Sunday 25th September 2016 ko 14.00
FA Women’s Superleague 2
MILLWALL LIONESSES 2 (Gaylor 22 Giddings 28)
WATFORD LADIES 1 (Mason 47)
Att c200 at The Den
On the face of it a women’s game played at the parent club’s ground wouldn’t enter the consciousness to any great degree, save for being a good excuse for my girlfriend Robyn to tick off the ground when in the area. However, there were better reasons to pay to place another visit.
It was odd passing though the railway arches on Bolina Road with absolutely no sense of foreboding, whilst the Old Den was a ferocious place to visit as an away fan, the New Den isn’t exactly a child’s creche! But look behind the reputation and you’ll find that few clubs work harder in their community than the Lions, and much of that is in jeopardy.
This, I’m afraid, is where it starts to get murky. An off-shore registered property development company, “Renewal” are trying buy up land on Compulsory Purchase Orders around the Den, land that’s currently leased to the club including the car park, “Lions” leisure centre and cafe. Millwall argue that at best it threatens the club’s community work, much of which is based at the leisure centre, and at worst the club itself.
In football history there are no lack of grounds and clubs that have fallen victim to property companies, but this deal has some oddities. In 2013 the club put forward it’s own plans to buy the land, and maintain the community links, but Labour-controlled Lewisham Council went for Renewal’s bid. Now you could argue that if Renewal’s bid was superior then then that’s life, but what happened next caused no end of hackles to rise.
It transpired that Renewal’s links with the council run deeper than you’d expect. As The Guardian reported on 26th September 2016, Renewal director Jordana Malik’s father Mushtaq Malik, is a former senior officer of Lewisham council. Also, Mushtaq Malik was also one of the original directors of Renewal – along with the previous Lewisham mayor David Sullivan. The due diligence report from PWC shows this, so you would hope that if only for the sake of transparency the whole deal can be reviewed.
Certainly the news has worried Renewal, all the noise emanating from them suggests they’re open to a quick disposal of their assets, but how that could benefit the club is uncertain. The meeting to hearing to decide the compulsory purchase order on Millwall’s land on 28th September was cancelled a few hours before the order was due to be dismissed or confirmed by Lewisham council’s cabinet, with the council’s head of law, Kath Nicholson, referring to an investigation into “very serious matters indeed.”
I have no connection with Millwall but hopefully the footballing world can rally round and help them secure both the futures of both the club and community work it does.
Here’s a petition from the Save The Den campaign.