Non-league Staines Town have suspended all football operations with immediate effect due to a dispute with their landlord. Making the announcement on Tuesday, the club issued an extraordinary statement in which numerous allegations were made against Downing LLP, including breaches of the modern slavery act.
Downing LLP have strenuously denied what they describe as “wild allegations”, labelling them an attempt to deflect attention from mismanagement of the club by its owner, Joe Dixon.
Staines Town sit bottom of Isthmian League Southern Central Division and were due to host Chipstead on Saturday but that fixture will now not be fulfilled due to the row with Downing LLP, an investment organisation that own Staines’s ground, Wheatsheaf Park, via its purchase in 2008 of The Thames Club, the health club it is attached to.
The dispute has been raging for some years and reached a climax with Tuesday’s statement. It read: “Staines Town Football Club (STFC) regrets to announce that pursuant to third party breaches of Section 54 of The Modern Slavery Act 2015 and other information that has come to light, we are forced to temporarily suspend all primary operations including but not limited to competitive fixtures, until a thorough investigation into the practices of Downing LLP has been concluded by the relevant authorities.
“It has also come to our attention through both substantive and vast evidence from various sources, that Downing LLP, who control and fund the operation of our Landlord, The Thames Club, may be involved through its other holdings in the financing of large scale bribery and corruption.”
The statement went on to say that the club has evidence Downing LLP “may be involved through its other holdings in the financing of Environmental Crimes, Price Fixing, Deforestation, Forced Evictions, Human Rights Abuses, Child Labour, Slavery, Gender Discrimination and Murder”. The club also accuses Downing LLP of fraud and breaching government sanctions against Russia.
Downing LLP issued a statement a few hours later. It read: “The allegations published by Mr Dixon on the Staines Town Football Club (STFC) website against Downing LLP (Downing) and The Thames Club (TTC) are untrue. They would appear to be the latest attempt by Mr Dixon to deflect attention from his mismanagement of STFC over a number of years and this has left the club in a parlous financial position.
“The fact that STFC is ceasing operations has nothing to do with TTC or Downing. Nor is it connected to the alleged breaches of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Act) by Downing. This is a construct and does not bear scrutiny not least because none of Downing, TTC or indeed STFC qualify as a ‘commercial organisation’ for the purpose of the Act as they do not meet the financial thresholds set by the Secretary of State. The remainder of the wild allegations made by Mr Dixon should be viewed in the context of the above.”
Responding to the dispute, the Football Association said: “We are aware of the statement issued by Staines Town FC. Any further updates will be provided in due course.”
Releasing a statement on Wednesday, the Isthmian League board said: “We have now written to the club, noting their objection to playing further matches at Wheatsheaf Park, and as such have decided to postpone the match between Staines Town and Chipstead scheduled for Saturday. We hope that this will give all parties the breathing space required to find a resolution.
“We hope that the club will still be able to play scheduled away matches, and we have offered assistance, where this is required, to enable home matches to be played at suitable alternative venues.”