The oldest senior football ground in London has been the spiritual home of Clapton supporters for more than 130 years, but for the first time in their history those supporters now own the ground.
After a long campaign to return supporter-owned Clapton Community FC to its roots at the Old Spotted Dog ground in Forest Gate, the club finally confirmed the purchase of the freehold last week.
The ground, which has hosted games against Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United in the past, as well Dutch giants Ajax and a host of 1966 World Cup winners, will become the new home of the Middlesex County Premier League side from 2021.
A significant amount of work needs to be done to bring it up to standard – the club’s Flickr account shows some excellent shots of the state of the ground as they have inherited it – so the club’s men’s and women’s first teams will still need to play at their temporary home of Wadham Lodge Sports Ground in Walthamstow for the 2020/21 season.
Kevin Blowe, from the Old Spotted Dog Trust said: “For the first time ever, the oldest senior football ground in London is owned by a football club, and a member-run, non-profit, community-focused football club at that.
“Bringing Clapton’s spiritual home back into community use, after a season of boycotts of Clapton FC home games when it was placed into liquidation by the previous tenant, was absolutely central to the motivation for setting up Clapton CFC back in the summer of 2018.
“Finally having a ground of our own, owned by members, will offer long term stability for the club and also the chance to build lasting links with the local community.”
The club had the support of local politicians, including local MP Lyn Brown and Rokhsana Fiaz, mayor of Newham.
Lyn said: “At a time when so many community clubs are under threat, it is wonderful to know that Clapton CFC are instead taking huge steps forward to secure their future locally. Clapton have a special history at the Old Spotted Dog ground, and a powerful connection to our communities in East London through their support of charities and causes.”
The club have been in the news previously after taking thousands of orders of an anti-fascist inspired football shirt; the funds raised from selling 15,000 of the kits played a big part in their ability to fund the purchase of the ground.