Tilbury Football Club was thrown into chaos today after boss Graham Chester and several long serving members of the backroom staff were relieved of their duties in a storm over a multi-million pound property deal and other related issues.
Graham Chester had won two trophies in consecutive seasons but he along with secretary Mark Southgate and press officer Paul Tandy were informed by the Chairman Robbie Nash that their services were no longer required.
The news has broken as secretary Mark Southgate informed YourThurrock that the Football Association (FA) have inquired into several procedures recently undertaken by the club.
Mr Southgate said: ” At this point I understand that the FA are looking into a number of procedures and possible anomalies that have occurred.
“It is a sad state of affairs.”
The father of England international Frank Lampard has also been dragged into the storm. West Ham United legend Frank snr has been one of two businessmen who have been backing the Ryman One North club, which was formed.
He has been accused as part of a ‘carve-up’ after its manager and backroom staff were axed after raising concerns over a proposed ground development said to be worth millions.
Tilbury-based firm Montana Property Investments, run solely by businessman Stephen Boyling, and Frank snr have been backing Tilbury for the past two seasons and have been involved in the planning of a proposed sale and development of the club’s existing site, with a new purpose-built community stadium at a nearby college mooted to be a replacement – though the ground would not belong to Tilbury FC.
In recent months there has been much in-house turbulence behind the scenes at the club – formed in 1900 and known as the Dockers – as moves have taken place to replace the four trustees charged with responsibility for it, with a limited company.
And today chairman Robbie Nash swung the axe, sacking team manager Graham Chester and his coaching staff, lifelong fan and club secretary Mark Southgate (half pictured above, bottom left as a young boy at Notts County when Tilbury reached the third round of the FA Cup) and match secretary and programme editor Paul Tandy – all by a brief email.
Paul Vaughan, who has worked as a scout for Charlton Athletic and is a sport lecturer at South Essex College based at its Grays campus has been named as new manager. Vaughan had been manager of East Thurrock United Under 16s and has also worked with Grays Athletic’s football academy.
He said: ”I am very happy to be manager of Tilbury. I have always been a behind the scenes coach but now seems the right time to step up. With my team of Mickey Bacon and Cliff Matthews, we aim to put Tilbury on the map.”
Chester has been in charge for two seasons, winning the Ryman League Cup and East Anglian Cup and guiding the club to two mid-table positions having flirted with the promotion places in both seasons. A club statement on Thursday said: “Tilbury would like to thank him for his past services.”
Today he said he was stunned but not surprised by the decision, which he says has little to do with the club’s performance on the pitch.
He said: “There is a lot of unsavoury things going on behind the scenes, the club is being raped and asset stripped. They are carving it up just to make millions off it by selling the ground and building houses. The scheme could net as much as £12million which will not be going to secure the future of the club but into people’s pockets.
“They are trying to do something here that will not be liked by the good people of Tilbury and is certainly not for the people of Tilbury. They are trying to develop a new ground they don’t need, all to make millions for themselves.
“Why does Frank Lampard and the like, who have got millions, need to make more by raping a community football club?”
Mr Boyling has denied any involvement in the axing of the club staff and even described as ‘despicable’ the sacking of people by email.
“Frank and I have tried to help Tilbury and over each of the past two seasons and have put £18,000 into the club but what has happened with regards sacking people has nothing to do with us. It’s a football matter dealt with by the club chairman Robbie Nash,” he said.
“We have talked about the club’s future and have indicated that we are not in a position to keep pumping money in and the club needs to look at its financing. We have thought there is merit in Tilbury getting together with Grays in some way for example, as Grays now haven’t got a ground. It would appear to make sense.”
The Football Association is currently looking into affairs at the club, having received allegations of fraudulent activity in its off field activities.
It is believed that paperwork submitted to the FA regarding the transfer of the club from trustee to limited company status falsified Mr Southgate’s presence at certain meetings, held in his absence.
If confirmed, the irregularities could see the club fined, suspended, demoted or even closed.
Mr Southgate, who described his sacking as heartbreaking, declined to make a detailed comment other than to say he was co-operating fully with the FA and added: “I just hope that these issues can be resolved so that we can all concentrate on the thing that matters, the survival and future success of Tilbury FC.”