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Millwall publish Kavanagh letter

23 February 2017

CEO 'astonished and dismayed' about Council meeting papers

Millwall Football Club wishes to make public a letter sent by its CEO, Steve Kavanagh, to Cllr Smith, Barry Quirk and Lewisham's Head of Law, Kath Nicholson, which is in response to comments made in papers relating to the Council meeting on 22 February.

It reads:

Dear Cllr Smith,

I am astonished and dismayed to read in the papers for the 22 February Council meeting that the reason the Cabinet has not met with Millwall Football Club is that there were a number of preconditions set out in a letter from the club's lawyers which made a meeting impossible.
The club wrote to the Cabinet suggesting a framework by which a meeting might proceed and to date has received no response bar this misinformed and misleading written answer.

You may recall that you responded to my 9 January request for a meeting by suggesting a time and place on 11 January with barely 24 hours notice.

When I offered to reschedule, you proposed a meeting on the very same day that the CPOs were on the Mayor & Cabinet agenda - both scheduled for 8 February. To hold two such important meetings within hours of one another would not have allowed any time to review, research or report on any of the issues raised by the club in its meeting with the Cabinet.

The letter from Millwall's lawyers to which you refer, dated 25 January (not 1 February as indicated in your answer), welcomed the opportunity to communicate openly and, quite within reason, requested that adequate time be allowed between the meeting of the Cabinet and the club and the scheduled CPO decision, whilst also setting out a fair timetable for each party to respond to any issues arising from the meeting of the club and Cabinet.

The timelines raised in the letter would have been a point of discussion and agreement in a meeting between the club and the Cabinet and, had the Cabinet responded at any stage, it could have suggested any number of mutually agreeable alternatives.

Following news articles uncovering false funding claims related to the Surrey Canal Sports Foundation, the club also sought clarification from the Cabinet in the 25 January letter.

Mayor Bullock's statement on the CPOs came within hours of that letter being sent, washing away any of the letter's core conditions for a meeting. Given the CPO was withdrawn from the Mayor & Cabinet agenda for 8 February and an inquiry subsequently announced, it would have been entirely easy to conform with the reasonable terms suggested by Millwall.

The club has still not received a response and to describe the club's requests as an insurmountable barrier for a meeting, in an official context, is a distortion of the facts.

On the occasion the club did receive a reply from Lewisham's Head of Law, Kath Nicholson, on 8 February, the letter did not answer any of the questions or concerns raised by the club's legal team nor was there any reference to the proposed meeting of the club and Cabinet. A follow up letter from our legal team remains unanswered.

Furthermore, on 1 February, Lewisham's Chief Executive Barry Quirk requested a meeting with me, which took place on 9 February. It was possible for this meeting to go ahead, irrespective of the preconditions to which you refer.

Both parties agreed in that meeting that trust and good faith needed to be re-established between the club and Lewisham Council. The suggestion, in your answer to Cllr Milne, that Millwall Football Club has been uncooperative and therefore a meeting could not be arranged does a disservice to those endeavours.

We would be happy to make all of the correspondence available to substantiate the club's willingness and preparedness to meet with the Cabinet and to assure the Council that there are no conditions which would preclude a meeting of the parties.

I welcome any Councillor to come and meet with me and discuss any of these issues, as I am doing with Cllr Maslin tomorrow.

The club wants to be at the heart of the regeneration and to assist the Council to deliver it, but misleading statements like this seriously undermine the good faith needed to do so.

Yours sincerely,

Steve Kavanagh  

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