The chairman of Falkirk Football Club’s charity organisation has quit.
Dennis Canavan resigned from the Falkirk Football Community Foundation based at Falkirk Stadium over a row with club bosses about how much money it pays the the Scottish Championship side in service charges and rates.
The former Labour MP and Independent MSP for Falkirk claims he had been “grossly misled” by Bairns directors over the issue.
Mr Canavan challenged a “demand” from the club to the foundation to pay £31,000 of the £84,000 annual service charge payable to Falkirk Community Stadium Limited owned by Falkirk Council and £14,500 towards the annual £39,440 rates bill.
He said: “As chair of a registered charity I was not prepared to sign up to any future agreement unless I had access to all relevant information to enable me to judge whether it was fair and clearly in the foundation’s interests.”
The political veteran was scathing about the senior figures he had been dealing with at the football club and added: “I tried repeatedly to get accurate information from them but it was never forthcoming.
“I considered both sums excessive and after completing my own investigations with the Assessor’s Office found the share of the rates the club expected the foundation to pay covered areas of Falkirk Stadium the foundation does not even use including the north stand, south stand, the pitch, toilets and food stands.
“We were being asked to pay more than our fair share. I pursued this for many months and got no-where. I long held the view there seemed to be a basic misunderstanding within the club about the role of the foundation.
“Its principal function is to benefit the community, although there are obvious benefits to the club from having a good relationship with the community, not providing an income stream or a channel to enable it to access charitable funding which it cannot access directly.
“The club is responsible for a deplorable lack of transparency in the financial relationship between club and foundation. I have no confidence in Martin Ritchie or Ronnie Bateman. I can’t work with people I don’t trust. I was grossly misled by representitives of Falkirk FC.
“The relationship had to be based on trust, transparency and accountability rather than obstruction, obfuscation and false information.”
Mr Canavan said he had resigned “reluctantly”.
“I thought it over very carefully, but now hope that despite the obvious difficulties the foundation can continue to support a very deserving community and work with the football club. I wish both organisations every success in the future.”
Yesterday (Wednesday) Falkirk FC issued a statement on behalf of chairman Doug Henderson.
It said: “The club is aware of the allegations made by Dennis Canavan and does not accept his criticism.
“The club always has, and will continues to, work closely with the foundation on all matters. Doug Henderson and the new chairman of the foundation Charles MacDonald have met and agreed to work in partnership to provide the best community football and other services for the wider community of Falkirk.
“All discussions with the foundation were known and authorised by the Falkirk board - including those involving Martin Ritchie and Ronnie Bateman.”