Lowestoft Town can confirm that following the termination of Danny Crow’s contract, fellow first team player Michael Spillane’s contract has also been terminated for identical reasons. Spillane is also a Director of Road 2 Pro, an organisation which has caused significant disruption and damage to the foundations of Lowestoft Town FC. Until now the Chairman Gary Keyzor has been unable to explain the club’s position owing to legal reasons but is now in a position to make the following, final statement on the situation.
Where has it gone wrong?
The biggest mistake of my life has to be introducing two guys to Lowestoft Town FC 3 years ago. I first met Darren Cox and Scott King at City College with Craig Fleming and they offered the world, talking about apprenticeships, scholarships etc unbeknown to me then, we were only being used to put them on a pedestal.
It was agreed to initially set up an apprenticeship programme run from the Crown Meadow, and any profit from this initial arrangement with D & S Education was agreed as a 3 way profit share with Darren Cox and Scott King. Year 2 was an introduction to a Scholarship programme based at Barnards Meadow under the same agreement.
It was on Tuesday August 11th 2015 that I started to have real concerns about this business relationship. We were on the coach to Alfreton and I had an email come in from someone inviting me to an ADE open day. ADE? Never heard of them? Then I noticed we were named as a partner? Strange, I asked Danny Crow who was sitting near me and by then was the manager of our Conference Youth Alliance League team and he stated that he knew nothing. I then rang up Scott King who mentioned that he had forgotten to tell me what was going on. I found the whole thing quite strange. My Company Graphic Solutions had supported these guys as it was a Lowestoft Town FC project. Graphic Solutions had designed everything that D & S required as well as printing every single flyer and document. Why did they never discuss the change of partner or new venture with the club? Why were Graphic Solutions never asked to create the ADE logo or print these flyers?
I think I got as far as December 2015 before starting to talk with scholars and staff of the ADE establishment; it was then that I started to learn a lot more and realised things were not right.
There were many false promises from Scott King to the scholars and constant lies to myself, the best one was that Scott King was trying to convince me that plans were approved and in place for an indoor training dome situated down at Barnards Meadow (just like Norwich and Ipswich have), something that Lowestoft Town were desperate for, as Scott King used to say. This had all been approved by WDC and Sentinel according to Scott King and when I checked with my contacts it was no surprise that no one had a clue what I was on about. I never mentioned to Scott King that I knew it was a pack of lies and kept listening to him tell me the same story every time he needed to go on the defensive over the given situation. He had even promised the kids that they were taking over the Lake Lothing area close to Normanston Park to turn into a kayaking centre.
I sat awake endless nights in January and February 2016 mulling over the situation, their emails, their vague accounts and everything else that I had from them but things were not ringing true. It was not until March when I put in a call to one of their funding providers that I really found out the situation they were in. Even then when I met up with them they denied everything and I even offered my time to assist on numerous occasions but every time this was declined – I wonder why?
Things then became a struggle with them more so than before with things not being transparent, promised payments not being paid on time and the whole education side beginning to concern me. A number of players were also advising me that they were well behind with their education and that Darren Cox and Scott King were hardly ever about, and when they were they were always at loggerheads with each other. It was then that I put in calls and met up with various people for advice on the matter.
How did this affect the football programme?
There was never any issue with the way the football side was being run by Danny Crow, they had a great first season in the Conference Youth Alliance league and as far as we as a club were concerned the whole project would continue, even if it meant changing the education provider for the new season. Danny Crow was constantly in talks with Ady Gallagher throughout the season and players started to come through to the first team and some even made appearances towards the end of last season in the league and in cup games.
Back in February and March we had trials advertised as a Lowestoft Town FC Scholarship programme for the 2016/17 season and Ady Gallagher was also in attendance. The players even received an acceptance letter into the “Lowestoft Town FC Scholarship programme 2016/17”. It even had our club’s email address for any questions. We had discussed with Danny Crow how best to utilise the 40 plus players that were accepted into the Scholarship programme by using them in the Conference Youth Alliance, Thurlow Nunn reserve league, FA Youth cup and College League programme. Over the summer there were discussions with Danny Crow about the new season and also with Michael Spillane, who asked to get involved with coaching the young players. They were both aware of the issues with Scott King and Darren Cox as I kept them both in the loop as to what was going on. Maybe another mistake was me telling Danny Crow too much, as it was constantly being repeated in discussions he had with Scott King and Darren Cox.
Looking forward to the 2016/17 season and after discussions with Ady Gallagher, Danny Crow was offered a new 1 year contract within the club’s playing budget, of which he turned down. I then encouraged Ady Gallagher to offer him a better financial package as we both felt that he was doing a great job with the youth team and wanted the continuity between the youngsters and the first team management to continue. The vision was also that Danny Crow would be given some coaching responsibility within the first team and it was also made clear before he signed the improved contract that some of the funding for his contract would come from the scholarship pot. The contract was agreed and signed on 12th July 2016. Discussions were also ongoing throughout with Michael Spillane, who was promised the opportunity of a coaching role with the young players.
How did you learn about Road 2 Pro?
I was sitting in the old boardroom area with Ady Gallagher and Dale Brooks on 21st July 2016, it was a training night and Danny Crow was outside. So I just called him in for a general chat and update on the youngsters, at which point he advised that he was meeting the youngsters on 28th July 2016. I advised him that we were looking at a new education provider as things were not working out with Scott King and Darren Cox and we just generally discussed the future. We explained that everything was good with the football side of matters and to keep up the good work, as our concerns were only with the education side.
Sadly the next step we did not see coming!!!
In walked Michael Spillane, I started to explain the same to him regarding my discussions with Danny Crow and that all would be good going forward and that he would be involved. At this point Michael Spillane dropped the bombshell “what are you on about, we are not working with Lowestoft Town anymore, and we have set up a new company for the young players”
I remember it vividly, as Danny Crow really didn’t know where to look.
Was there any realistic way of recovery from here?
We had always been in touch with Sentinel Leisure about issues, a business relationship going forward and a way forward for the Scholarship programme as Scott King and Darren Cox used the Barnards facilities to train and the Sports Centre for fitness. Sentinel was made aware of various issues. This prompted them to call a meeting on the 25th July 2016 with the idea of proposing a three-way partnership between Lowestoft Town, Scott King and Darren Cox’s new company ADE and Sentinel Leisure. On the 1st August 2016 I was notified by Sentinel that ADE did not want to take this proposal any further and on 2nd August 2016 Road 2 Pro Limited was incorporated (“R2P”).
I had already been in touch with various parties but with it being the school summer holidays we were in a situation where we had little or no time to do anything. The players returned on 28th July 2016 to be advised that they were now under the R2P banner and that Lowestoft Town Football Club were no longer involved. Could I have intervened at that meeting? Possibly, but due to the clever timing and lack of awareness at the time, we had nothing to offer the youngsters in the way of an education programme to tie in with the football side. We took many calls and emails as a club, from at times angry parents and players alike, who were disappointed that they had been deprived of playing their second year as a team for Lowestoft Town FC in the Youth Alliance league. This was completely out of our control and was a disappointment to us also and understandably with the players and parents being told incorrect information by ADE/R2P, they were taking out their frustrations on the club and officials. As with there being no possibility of offering the education element of the scholarship programme at such short notice, the players and parents were left with little option but to continue with R2P. Could I have done more? Maybe yes, but with this bombshell coming so close to the start of the 2016/17 season it was impossible to resolve the situation. The timing was also difficult with the summer holidays, everything else that was going on in preparation for the start of the new season and the vast amounts of time and planning that was going into sorting out the Norwich City game. Not to mention the time and stresses that followed when the game got called off just before kick-off due to a waterlogged pitch.
What affect has it had on the finances of the club?
It has had a majorly destructive affect on the club. Firstly the entrance fees along with the fines for pulling out of the league were £1885.00. Then there was the scholarship revenue that we anticipated would have been circa £86000.00. It also affected staff at the club who lost hours because we had no midweek or reserve games at the Crown Meadow. Also and still ongoing, Scott King and Darren Cox owe the club just under £10000.00 in payments. This is something that the club are legally pursuing, as this is a substantial figure that the club are rightfully owed.
What have I learnt from this?
I’ve learnt that hindsight is a great thing but there was no way of predicting the situation that came about by certain individuals who were entrusted in various roles to take the future prospects of Lowestoft Town FC forward. I kick myself everyday and get frustrated as to what damage has been done to our club. All the years of hard work by many people to get the backbones of the club in place and bring youngsters through our system had been decimated overnight. Do I blame Darren Cox and Scott King? Yes 100% and even though I had another option at the time, we went with these guys as they presented a proposition that would have put us in good stead for many years to come. Do I blame Danny Crow and Michael Spillane? Not entirely and I genuinely mean that, but they were probably sold a load of lies, just like the club were over the past 24 months. I believe that they were enticed to set this up with Darren Cox and Scott King as there little empire was seriously falling apart. Scott King has since resigned as a director of R2P on the 1st November 2016.
The biggest question that I ask myself everyday is why did neither Danny Crow nor Michael Spillane call me to discuss the situation in more depth rather than just take on board Darren Cox and Scott King’s words regarding the situation. Michael Spillane could not answer me when we met to discuss his future and Danny Crow, according to the EDP knew not a lot of what was going on. Strange one that!!
What’s next for the club?
Obviously we need to find new funds to support the management team and replace Danny Crow and Michael Spillane. They were two players who would have done a great job for us this season in the Ryman League and both would have gone on to have a coaching role within the club. Just because these two have had their contracts terminated does not automatically give us funds for new players, as this whole situation has cost the club dearly. We have to work with what we have until the right players within our budget come along. Some of our current squad are playing through injuries and some have also played through illness. These loyal players need and deserve our 100% support for giving their all and pulling on the shirt week in, week out for this football club. The current squad of players have also been affected immensely by this whole situation and everything that has come about as a result.
Along with Josh Miller, who is already doing great things for the club within the community and schools, we are now talking with the relevant people and will be re-launching a new scholarship programme for next season. Full details of this will be announced in due course. However, if you wish to enquire about joining the Lowestoft Town Scholarship Programme for 2017/18 then please email Josh Miller on firstname.lastname@example.org
The club is working closely with its legal partner Fosters Solicitors in pursuing monies owed to the club by Darren Cox and Scott King as well as taking advice in relation to other causes of action against ADE/R2P due to the Scholarship Programme for 2016/17 being advertised as a Lowestoft Town Scholarship Programme. This was also backed up by successful applicants receiving a letter welcoming them into the programme.
The club will not comment further on the situation, but be assured we are striving to re-build the foundations for a solid future.
Updated 19:33 - 14 Dec 2016 by Terry Bullen