Staines Town suspend fixtures over modern slavery allegations
The Surrey-based club will not fulfil their remaining league fixtures
Surrey-based football club, Staines Town, have had to suspend their footballing operation, as authorities investigate alleged breaches of the Modern Slavery Act by Downing LLP - an investor in The Thames Club, Staines' landlord.
The club released a statement in which it said it "regrets to announce" that it was suspending "all primary operations including but not limited to competitive fixtures.
"In the first instance, STFC has an obligation under The Modern Slavery Act 2015 to ensure that our business and supply chains are free from human trafficking and slavery."
It went on: "Our actions, as a full member of The English Football Association (The FA), are compliant and fully concur with The FA statement on Slavery and Human Trafficking."
In the statement, the club also said it had "reason to believe that Downing LLP may have breached" UK sanctions on Russia.
It noted that "Downing LLP 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."
The club went on: "There are further grounds that Downing LLP, may have, through its holdings, made funds and economic resources available to at least one designated person and engaged in activities that circumvent an asset freeze under UK statute."
Staines says it "sincerely hopes" The FA, The Isthmian League, Spelthorne Borough Council and "all other relevant bodies, agencies and individuals will fully support us in this decision".
Staines have five remaining league fixtures in the Isthmian Central Division, in which they currently they sit 19th.
The club have lost their last five fixtures.
In a statement, Downing LLP said:
"The allegations published by Mr Dixon on the Staines Town Football Club (STFC) website against Downing LLP (Downing) and The Thames Club (TTC) (a company in which funds managed by Downing hold an investment) 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.
The fact that STFC is ceasing operations has nothing to 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.
That is not to suggest that Downing and TTC operate with anything other the highest ethical standards.
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.
The remainder of the wild allegations made by Mr Dixon should be viewed in the context of the above.
*This article was updated on 30/03/22 to include a statement from Downing LLP and to reflect that they are not the owners of Staines Town Football Club, but rather an investor in the landlord of Staines Town Football Club.