SPECIAL FEATURE: Carshalton Athletic... a club with two sides to the story (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)
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SPECIAL FEATURE: Carshalton Athletic... a club with two sides to the story
This weekend, Carshalton Athletic host Lowestoft at Colston Avenue in their battle to beat relegation out of the Ryman Premier League.
When the teams last met in October, the Robins were hammered 5-0.
However, the match is not remembered for the scoreline – more for triggering yet another chapter in the feud between the club owner Paul Dipre and the Carshalton Athletic Independent Supporters Club (CAISC).
Even before the CAISC was formed in February last year, Dipre and a section of Robins fans were at loggerheads.
In fact, there have been disagreements and antagonism since Dipre took over the club almost six years ago.
CAISC secretary Peter Randall will tell you his organisation wants only to open talks with Dipre, and that this is written into their constitution.
He will also tell you that their ultimate aim is not to remove Dipre from power, rather work together for the betterment of the club.
However, Dipre will tell you that, after almost six years of alleged harassment at the hands of fans who are now part of the CAISC, failed discussions and broken promises, the doors to dialogue are firmly shut.
So, into this volatile atmosphere came Lowestoft.
The manager at the time, Ian Hazel, contacted Dipre – who was not at the game – after the match to tell him he would be stepping down after being subjected to alleged abuse from a group of Robins fans.
Dipre’s own investigation led him to the doors of Randall and fellow fan and CAISC member Colin Loadman, who were subsequently banned from Colston Avenue pending an investigation.
Randall admits he and Loadman did have a conversation with Hazel, but deny a confrontation took place, and that they have evidence to back up their claim.
Dipre will tell you that his past experience of the pair, his belief in Hazel’s honesty and statements he have gathered all point to the contrary.
Dipre is still waiting on a response from the pair, and until he gets it, they remained banned.
Confrontation? Ian Hazel and fans at October's Lowestoft match
Randall says the pair will co-operate, but not with Dipre, saying: “The alleged incident at Lowestoft is a complete stitch up.
“A friend of mine spoke to Ian [Hazel] not long after and asked why he had told Paul Dipre that Randall and Loadman had been having a go, and he said: ‘I didn’t say that to Paul’.
“So what is the truth? I suspect Paul said: ‘Were Randall and Loadman there’ and because Ian said he had spoken to us, the answer was yes, and Paul used it for his own purposes. Colin and I have not been allowed in the ground since.”
He added: “Colin and I have said that we are quite happy to co-operate with an independent enquiry, but not something where Paul sets himself up as accuser, judge and jury. That would be unfair.”
Dipre said: “I had a complaint I had to deal with. I had to make a judgement on what was the best thing to do. That’s what happened.
“We collected many statements, and they [Randall and Loadman] are the only people not to provide one.”
He added: “They know that is what happened, we told them that is what happened, but it did not stop them harassing us and being extremely unhelpful, writing things about us and telling people we made up stories, such as I forced Ian into the job.”
Dipre took ownership of the Robins in 2008, with the club teetering on the brink of relegation, and his financial backing kept the side in the Ryman Premier League.
Community club: Former Robins chairman Frank Thompson, second left, picks up the FA Charter Standard Community Club in 2012
Since then, the club’s work has been rewarded with three FA community club of the year awards, and a runners-up spot in last year’s UEFA community club of the year.
Despite this, Dipre maintains that the CAISC’s ultimate aim is to remove him from power, and that the group publicly questions every decision he makes to fuel ill-feeling and undermine his position.
He said: “All they want to do is see the club do badly, with the intention of trying to remove me.
“If you are going to ask me if I have done everything right over the past five years, absolutely not, but one thing I have never done is be spiteful and unkind in the way they have.
“I may not be a saint, but all I am trying to do is the best for the club. They are trying to stop it, and they have tried to stop it and object to it on every single thing we have done for five years.
“The budget is too high, the budget is too low. Investment is too much, investment is too little.
“Whatever we do, they will object and we cannot continue that way because it will destroy the social fabric of our club.”
He added: “We have banned them, we have let them back in, they have made all manner of promises. I have been threatened, my family has been threatened. It is pointless for me to say anything.
“I am tired of defending myself. I have nothing to defend myself for.
“Ask yourself a question – if I am the person they say I am, the devil incarnate, does it make sense that all the people at the club work for me, and support me and that we’ve won community awards? Does that make sense?
“If the answer is no, then you have to ask yourself why are these people saying such things about me? Who is the monster here?”
Happy and sad: Life under the leadership of Paul Dipre has seen both sides of the football coin at Colston Avenue - a run in the FA Trophy in 2012, including a 3-1 win over Lincoln City, and being saved from relegation to Ryman Division One South by virtue of another club being docked points
Randall said: “When Paul came in, he probably rescued the club financially, but within a fairly short period people who had volunteered to help the club one by one fell away.
“People who had given money as shareholders were made to feel they were hindering the club. We have had some awful shareholder meetings where Paul refused to talk to the shareholders.
“There were some strong feelings about changing the club badge, the colours of the club, a lot of people were not happy with Paul’s self-appointment as manager with no qualifications and we saw where that ended up with the team at the bottom of the division.
“We feel if there had been a dialogue between people with different views other than the coterie of people Paul chooses to surround himself with, the club would be in a far better situation.”
He added: “We think there is a great emphasis on the money earning sides of the club – the academy, the many teams that the club now runs, the planning application for a 3G pitch, that all generates an income. Where is that income going to be used?
“What are Paul's long-term intentions? I don’t know. But the evidence from his previous statements make it quite clear that money gained from the business venture is not going to end up near the first team.
“The feeling is that the first team is being marginalised in favour of all the other things at the club.”
In the job: The CAISC say their aim is not the removal of Paul Dipre
He added: “Removing Paul is not our aim. There is no way we can remove Paul. We want to have a dialogue. We represent the interests of our members. We want to have a good relationships and dialogue with the club.”
The latest issue surrounds the banning of six fans for reasons as yet undisclosed by the club, and the apparent injustice of a ban without explanation has caused an explosion of hatred on Twitter directly mainly at Dipre and the club.
Dipre said: “If I did say why they have been banned, number one it would expose people who have been involved in the discussion, and number two, they would deny it anyway, so it makes no difference.
“We’ve been having this for five years, it serves no purpose all this ‘he says, she says, I said this, you said that’.
“It means absolutely nothing because whatever we say at the club, they will claim it is untrue. It does not matter, it is pointless.”
He added: “We have tried all manner of things, we have had meetings, I have let them back into the club, we have had more meetings, and it has not worked.
“So our objective now is to say nothing, do nothing, batten down the hatches, because we want it go away.”
Randall said: “Saying people are scared of retribution is a very easy get out, why is he afraid to talk to people? There has never been any violence or hooliganism at the club.
“We want to open a dialogue. We sent messages to Paul last year, and increasingly the replies became more abusive.
“But talking is still one of CASIC’s objectives and it takes two to tango, but at the moment there is only one doing the tango.”