only the most expensive, it was effectively not viable and Mr Bedford admitted that this was no longer possible. 2. Folding: This would bring to an immediate end to 98 years of football and is still a possibility. 3. Merger: This would be with another local club, but the reality is that Hendon FC would probably lose its identity. 4. Ground share: The club would enter into an arrangement with another local team, most probably Wingate & Finchley, a club of nearly similar status, situated just a couple of miles north of the present ground.
Mr Bedford went on to explain the costs of running a club at the present level. Ryman League Premier Division is Level Three of the Non-League Football Pyramid (Wingate & Finchley play at Level Four - other local clubs, such as Kingsbury Town, Edgware Town and Wembley all play at Level Five) and to run Hendon FC in 2005-06 will cost £240,000, of which wages for all the staff - playing, management and administration - is £120,000. The club's present income is just £30,000, excluding any monies paid by the owners, with £13,700 being generated by gate revenue. Clearly this financial situation is untenable and a remedy has to be found. Not paying the players would result in a saving of maybe £40-50,000, but would almost certainly result in relegation.
If a single benefactor can be found who will be prepared to put in that sort of money, he/she would be welcomed with open arms. Similarly if a group of investors, maybe ten each willing to invest say £10,000, they too would be welcomed. However, the feeling is that neither scenario is likely. Mr Bedford expressed the opinion that options one, two and three were all to be avoided if at all possible and a ground-share arrangement entered into. However, the finances had to be in place for this to move forward.
Mr Lawrence then explained how a Supporters Trust works and gave examples of the way that other clubs' futures have been secured in this way. As well as an initial payment of a membership fee (£10 for adults, £5 for concessions), there would need to be regular donations made by supporters together with other fund-raising initiatives. The type of trust to be set up offers limited liability so members would not jeopardise their personal affairs in the event of insolvency. The trust would also represent a democratic ownership structure with each member 'owning' an equal share of the club. For the club to have a future, he felt it was vital that at least £25,000 had been raised by the beginning of June, with a target of £100,000 per annum in order to maintain the club's status for the season 2006-07 and beyond.
In directing the meeting towards a vote to mandate the formation of a supporters trust, Mr Lawrence stressed to the meeting that it was not his club, nor anyone else's, but everyone's club and it was the responsibility of all the supporters to come together to help the club go forward. He said, 'It's not your club or my club. It's OUR club.' The football club would be divested by the Arbiter Group, without debt, to a Supporters Trust, but they would, subject to the sale of the ground going through, make an ex gratia payment to the club of a sum, hoped to be in the region of £300,000. The payment, however, was not one that could be demanded by law and, as such, was a gift, in honour, as it were, of the late chairman. Both Mr Bedford and Mr Lawrence advised the meeting that negative feelings and comments towards the Arbiter Group would be both wrong and undeserved. They had stepped in to save the club in the summer of 1994 and, in the past dozen years, some of the club's most memorable moments have been enjoyed.
A number of questions were raised from the floor, many looking for alternatives to the ones put forward by Messrs Lawrence and Bedford, and the answers appeared to satisfy them. It was made very clear that the situation at Claremont Road was effectively irrevocable and something had to be done in the immediate future for the security of Hendon Football Club. Other points raised were that the current owners of the football club were working actively with the supporters trust working party and that there was no rivalry for control of the club. At the same time, it was made clear that the Supporters Trust would run in conjunction with Hendon FC Supporters Association, which has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the club over the years and whose work was invaluable. Mr Lawrence also informed the meeting that there were no positions already filled on any committee to run the club and that all appointments would be made at an Annual General Meeting to be held in the not too distant future.
When the vote to form a Supporters Trust was taken at the end of the meeting, there was not a single vote opposing the motion.
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Help save Hendon Football Club
The Claremont Road site where Hendon currently play is no longer financially viable for the club. The gate receipts do not even cover the costs of running the club and the stands, grounds and buildings are in need of urgent repairs. The footings in the main stand are rotting and are a fire hazard and the covered stand has already been condemned. The cost is upwards of £1 million. Arbiter Group do not have the funds to continue supporting the club or to carry out these repairs.
Our Football Club can only survive if we can sell the existing site to enable us to move to Copthall Stadium and reinvest in the future of the club. This move will enable us to invest in Copthall Stadium, which is also deteriorating, and secure the future of Shaftesbury Harriers. We have already spent £50,000 on the pitch. We will also be able to develop our mini soccer and youth teams, as well as grassroots football and athletics.
Without your support, Hendon Football Club will have to close. The proposals for the new care home for the elderly and residential units within the existing footprint at Claremont Road are going to the Planning Committee in October. Please help us by signing the online petition in support of the planning application (link below).
Thanks very much in advance for your support.