Let's be quite clear I am not killing the club by moving it to Dartford, insists Thamesmead Town chairman Paul Bowden-Brown
THAMESMEAD TOWN chairman Paul Bowden-Brown insists he is not killing the club after announcing yesterday that he has agreed a five-year deal to play their home games in Dartford from next season.
The small Ryman League Division One North club have been forced to leave their Bayliss Avenue ground due to long-standing off-the-pitch politics and Mr Bowden-Brown has decided the club’s future will be better at Princes Park Stadium.
After receiving the official formal ratification of the groundshare agreement from the board of the Isthmian Football League, Mr Bowden-Brown said in a statement: “I would like to thank (Dartford joint-chairman) Steve Irving together with his fellow directors, for the way they have dealt with this long and time consuming process which has resulted in this formal agreement being agreed – one which I personally feel in the end, is well worth the effort.
“I would also like to thank Nick Robinson, the chairman of the Isthmian League, for his considerable personal input with this matter and ensuring that our legal position was protected.”
Explaining the reasons for the decision to move the club away from Bayliss Avenue, Mr Bowden-Brown said: “It is very unfortunate that Peabody were not able to offer the Football Club an agreed five year package when requested.
“Had they been in that position, the Football Club would not have contemplated a move, but Thamesmead Town Football Club is operated as a business and needs security of tenure at all times. Without that we cannot operate within the League rules and therefore for the financial stability and security of the club, I made the difficult decision to look elsewhere for the club to play its first team matches. And to this end, here we are playing at Princes Park – a genuine football stadium – from July 2017.
“There will be several individuals that will not agree with my decision to move the club and I have already heard comments that I am “killing the club” by moving. But let’s be quite clear – I feel in my opinion that the trouble started when this fine old club gave up its considerable security of tenure, as a condition of moving into the new stadium, without gaining from the then landlords (Thamesmead Trust) an agreed annual rate rather than short term licenses that were offered that were increased yearly.
“I would like to place on record my formal thanks to our current landlords – the Peabody Trust and their senior management – especially Dawn Young (head of operational services) and all her staff at the SCT (Sporting Club Thamesmead) – our home for the last four years.
“I am sure everyone that ALL who have visited SCT on a match day will confirm the warm welcome and generous hospitality that they always received and that was only achieved with the staff’s efforts and help!
“But because the club is an operating business, difficult decisions had to be made if it was to survive. The move to Princes Park will hopefully allow the board to bring the club into the 21st century and as the person with his hand on the heart of this fine old club, I feel that this decision will give the club a new lease of life.”
Club Secretary Dave Joy said he’s the club had to move away from its roots.
He said: “Sadly, the re location to Dartford Football Club has unfortunately become a necessity. It is a radical and some may say brave decision by him to take Thamesmead Town out of Thamesmead but it was felt that it was our only positive solution to ensure our future within the football pyramid.
“The agreement that the chairman has put in place with Dartford Football Club is as watertight as any club could expect. Everyone needs to support this move; I’m sure some parties will be critical but it has been done for totally the right reasons and hopefully, will build a strong platform for Thamesmead Town Football Club to remain in existence for many years to come.
First team manager Tommy Warrilow said: “For someone who has only been involved in the club for one season, I honestly think that this move is one hundred percent right for the future of the Football Club.
“I know that its taking it away from its spiritual home but ironically enough Dartford had to do exactly the same thing (albeit in different circumstances) but eventually went back to their home a much stronger club.
“This will be a new start for the club and is something that we have got to be excited about and embrace positively to help carry this club forward and up the non-league pyramid. I know that there’s a lot of sentiment involved around the club regarding this decision – and I do not want to disrespect anyone’s opinions or views but sometimes unfortunately you have to be a realist and in again the short time I’ve been at this football club this is one hundred percent the right decision to make sure that there is a Thamesmead Town Football Club.”
The chairman re-iterated his previously made commitment to the club’s current family season ticket holders that he will honour all renewals for next season at the club’s new home at Princes Park at prices frozen for a third season.
He also confirmed that he was finalizing an offer to Dartford Supporters who do not follow the Darts when they play away for whatever reason.
The scheme – to be called the “Thamesmead Darts Membership” – is intended to offer those non-travelling supporters reduced entry to The Mead’s home league games.
Mr Bowden-Brown said, “I am sure many of them know Tommy and the type of football his teams play, so I am sure they will join our own supporters to enjoy the experience!
“I am looking forward to the new season with the club playing at Princes Park and hope that the terms of this agreement will support fully our plans for next season on the field!”
Thamesmead Town host local rivals VCD Athletic in the Ryman League Division One North on Saturday. Vickers are managed by Keith McMahon, who worked tirelessly on and off the pitch during his time at Bayliss Avenue whilst manager of The Mead.
The Mead now have four games left at Bayliss Avenue and fans have already stated that they won’t be able to follow the club in Dartford.
Colin Mair said on his Twitter account that he will not be making the 17 mile round trip to home games next season.
“So it’s official then, Thamesmead Town to play at Dartford from next season, so only a few Mead games left for me.”
When Greenwich Borough clinched the Southern Counties East Football League title at Princes Park last April, only a crowd of 75 watched Gary Alexander’s side lift the silverware.
Dartford co-chairman Steve Irving told www.dartfordfc.com: “We are pleased to announce that after several months of discussions, the club has entered into an agreement for Thamesmead Town to play their games at Princes Park for the next five years.
“As well as assisting Thamesmead in re-locating from their previous home at Bayliss Avenue, it is hoped that the partnership will allow an opportunity for some of our younger players to get regular games in a really competitive environment and at their home ground.
“This will allow Tony (Burman) and his management team to keep a closer eye on our players of the future.
“As a club, we know all too well what it is like to have to share another club’s facilities. With your support, we hope to make Princes Park a genuine home from home and with incentives to be announced shortly by Thamesmead, allow Dartford fans, who don’t travel to away games, the opportunity of watching more games at Princes Park, plus being able to watch some of our young stars of the future on occasions.
“This arrangement is also an opportunity to improve the financial stability of the club, helping us to achieve our ultimate goal of becoming a stable and sustainable National League club.”
Welling Town, who are currently sitting in second-place in the Andreas Carter Joma Kent County League Division Three West, have acted swiftly to replace Thamesmead Town at Bayliss Avenue.
Welling Town chairman Kevin Oakes said: “Thamesmead left their ground very reluctantly, as the tenure of one-year was not enough for the Ryman League.
“I met Paul Bowden-Brown a few weeks ago and he was kind enough to introduce us to his contacts at Peabody. This created a vacancy for us to step into.
“If you could ensure that any publicity doesn’t make it sound like we forced anyone out (which frankly given the gulf in league’s should be obvious anyway) I’d very much appreciate it.”
Mr Oakes said that the club will stage Kent County League games at Bayliss Avenue next season – with the ultimate aim of grabbing promotion into the Southern Counties East Football League First Division (Step Six football).
“Welling Town are delighted to announce that from the start of the 2017-18 season we will be playing our home games in the Kent County League at Sporting Club Thamesmead,” the chairman added.
“The deal is initially a one-year agreement with the option to extend in the future pending on our progress on the field and various applications being made off-the-field.
“We would like to thank the organisers and staff at Thamesmead for their acceptance of our offer and for making everything happen so quickly.
“Thanks must also go to our manager Richard Dimmock, our assistant Mike Jones as well as all the players for supporting this move as we look to progress the club on and off-the-pitch.”
Bayliss Avenue will also be the home of Southern Counties East Football League First Division side Sporting Club Thamesmead (who changed their name from Seven Acre & Sidcup last summer) and Charlton Athletic Women’s team.
Stephen McCartney, 40, the editor of www.kentishfootball.co.uk added: “It’s a sad day for Thamesmead Town Football Club, a small club with big hearts who seem to be fighting every day both on and off the pitch to survive. The people outside of the club who have won their battle to force this smashing little club out of their own ground, their home town that the club represents with pride, should be ashamed of themselves. Thankfully, Dartford Football Club have never forgotten their roots like some clubs tend to do as they rise up through the Leagues and have come to Thamesmead Town’s aid when its needed the most. I hope as many people will be able to travel to Dartford to watch The Mead.”
Lea Dawson, who plays in midfield for Ryman League Division One South side Cray Wanderers, tweeted: “Sad to hear my home town club are no longer going to be playing in their home town no longer.”
Alan Woodward, who returns to his old club on Saturday in his current role of VCD Athletic’s physio, admitted the decision to leave was “shameful.”
“The feeling that non-football people finally got their own way, shameful,” he Tweeted.”
Visit Thamesmead Town’s website: www.thamesmeadfc.com
Visit Dartford’s website: www.dartfordfc.com