THE man at the centre of a power struggle at Brighouse’s biggest social club has been buying up more than £50,000 of its debts, the Examiner can reveal.
Andy Speechley’s actions have caused concern for committee members at Blakeborough Sports and Social Club, in particular, former subscriptions secretary, Andy Taylor.
Although he was on the winning side of a four day court hearing at Leeds earlier this month in an acrimonious battle as to who runs the club, he says he is concerned about Mr Speechley’s motivation behind the debt-buying spree.
Mr Speechley, who was on the losing side, says he is personally liable for £45,000 of legal costs.
But he is hoping to appeal the ruling by Recorder Brian Rawling.
The feud started more than four years ago following a decision by the cash-strapped club’s committee to sell its bowling club in Halifax Road as a way of easing its financial woes.
Mr Speechley, a keen bowler, who has a deep-rooted emotional attachment to Albion Bowling Club was outraged by the idea and set about galvanising members to fight the sale.
This led to a police investigation into the social club’s activities which found no evidence of wrong doing and numerous civil court hearings in Halifax.
Asked by the Examiner about the debt-buying, Mr Speechley initially said he had done it to save the Blakeborough club known as ‘Blakes’ from being wound up by its many creditors.
He said: “The club was in debt to the tune of £170,000. Everything I have done was to protect not only the bowling club but the ‘overall’ club (ie Blakes) for everybody.”
To do this Mr Speechley consulted a firm of Huddersfield solicitors and set up a limited company – Blakes Sports Brighouse Ltd – to purchase £54,000 of the debts.
The debts he bought include more than £20,000 to a finance company, £1,871.46 to Yorkshire Water Services and more than £11,000 to Corona Energy Retail.
These debts have now been ‘assigned’ to his company which has its address at Mr Speechley’s home in Hoults Lane, Greetland.
But Mr Speechley later admitted that his motives for buying up the debt also contained a strong element of self-interest.
He said a “top man in the world of insolvency” had suggested the tactic to him in the event of him ending up on the losing end of the court action.
He says he borrowed £30,000 to buy £54,000 of the club’s debts which may well help him when it comes to settling payment of his £45,000 legal bill.
Mr Taylor, who was accused by Mr Speechley during the court action of running Blakes in a manner which recalled “Adolf Hitler”, said he is concerned about Mr Speechley’s debt-buying which was not revealed to the court.
He said he had passed the details on to Steven White who represented Mr Taylor and Rod Allott – social club president, during the court hearing.
Mr Taylor said: “This debt-buying comes from a man who told the judge he couldn’t afford a barrister. He didn’t declare it.
“Why he has done it we don’t know”.
AFTER a court victory on November 2, Andy Taylor was entitled to feel elated.
His rival, Andy Speechley, leader of the bowling club faction, had been defeated in the courtroom.
Surely, he and his colleagues thought, the way is now clear to get Blakes open again after an 18-month closure and in those heady moments the thought of eager punters thronging through its doors before Christmas seemed all too achievable.
However, that thrilling courtroom success now seems a distant memory.
Since then, Mr Taylor (inset) has spent a frustrating few weeks trying to get the utility companies to switch the power, gas and water back on.
And even when they have finally agreed to do that there’s still the question of getting Carlsberg Tetley to start deliveries of beer again.
But Mr Taylor is not one to get downhearted.
Determination could be his middle name and he is anxious to restore his reputation after years of allegations of fraud, theft and mismanagement .
Mr Taylor, who runs his own business as well as trying to solve the problems of Blakes, said: “It’s the good name of the club that has been lost.
“There will always be people who say: ‘there’s no smoke without fire’, not all the documents were shown etc.”
So getting the club back on its feet, agonisingly slow process that it is, is also crucial to restoring his own reputation.
Not that things will ever be quite the same again.
Sat at the club in front of a portable gas fire, Mr Taylor says: “We lost about 170 members the minute the court action started. They just didn’t renew their subscriptions in 2010. People were put off.
“There were 500 loyal members last time around, 2010-2011 and then we closed.”
But he and his colleagues have been through too much to give up now despite the prospect of even more court action given Mr Speechley’s determination to appeal.
Mr Taylor said: “We need to get our hard core regulars back in, it used to be packed.
“We are a town centre club which is rare and we are in the right place to get them back in.
“There was a lot of bingo played, we had three snooker teams, darts and dominoes.
“It will be fantastic for everyone to come in and enjoy a party atmosphere, it will be great.
“We need some fresh blood and people who will work for the club. We have to make it attractive for people to come back.
“People are frustrated, they want to know when they can come back in and the doors are going to open.
“Every week all I get is: ‘When? When? but there is no magic wand I can wave.”
Opening before Christmas would have had the cash tills chinking and there would have been an inevitable feelgood factor amongst the Christmas lights but Mr Taylor is nothing if not a realist and accepts that the comeback is unlikely to be a swift one.
And then there is still the vexed question of trying to sell Albion Bowling Club which has remained open while the ‘parent’ club has stayed shut.
There have been a couple of meetings between the two sides’ members though Mr Taylor has not attended them.
They have not been productive he says, “rubbish”.
It’s going to be a long, cold, hard winter.
ANDY SPEECHLEY is certainly what is sometimes called a conundrum.
He spends his time inventing devices to make the lives of the most vulnerable members of society - such as Thalidomide victims - more bearable and dignified.
Not many people can put their hand up to inventing a ‘dignity commode’.
Then there’s his past history as a folk singer - and a well-known, popular one at that, around the Huddersfield circuit.
He was even a member of the band Plexus during the 1970s, making several records and appearing in concert all over Europe.
He’s been a businessman too. As well as being a cycle distributor he took over the restaurant and coffee lounge The Blue Rooms at Byram Arcade in 1986.
And he has dabbled in the esoteric field of biorhythms – the fascinating mystery of why you can feel on top of the world one day and then feel the weight of the world dragging you down the next.
Although he is undoubtedly gentle and sensitive he readily admits to being driven, and has a headstrong, impetuous side .
Anyone who heard him casually refer to his mild-mannered club rival Andy Taylor as a ‘Hitler-like figure’ at a court in Leeds earlier this month will be aware of his potential for mood swings.
2008 - Hit by the recession Blakes has to face up to its debts. The prospect of selling the separate bowling club on Halifax Road is discussed as a way of easing its plight.
In December 2009 three members of a breakaway faction at the club contact Halifax police station to make an allegation of fraud.
Ten boxes of documents, including bank statements, invoices, cheque books and cash books, are seized.
February 2011 - club shuts its doors.
July 2011 – Committee members at the crisis-torn club are cleared of allegations of fraud and theft following a year-long police investigation
November 2, 2012 – Claimants Andy Speechley and others lose their case at Leeds Chancery Court as Recorder Brian Rawlings rules in favour of former subscriptions secretary, Andy Taylor and president Rod Allott.