Thamesmead Town close down: The time has come to call it a day, says chairman Paul Bowden-Brown

Wednesday 17th October 2018

CHAIRMAN Paul Bowden-Brown pulled the plug on Thamesmead Town last night, bringing to an end 49-years of football.

Mr Bowden-Brown recently put the club up for sale for £50,000 but decided enough was enough and entered the club into administration last night.

The club were seven games into their Bostik South East Division campaign but lost the three points that they won in a 3-0 home win over Guernsey on 6 October in their last game after being found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in an earlier game, so sadly finished rooted to the bottom of a 20-club division on three points, even though they are likely to suffer a 10-point penalty for entering administration.

Under the heading “A very sad day for the Mead,” the chairman issued the following statement on the clubs website:

“I am writing this article with a very heavy heart.   It is made especially hard after a great 3-0 victory at our last game, at home to Guernsey. 

“After suffering a torrid time this season so far,  before Saturday's game, we have been rooted in the wrong end of the league with three points and knocked out of both FA Cups at an early stage.

“However, all my conversations with Tommy (Warrilow) this season noted that once we have ALL our key players back from injury, we will play the football you know we can play.

“We have continued to have a lack of supporters coming through the gate to watch the team this season.   For the last two games, after paying for the officials, we have netted a total of £11 for the club.  Even though I finance the club management, the squad of players, the ground and all other required expenses.  Coupled with my failing health, I have had to make a very difficult decision. 

“Although I accept that the writing has been on the wall for some time now, I still wanted to ensure that I covered every eventuality that would allow our club to continue to trade. 

“However, this was not successful, and I feel that the time has come for me to hang up my boots at Thamesmead Town and call it a day. 

“There has been no genuine interest in someone taking over the club, even though I have offered to write off all my shareholdings (all my investment since 2012) for the sum of £1. 

“As I have been only person financing the club since 2015, I feel after discussing the matter with my advisors including the League it would seem that there is no other option but to appoint a liquidator to close down the club with immediate effect.

“Before making this difficult decision, out of courtesy, I explained how I felt to both Albert (Panting), our Life President and Alan one of our Vice Presidents.  

“I did not know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised that they understood where I was coming from and how I felt.  It was a very traumatic discussion, but it was very clear that both of these long-standing members of the original committee had no hard feelings against me and jointly shook my hand and extended their sincere good wishes to both myself and my family.  They both thanked me for my efforts since joining their quest in 2012.  

“Both said that without my input the club would have died that September evening in 2012.   I was reminded what Peter Tierney, known as Mr Thamesmead Town, had said during one of our travels before he became ill and subsequently died.

“Paul, thank you for what you have done for our club, without your unselfish energy and financial support the club would have died years ago whenever you decide enough is enough, and you put your health and family first it will be okay by my family and me because you have given me so much enjoyment watching my club during the latter part of my life.  Something that would never have happened had you not taken control and guided the club through the choppy waters of the Non-League game. Even though the good and the difficult times I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, think of yourself whenever the time is right I will support your actions.” 

Mr Bowden-Brown added:  “That sentiment together with those views of both Albert and Alan means so much to me.  Well, Peter, I am afraid the box is empty and that time has come.

“A lot has changed since I joined the club in 2012.  I remember the day I met Keith (McMahon, then manager of the club) and his committee members.  That damp evening in September 2012 when they explained the problems the club were having and how could I help.  After listening to them, I felt it more of a challenge.

“But, to be honest, I did not appreciate the terrible mess the club was in with regarding their filed accounts and the information used to compile them.

“The truth is that the financial situation of the club was in a far greater mess than anyone was aware.   The challenge was far greater than I could have expected. However I thrive on a challenge, and after many hours burning the midnight oil, we managed to get the accounts resubmitted and accepted at Companies House.  The money owed to the HMRC was covered by me so we could trade as a solvent business. Giving Keith the continued opportunity to put a strong squad on the pitch, something the record will show he was very good at.

“The other most important outstanding matter was the club moving into their new Stadium as tenants to Thamesmead Trust later to be known as Peabody.  The move had been delayed for years, but it looked as if it was going to become a reality and in July 2013 when we moved into the new stadium.

“Although there had been many discussions between both the Trust and club senior personnel, there was no long-term ground share agreement between the club and the Trust.

“The result was the club was taken advantage of.  The Trust treated the club purely as a tenant forgetting the massive input the club and its personnel had put in to assist the funding of the new stadium.  This was ignored, and even though both Keith and I tried our hardest to get them to reassess the changes being made to the club, our pleas were totally ignored.   

“All we were ever advised was that the Trust was losing monies so, we had to pay a fee that was higher for the use of the facilities.  I believe this was unfair and was the start of the death knell of this fine old club.

“While all this off the field disturbing matters were taking place, Keith was ensuring that we were successful on the pitch with promotion and unfortunately a relegation. 

“We continued to have meetings with the Trust, all to no avail it was like banging your head against a brick wall.

“Both Keith and I continued to ensure that the club continued to trade, even though at times it was a financial nightmare. 

“The Trust was charging exorbitant fees for both the ground share and the facility.  Their stance regarding the prices was to take it and stay at the ground, or leave it and move on.

“In late January 2015, Keith quit the club citing the differences he had with the management of the Trust as the reason he was leaving the club.

“So, then I was now on my own to run the Company.  My plans had to change as I had planned to leave my position at the end of April 2015, I felt I had achieved everything within my remit in the club.

“During this time Peabody had taken over the Trust, and I was having daily disputes with the Trust regarding the charges being made against the club.  At the same time, behind the back of the club, the Trust took our youth team over.  They promised the world, mainly free of charge and reduced prices for using the facilities and they were renamed Thamesmead SCT, so now the club had lost its thriving youth set up!

“The Peabody Trust had no idea of how to run a sports stadium, and they were only interested in the P/L.  Our history meant nothing to them, they brought in two other teams (Seven Acre & Sidcup, now Sporting Club Thamesmead and Welling Town), including Charlton Ladies, both for greatly reduced ground share fees.

“Once again, our football club had done more than share to support the trust while the funding was arranged for the new stadium,  was ignored with the Trust saying either pay up or go!

“I managed to personally financially cover the operational costs during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.  Things were becoming unacceptable, with Peabody not willing to discuss a fair price for our use of their facilities.  The majority of the senior management of the Trust had left during the 2016-17 season and I felt I had to do something to protect the club. 

“Our gates were down; we had no advertisers or sponsorship other than my own company supporting the club.

“We had a great management team led by Tommy Warrilow and Alex O’Brien as his assistant and after detailed discussions with Tommy and Ian Docker, the general manager it was agreed it would be beneficial to move the club away from Bayliss Avenue. 

“To that end, I gave one-year notice to the Peabody Trust and negotiated a five-year groundshare agreement at Dartford FC which started in season 2017-18.

“Well, after one year playing at Princes Park it became very clear to me that for whatever reason Thamesmead Town Football Club did not have enough supporters. Paying gates were down some 70 % during that season and to be honest the only major financial contributor other than myself that season was the finance gained by our great FA Cup run, therefore and without my continued support the club would have died much earlier.

“The facts are quite clear, as the records will confirm: -

“History will show that Thamesmead Town FC has never been a well-supported club,  they could operate within the overheads they had before moving to the new stadium in 2013. 

“However, as soon as the club were charged inflated costs for the use of their ground and training facilities from the Trust and Peabody, coupled with the loss of the youth section the club became financially unviable.  From 2015-16 until today I have personally made up the shortfall.

“My team and I have tried many initiatives to try and bring the supporters in, but they have all failed and I come to the very sad conclusion, the time has come to call it a day.

“Hopefully, I will be remembered not as the person that killed Thamesmead Town FC but as someone who through his financial commitment and personal effort gave the club those extra years of enjoyment that without my support the club would have died so much earlier.”

For the record, Thamesmead Town played 12 games this season before its sad demise:

Bostik South East Division:  Away Hastings United L1-5
Kent Senior Cup: Away Ashford United D3-3 (Won 8-7 on penalties)
Bostik South East Division:  Home Faversham Town L1-2
FA Cup Preliminary Round:  Away Balham W2-0
Bostik South East Division:  Away Phoenix Sports L0-1
Bostik South East Division:  Home Sittingbourne W5-4
FA Cup First Qualifying Round: Away Moneyfields L0-1
Bostik South East Division:  Away Ramsgate L1-2
Velocity Trophy:  Home Merstham L2-4
Bostik South East Division:  Home VCD Athletic L1-2
FA Trophy Extra Preliminary Round:  Away Didcot Town L1-2
Bostik South East Division:  Home Guernsey W3-0

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