Day of Destiny for Millwall
By Sean Graham
December 15 2016, this is the date that many Millwall fans have had on their minds for some time now.
There is no match being played at The Den, no new signing’s to parade but this could well be the most important result of Millwall’s season.
The club and its fans, have battled long and hard to stop a compulsory purchase order going through, which would see the land being sold to a company called Renewal, an offshore owned developer.
This scandalous decision to force this CPO through has been backed by the Labour cabinet in Lewisham but it has sparked a split between the Labour councillors.
How anyone would see that it would be beneficial to sell the surrounding land to this company called Renewal, is beyond me.
If this goes through tonight, it could be the beginning of the end for Millwall and they could be forced out of their home, The Den.
It is not just the football club that will suffer because of this as local businessmen and woman will also lose trade and custom and the fans who have known the area all their working class lives, will feel the pain of losing part of themselves as well as part of the area.
Among those who may lose business if this CPO goes through is Zampa Fish, a cod wholesaler whose business is now threatened with closure, the council must see that this is people’s lives and businesses that are at stake here as well as Millwall Football Club.
The question is, do they care?
The Millwall fans haven’t just sat back and taken this, they have fought tooth and nail for justice, they have dug deeper than ever before and found out more about this mysterious company called Renewal.
It was originally set up by the previous Labour mayor Dave Sullivan. Sullivan is a former Lewisham council colleague of the current mayor Sir Steve Bullock.
Sullivan was a director at Millwall for over a decade before leaving to set up Renewal, strange you may think that he more than most, should want to be part of this cunning plot to buy the land of a club he was once involved with!
Obviously any love for the club he had, has gone or he would want no part of this but there is a side plot to Mr Sullivan’s involvement with the club and Renewal.
The fantastic work which has been done by the AMS has shown just how much he has been involved with Renewal and what his intensions are.
In 2005 Renewal’s ultimate share ownership was split between Sullivan’s personal 24% and a company called Independent Advisors Incorporated, registered in the British Virgin Islands, which is still Renewal’s part-owner.
A year later, Sullivan was asked to leave the Millwall board when the extent of his property interests around The Den became clear.
Three years later, the AMS investigation shows, Independent Advisors Limited became Renewal’s 100% owner as Sullivan transferred his shares behind the veil of offshore secrecy.
The question of who does own the developer has been a point of speculation throughout.
The Millwall AMS supporters group has now asked for the help of a forensic financial investigator to look into Renewal’s history, the investigator is giving his help and expertise free of charge in the hope of getting to the bottom of this company called Renewal and just who is involved with them.
They know that Renewal, the developers of the proposed 30-acre New Bermondsey retail and housing development, who have longstanding links with the council, have been backed by council officials.
Tonight, the cabinet – which has previously voted 6-1 in favour of the CPOs – will vote whether they agree the forced sale of homes and other properties in South Bermondsey around Millwall F.C.’s ground, the New Den, is in the public interest.
As I have said before, these people only have self-interest and greed on the top of their agenda; they could not care less about the surrounding land and the possibility of seeing the club move elsewhere.
This is why the work done by the AMS is so vital and had to been seen by fans of all clubs, not just Millwall.
.Already there are fears the CPO could open the door to other football clubs being forced out of their homes by rising land prices and local authorities with an eye on the benefits of “regeneration”.
This is simply not on!
These local councillors are only interested in one thing, themselves!
If anyone had the balls to stand up to this, it had to be Millwall and their loyal Lions supporters.
Rather than, going down and grabbing some of these self-obsessed councillors by the throat and giving them a dry slap on the head, they have gone about their business in a constructive and productive manner, they should be commended for that and they should be proud of themselves also.
The fans have pulled together and through podcast’s from Nick at Achtung Millwall and and various articles from Micky and the boys at the AMS they have kept the Millwall fans up to date, with the day to day going’s on all the way through this battle, they are the ones being honest and transparent, unlike the local politicians, who would do well as the dandy highway men, with their cloak and dagger approach to this whole, sorry episode.
At Millwall’s annual general meeting last Friday, the owner, John Berylson, spoke of the black cloud over the club’s future. “Our landlord will be Renewal, an offshore company domiciled in tax havens with anonymous directors and no experience whatsoever, as it admits, of completing a scheme of his complexity,” he said. “I am sure that you will all appreciate just how serious this is and what a threat it represents to the future of the club.”
If these so called local councillors had any idea what this could do to Millwall Football Club and the surrounding area, they would not go through with this disgusting and quite disgraceful idea.
Perhaps they should take a look at the work that Millwall in the Community has done over the years do for people in the area,
They work with local people, mainly children, the elderly, and the disadvantaged, saving Lewisham council an estimated £7m a year in care and services.
Not to mention the annual trip for the war veteran’s which the club put on every year for the war veterans, all this great work the club has done over the years has gone unnoticed, or has just not been made public as it would not be fashionable to print headlines which made Millwall look like a caring club, which is what they are.
Perhaps people have to look deep inside themselves and examine their conscience before they make this decision.
These bullyboy tactics from Renewal and the sheer unwillingness of the Lewisham council to realise just what this club and the community would lose should this CPO go through.
Do they think it is fair that families and businesses should be evicted from their homes?
Do they know what damage they could do to the local area?
Do they know the kind of work Millwall in the Community has done over the years and what would happen if they are removed from the area?
Do these individuals only care about Renewal and the amount of money they stand to make if this sale does go through?
Does the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, have no conscience or heart whatsoever and will he stand back and watch this sale go through without so much as a word?
The question is, how can a mayor stand back and watch this happen? How can he know how this will affect the area, the football club and community and do nothing about it?
Is the power of money now too much for people in high places too much to resist?
Where has the local community care and spirit gone?
As if all this is not enough and at a time when we are trying to rid the game of its bad name in recent weeks, the club could also lose its academy as its part of the land Renewal want.
For club’s like Millwall, bringing through young talent is the only way forward and these people are trying to cut off their supply of young talent if this sale goes through.
The 31-year-old community trust, which provides education and training for thousands of teenagers who have trouble fitting in at school, is unlikely to survive more than three years if it is moved from its current base.
The work of the community trust is amazing. They use of the Lions Centre free of charge. And youngsters are inspired by football and then they are educated. There are many kids who could have gone to prison but instead go into jobs.
The loss of the Lions centre would a big loss to the club and the community.
It would also end Millwall’s 24-hour access to an astroturf pitch, and that would be enough to wipe out its academy’s Category Two status – which comes with a £300,000 grant from the Premier League, it is amazing that something like this could happen to a club which has been around since 1885 who have decent financial stability, who would think this is a great idea? No one in their right mind! The impact could be disastrous for the club.
The MCT is one of the most renowned and respected schemes like this in the country which works with some of the most deprived children in the capital and gives them life-changing opportunities – in areas with high rates of crime. It has made a real difference to thousands of teenagers in areas like drug abuse through sport, education and training and to children who have been excluded from school.
It was established it 31 years ago with the backing of Lewisham and Southwark.
Why now are the council on the verge of turning their backs on Millwall, MCT, and the local community?
Is greed and the need for cash more important than a local community and football club, who does more than they will ever know?
One thing is for sure, Millwall have not gone down without a fight and fans who have stood together to make sure their club gets the justice it deserves, may just have done enough to get the Lions their best result of this or any season but only time will tell but let’s hope the Lions have kept the wolves from the door one last time.