HomeBusinessStaines Town FC: Downing dismisses 'wild allegations'

Staines Town FC: Downing dismisses ‘wild allegations’

London-based investment firm Downing has dismissed allegations of financing bribery and corruption, among other crimes levied against it by a semi-professional football club.

Staines Town Football Club temporarily suspended all operations on Tuesday, with the club refusing to fulfil league fixtures, as it published a remarkable letter addressed to Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The Isthmian League club claims that Downing – which controls and funds its landlord, The Thames Club – has been involved in financing a plethora crimes, meaning Staines Town FC had an obligation under The Modern Slavery Act to suspend operations.

The club say Downing, which has offices in London and Manchester, ‘may be involved… in the financing of large-scale bribery and corruption’.

Staines Town FC says it will not return to play at Wheatsheaf Park until its issues with Downing are resolved 

It claims this is evidenced by Downing’s investment in a Swiss Bank found guilty in the US Federal Court of conspiring to launder over $36million in bribes to officials within Fifa and football’s other governing bodies.

More broadly, Staines Town FC highlighted one of Downing’s investment funds, major holdings in which the club says links the firm to ‘the financing of environmental crimes, price fixing, deforestation, forced evictions, human rights abuses, child labour, slavery, gender discrimination and murder’.

Founded in 1892, Staines Town FC said: ‘Subsequently, we also believe that Downing LLP may be guilty of Fraud through deliberate misrepresentation of its core ethics to induce prospective investors into allocating capital to them.’

The club claims that Downing may have also breached sanctions rules on Russia as it ‘seems to have been involved in obtaining a benefit from carrying on business of economic significance to the Government of Russia as well as carrying on a business with a Government of Russia affiliated entity’.

A Downing spokesperson described the claims as ‘wild allegations’ and as the ‘latest attempt’ by club owner Joe Dixon ‘to deflect attention from his mismanagement of STFC over a number of years’, which ‘has left the club in a parlous financial position’.

On alleged breaches of the Modern Slavery Act, the firm also highlighted that neither Downing or Staines Town FC qualify as a ‘commercial organisation’ for the purpose of the act.

Downing added: ‘The allegation that Downing has breached any Russia sanctions legislation is also wholly untrue.

‘Mr Dixon’s logic appears to be that because funds managed by Downing hold an investment in a regulated financial institution listed on the Swiss stock exchange, alongside BlackRock, UBS and a number of pension funds, Downing is breaching sanctions because the Swiss entity has some Russian interests.

‘However, that institution is not itself sanctioned and has subsidiaries, which are regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority and are also not sanctioned. This is the sole justification for Mr Dixon’s baseless claims.’

At the crux of the fallout is a long-running dispute over the land encompassing Staines Town FC’s home ground – Wheatsheaf Park, which it has used since 1951.

The stadium is on the grounds of a health club called The Thames Club, which therefore owns the stadium and was itself purchased by Downing in 2011. 

Staines Town FC has had its ups and downs in the last decade, following FA Cup runs and promotion with relegation and financial turmoil.

The club accuses the investment firm of intentionally damaging its interests in order to ‘realise the land value’ of Wheatsheaf Park ‘through development’.

Staines Town FC says Downing is engaged in the ‘purposeful derogation’ of its rights, including ‘the removal of several major sources of club revenue and facilities’.

It added: ‘All of this has had a severe detrimental effect upon the financial running of the club and hence, negative team performances and all other club business.

‘As a result of the clubs downward spiral, we have suffered defamation, ridicule, threats and abuse, much of which we have had to accept in the knowledge that the general public were not aware of the appalling depths to which Downing LLP operations have seemingly sunk to via its apparent funding of the most heinous, nefarious and barbaric crimes within our society.’

Until a resolution has been agreed, Staines Town says it will not return to Wheatsheaf Park ‘and play beneath the bloodied shadow of the profits of slavery, child abuse and all else’.

Downing said: ‘The allegations published by Mr Dixon… against Downing LLP and The Thames Club… 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.

‘STFC has enjoyed (and continues to enjoy) the benefit of a lease from TTC, its landlord, at a peppercorn rent.

‘Regrettably for a prolonged period, STFC has fallen into arrears on the payment of its service charge under the lease and other debts, which means it has an increasing number of unpaid creditors.’

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