ADMINISTRATORS TO END DISPUTE AT RINGMER FOOTBALL CLUB
Ringmer Football Club, near the top of Sussex County League Division One, has been put into Administration in a move that the management hopes will finally end a long-running dispute over the ownership of the Caburn Field Ground. Malcolm Fillmore and Ranjit Bajjon of Atherton Bailey were appointed Joint Administrators of Ringmer Football Club Limited in the High Court on November 21, 2008.
The move has become necessary as the club’s bank has withdrawn its banking facility until the issue of the ground’s ownership has been resolved.
Joint Administrator Malcolm Fillmore explains: “The club remains solvent, but there is a dispute over the ownership of the ground the origins of which date back to 2004 when the club became a limited company and inadvertently the legal title to the land was not transferred over. The club’s directors, who have been personally financing the club during this dispute, have concluded that only legal action against the trustees can resolve matters and this has seen the club put into Administration to protect it from creditors while a resolution is found. The club will continue to operate as normal under the Administrators’ control, including all facilities which are regularly used by local groups and for social events.”
The land was originally bought by the club in 1975 for £3,250 and is now thought to be worth several million. However, with the club planning to sell the land for development and move to a new ground with better facilities – plans which have the overwhelming support of members – the issue has come to a head.
Malcolm Fillmore explains: “What started as a relatively minor legal issue seems to have become very personalised between the trustees who hold the title deeds and some of the directors. But without it being resolved, the whole future of the club has been put in jeopardy. We are hopeful that by being brought in as an independent party, matters can be quickly resolved. As soon as the land is transferred to its rightful owners Ringmer Football Club, the company can be put back on an even keel to go forward.”
Fillmore is also trying to persuade the League not to apply the normal 10 point deduction penalty for going into Administration, since the club remains able to pay its debts in full. He adds: “It would be unfair on the supporters if their hoped for promotion, dependent on moving to a new ground, is lost because of this dispute. However, I have not been able to ascertain the thinking of the trustees and why they have so far refused to hand over the title deeds to the club. The directors, for their part, have made clear their intention to respect and protect the rights of members who own the club to ensure all the benefits of the redevelopment stay with Ringmer Football Club.
What is Administration?
Administration is a Court-based procedure which can give a company protection from its creditors while it puts a plan together to lead to its financial reorganisation. While sometimes it will lead to the sale of the business, the process can also be used when, as here, the company is solvent but there is a dispute which prevents the company from trading normally. The Insolvency Act 1986 provides that the primary objective of Administration is the rescue of the company as a going concern.
About Atherton Bailey (www.athertonbailey.com)
Atherton Bailey is a firm of Chartered Accountants specialising in business rescue and recovery and has offices throughout the South East. The affairs of Ringmer Football Club are being handled in the Crawley office. Malcolm Fillmore was responsible for the first rescue of Crawley Town Football Club in 1999 and became heavily involved in its second rescue in 2006.