A FOREST football club claims it has been forced out of its home of nearly 70 years and will no longer play in the village after which it is named.
Committee members of English Bicknor FC say they have been left with ‘no option’ but to move to Worrall Hill following a ‘campaign’ by some members of the English Bicknor Village Hall committee.
The club played matches on the playing field next to the village hall and used it as a clubhouse through membership of the English Bicknor Social Club.
The football club announced the move in a statement at an extraordinary general meeting held at the village hall last Thursday (April 22).
Vice-secretary Karina Hall said: “As a football club this is not a decision we have taken lightly – in fact this decision has not just been devastating for our committee but also for all of our players, managers and associates and, we are sure, our supporters.
“We have fought so hard for the football club to continue at Bicknor, as it has done for decades but now, following the most horrific and painful season, we have been left with no other option but to admit defeat.
“The football club and committee have been subjected to continual poor treatment, threats, demands, damage to our property and false accusations by specific members of the English Bicknor Village Hall committee and we can only conclude this has been part of a campaign to expel the football club from the village.”
The club also says it will make a complaints to the Charity Commission about the way the village hall is run.
Among the allegations of “poor treatment” were allegations that the club had committed “fraudulent crime” in relation to the running of the bar, being asked to remove pitch side railing for functions that did not take place, social club members being wrongly disbarred from voting at the most recent village hall and social club AGM and the “awful” treatment Mark Tabberer who was ousted from his role as village hall vice-chairman.
Football club chairman Mr Phill Howard said they were particularly hurt by precious memorabilia, including historic photos of players being removed and damaged.
It is also alleged that the premises licence held by the football club was surrendered without consultation by a member of the village hall committee.
An attempt at mediation between the football club and the village hall was attempted through the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council but failed.
The club said the “final straw” was a plan to install a £20,000 play area for under-sixes on the pitch-side car park.
District councillor Jamie Elsmore (Berry Hill, Progressive Independents) said he had raised concerns about the location of the play area and it was proposed to move it.
He said the football club going was “a huge, huge loss for the village and the wider community.”
Cllr Elsmore said an accusation about money going missing from the bar till was particularly damaging.
There was incredulous laughter as he said: “There was a situation where £50 wwas missing and when it was looked into it was around £380 and whatever the difference was you guys put the money back in.
Club chairman Phill Howard said: “Why would anyone who puts money into the club from their own pocket take £300.”
Cllr Elsmore said it was not about money being stolen but about the way the bar is managed.
He added: “I said they needed to be more astute about how they managed the bar because it leaves anyone potentially exposed to accusations like the one some of your members have had.
“With the process they’ve got, nobody in their right minds would go behind that bar.”
Sue Yemm, who sits on the village hall committee said: “There is something fundamentally wrong with the governance of the village hall and social club. The social club has been subsumed into the village hall illegally.
“The way it is run has to change – it was Karina’s diligence, she’s exposed all the shortcomings.”
Ms Hall also thanked those who had supported the club.
She said: “We would like to state as a football club that the treatment and behaviours outlined in this statement do not reflect the behaviour of the whole of the village hall committee.
“The football club has been supported by some members of the committee – however it is unfortunate that the bullish, aggressive and appalling manner of some key members of the committee has overshadowed this.
“The football club would like to extend a personal thanks to Sue Yemm of the village hall committee who has fought so hard to retain the club in the village.
“We would also like to thank the parish council who, as owners of the pitch and playing fields, have informed the village hall that all the improvements made to the grounds have been made with their agreement.
“We also thank the parish council for sharing their view with the village hall committee that the football club is an asset to the village.
“Despite our best efforts by arranging mediation and offering resolutions, the incessant criticism and unfair demands placed upon us has made the football club unsustainable in the village.
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