Whyteleafe: Our withdrawal from the Isthmian League is a devastating blow to everybody involved at the club

Monday 14th June 2021

WHYTELEAFE have explained the reasons behind their resignation from the Isthmian League today.

The East Surrey club spent three seasons in the Athenian League before joining the Isthmian League in 1984, joining the Second Division South.  Their membership lasted until they finished bottom of the Division One South division at the end of the 2011-12 season.

Whyteleafe finished in sixth-place in the old Kent League before claiming the maiden Southern Counties East Football League title in 2014 and have been at step four outfit ever since and Church Road is an asset with a 3G playing surface.

“It is with deep regret and sadness that we informed the Isthmian League earlier today that Whyteleafe FC will not be playing in next season’s Isthmian South Central League,” said a club statement.

“The club has been forced to give up its Step Four status after new owners of the Church Road ground refused to negotiate a new lease or licence agreement with the club for the 2021-22 season.

“Home to the Leafe for more than 60 years, Church Road was purchased by Irama last year at auction after the previous owners went into administration.

“Despite numerous attempts by the Trustees, current management committee and an independent fan led group to discuss a way forward, Singapore based property development company Irama – the new landlords - activated a break clause to terminate the club’s lease on July 31st this year.

“This was despite the club paying Irama nearly £50,000 of back rent that the new owners had been told by the administrators was due for the administration period. Whyteleafe didn’t believe this was the case as the club had been paying all the landlords’ costs during that period to keep the ground viable and to protect the value of the facility. 

“But Whyteleafe FC believed Irama were acting in good faith and also wanted to have an ongoing working relationship with the new owners and despite the lack of income during the Covid-19 lockdowns paid the back rent. 

“Our withdrawal from the Isthmian League is a devastating blow to everybody involved at the club, the fans, players local community and the wider football family. We would like to thank all of you.”

Irama also own Abingdon Town’s Culham Road ground in Oxfordshire, as well as Brighouse’s St Giles Road ground in West Yorkshire and had this message concerning the involvement of former Liverpool and Wales striker Ian Rush, 59.

"Ian Rush is a real estate investor and partner with Irama in all our football grounds (Abingdon, Brighouse and Whyteleafe).

"Ian Rush plays no part in any other part of IRAMA's business unless stated, and nor should he be held responsible for any of IRAMA's acts. Ian Rush and IRAMA own these football grounds and have no affiliation to the clubs and teams using the grounds."

Ollie Bayliss, of the BBC, has obtained a statement from Irama, a company that claims on its website that "we love grassroots sports." and are aiming "to add more properties in the coming year."

"We at iRama have the vision to create a safe environment for people of all ages to come and play football," said the company.

"Our vision and values are and will continually remain centered around football.

"We had taken over as the owners of 15 Church Road with the view to have a first-team playing at our ground, which we wanted, and still want to be the Whyteleafe first-team.  Upon purchasing the ground, the lease was terminated not by ourselves, but by the trustees of the Football Club.

"We have tried and have still been actively trying to accommodate the Whyteleafe first team as we know how much the club means to the fans and the players and we want to ensure that the community that has been built all these years continues to thrive.

"It is very unfortunate that we are being used as the scapegoat for a club that has in fact been poorly run the last couple of years and exploited by some of the individuals in charge.

"We have taken over the facilities and have spent thousands of pounds on repairing and replacing structures of the club that have been left unfit for use and unsafe for a number of years and we will continue to do so in order to create a safe environment for those using our facilities.

"To corroborate the fact that our vision has remained football and upkeeping a thriving community, everyone else who has been playing at the ground can confirm how accommodating we have been in order to ensure that no one has to change the location as to where they play football.

"Kinetic Foundation and the numerous Whyteleafe Youth teams in particular, who use the grounds regularly can testify how amenable we have been to ensure that they can continue to play at our grounds currently and going forward into future seasons.

"Our plans are to continually build the community feel at Church Road, host charity related football events and continue to ensure that it is a safe and friendly enviornment. 

"We guarantee that all grounds that we have purchased will remain 100% recreational, helping communities to have a safe place to go to avail at all of our facilities."

Abingdon Town issued a statement on the same day as the Leafe to explain their reasons for resigning from the Hellenic League.

"It is with deep regret and sadness that we have informed the Hellenic League that Abingdon Town FC will not be playing in next season's Hellenic League," said a club statement.

"The club has been forced to give up its Step 6 status after new owners of Culham Road were unable to negotiate a new lease.

"Culham Road was purchased by Irama at the end of last year after the previous owners wanted to sell. Despite attempts by the management committee to discuss a way forward, Singapore property development company Irama, made it impossible to move forward, with ridiculous demands.

"Despite the lack of income during covid, Town looked to be progressing over the last year on and of the pitch by correcting the wrongdoing of the last few years. With no funds coming in due to covid, and unable to negotiate with Irama we had to make the devastating decision.

"We would like to thank everyone involved with the club, including the fans, players and wider football family for your support over the years at Abingdon Town."

Meanwhile, Harry Hudson, a director at Kinetic Foundation, who managed Whyteleafe during the curtailed 2020-21 season, announced his resignation on Wednesday 10 March, was unveiled as the new manager of Southern Counties East Football League side Glebe on Saturday.

Visit Whyteleafe’s website: www.theleafe.co.uk