Billericay Town: The Only Way Isn’t Necessarily Essex

by | Sep 1, 2017

Glenn Tamplin was background noise to my summer, merely the latest wealthy narcissist ejaculating wealth and narcissism over a non-league football club before the narcissism proves insufficient once the wealth runs out. Tamplin, the owner of Isthmian League Billericay Town, initially seemed little different to over-ambitious owners like Canvey Island’s Jeff King, Grays Athletic’s Micky Woodward and Hornchurch’s Karl Williams… even when he made himself Billericay’s manager (King did likewise at Canvey. But a closer look at Tamplin’s public persona (which strongly suggests there isn’t a private one) reveals plenty more “ejaculating.”

The forty-five year-old frequently comes across like a brasher, more hateful version of fellow East-Londoner Alan Sugar. The support Tamplin has “bought” from non-league football people, makes me despair.  And researching this article made me nauseous. Everything Tamplin has done at Billericay has been “bought.”  However, the question of how Tamplin has afforded his huge Billericay investment remains mysterious even after examining his business history, though. Labels like “steel magnate” or “tycoon” permeate a media profile which includes depressingly regular Sun newspaper appearances. These labels certainly seem to imply greater wealth than suggested by a Companies House profile pock-marked with company dissolutions, liquidations and “small company exemptions” from the requirement to produce full accounts.

The Sun claimed in July that Tamplin’s “AGP Steel empire turns over around £5m a month.” But that is nearly six times the upper limit for small company exemptions. And while there are four Companies House-listed “AGP Steel” companies (Advertising slogan, “The Fabrication Specialists”), Tamplin resigned his “AGP Steel Fabrications” directorship on January 9 2017 and his “AGP Steel Structures London Limited” directorship on May 8th. Meanwhile, “AGP Steels” was wound up in February 2014. And “AGP Steel Structures,” from which Tamplin did not resign, is in liquidation, with assets of £44,000 and £824,000 worth of creditors, including £374,000 claimed by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise (HMRC). Winding-up petitions against this company were filed, in February, by HMRC and the London Borough of Havering.

Yes, dissolved and liquidated companies flood the business histories of many football club owners/directors. But…well… Oh…and “AGP Steel Fabrication”? From June 13th 2016 until January 9th 2017, it was… Dagenham and Redbridge FC 2016 Ltd (see below). And before “AGP,” Tamplin was a “Complete Steel” man. An “empire” with similar financial (mis)fortune. “Complete Steel Ltd” ceased to be in 2012, with creditors claiming £352,000 (HMRC £38,500). And “Complete Steel Services” went pop in August 2014, owing £1.6m. A “complete” mess, perhaps? There is also an “empire” of “Chase” companies. Two are dissolved and the other two have combined net assets which wouldn’t cover Billericay’s reported annual wage bill.

Tamplin excused his “failures” in typically off-beat manner, noting that both Walt Disney and Barack Obama “liquidated companies” and adding: “You live and learn. I have three liquidated companies in my history” (twelve either “in liquidation” or “dissolved”, to be precise) I started out with a £50,000 bank loan and I got eaten by the big boys. My last liquidated company was a while ago” (see “AGP Steel Structures” above).

This, however, he considered not to really be his fault, though: “The biggest loss was when I was a subcontractor for Raillink, and the prime contractor had quantity surveyors who ate me for breakfast. Every month they would come up with reasons that they couldn’t pay me and extra work I needed to do. By the end of the contract they owed me millions and offered me peanuts and I had to take the company down.” But the “small company” accounts do not explain his transformation from surveyors’ Corn Flakes to “steel magnate.” Or estimates of his “personal net worth” as £45m, as “certified by a Chartered Accountant,” according to a statement by Dagenham & Redbridge FC in July 2016. Or his opulent lifestyle and the Billericay expenditure, which will soon include millions on the playing squad if reports of a £25,000 weekly wage bill are ballpark, and millions redeveloping their previously slightly ramshackle New Lodge ground into a genuinely impressive structure.

Tamplin told the Sun’s Paul Jiggins in July that he built up his businesses by spending “17 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week working at an unbelievable level with hardly any sleep.” He did this “for ten years” – 1997-2007 if his chronology was correct. However, that doesn’t buy his current lifestyle in itself. Something, , seems to be missing, and hopefully his comment that, “I have never sold a gram of gear in my life. Nor have I done anything illegal intentionally,” wasn’t an unsolicited revelation of some sort or other.

Tamplin’s football background is more verifiable, with a spell as a Leyton Orient youth, followed by “pushing ten years” at Isthmian League Barking and Barkingside FC. But he’s no “lifelong” fan of any club, let alone Billericay, the fourth choice for his largesse, after Brentwood Town, Dagenham and Redbridge and Bishop’s Stortford. Dagenham and Redbridge said he supported them “as a boy.” But even he didn’t try to fake that one, despite genuinely being a “Dagenham boy” (the “club” was still a developing combination of its 94 predecessor/constituent clubs during the 1972-born Tamplin’s boyhood). “I knew the club, I trialled here,” he told fan site DiggerDagger (DD) last September. “But boyhood fan? No.”

In that interview, Tamplin explained why interest in Brentwood and Stortford faded. He later said that “either the fans weren’t alright or the club wasn’t alright or the percentage of ownership wasn’t right,” while at Billericay, “the price was right, the area was right, the fans were right.” He told DD: “I looked at Brentwood Town because my boy was playing there, but it was pretty clear it wasn’t right and I didn’t put an offer in.” Then, he heard Bishops Stortford were looking for a buyer. That “went a long way” until Tamplin twigged “that the owner, Luigi (del Basso), didn’t have full control and I was paying an awful lot of money for 47% of the business.” Before “the end” at Stortford, Tamplin got wind that the Daggers were in financial bother. And on July 27th 2016, the Daggers’ directors strongly recommended acceptance of Tamplin’s offer to “invest a minimum of £250,000 a year for a minimum of five years” for “an 80% share of the Club.”

The Dagenham deal exposed Tamplin’s penchant for the PR disaster. DiggerDagger reported that Tamplin called a General Meeting of club members for the 6th July to present his offer” but “pulled out at the very last minute, allegedly citing “abuse” from fans.” This, DD noticed, denied members the chance “to speak to him directly.” And DD added that “apart from a few schoolboy variations on his name on the Daggers Forum, no one can provide evidence of any kind of abuse of Mr Tamplin online.” A new bid emerged soon enough. It also emerged that AGP Steel were to sponsor the Family Stand in 2016/17. And this preference for emergence over announcement became significant on August 18th, when it emerged that “Daniel Groves” from AGP Steel had emailed club sponsors proclaiming: “We have just purchased” the club.

Tamplin’s business “difficulties” were also emerging, with DD (again) referencing “a history of his businesses being taken bust” with creditors “out of pocket” by “over £2m.” And while club members voted in October to accept Tamplin’s offer, the board announced on November 9th that “since that meeting, a number of members have privately contacted members of the current Board” to “(express) concerns and (indicate) that they would now not support the (bid).” The Daggers board withdrew their recommendation and Tamplin withdrew his interest. Mind you, he must have been talking to Billericay’s long-time owner Steve Kent within minutes as his takeover came “after several weeks of negotiations” and was announced on December 16th.

And so the “circus” began. Tamplin’s managerial ambitions manifested themselves through requesting club chairman Dan Groves (him again) to tell long-term boss Craig Edwards that he was appointing himself joint-manager. Edwards told him to stuff it. The “joint manager” guff meant “promises have been broken,” which Edwards “found wholly unacceptable.” And he Edwards believed that subsequent events proved that he had seen through Tamplin’s real thinking: “Only a couple of hours after I resigned Glenn put himself in the hot seat already.”

He added that Billericay’s “new young side” were “fifth at the time of the takeover” before “a dismal run of three draws and five defeats which Glenn was big enough to accept responsibility for.” But Edwards was “sure the club has a very rosy future and Rambo, Fids and myself wish you every success.” “Rambo, Fids and myself” would soon exact a wonderful revenge. Billericay beat Tonbridge 8-3 in the Isthmian League Cup final before missing out on promotion. However, Tamplin made himself the story, with a repugnant mix of repugnant PR stunts, repugnant tweets and repugnant attitudes towards anybody who deviated from his world view.

The PR stunts included an announcement that “TOWIE star” Mark Wright would invest in a 20% stake in the club and the hiring of cheerleaders (“The Ricays”) who were sacked after “devout Christian Glenn caught one of the cheerleaders messaging her number to a player.” Tamplin tweeted that “We have had to let the cheerleaders go as the lads were becoming unfocused and some girls (not all) were sending their numbers to them.” The Sun got a 700-word article out of it, liberally “illustrated” by pictures of some Ricays “in action.” Great PR all-round.

Meanwhile, all Twitter critics were “haters.” Yet Tamplin picked one Twitter fight with Concord Rangers chairman Ant Smith, who was, from Tamplin’s own perspective, no such “hater.” Tamplin, it may not surprise you, subscribes to the “intern-all-muslims” school of political thought. Likewise, Smith. Both LOVE to talk about their charity work (and again, in fairness, both have charity work to talk about, hence Sam Elliott’s ability to call Smith “a nice guy as it happens,” in the Non-League Paper [NLP]).

But Smith tweeted on June 1st: “Spent less than £2,500 a week getting out of the Ryman Premier League #justsaying.” This was one-tenth of the then-reported Billericay wage bill. And Tamplin responded, as any spoilt-brat teenager would: “‘I have had a lot of messages that you are hating on me and I have just seen it for myself which I am really disappointed with.” Thus, the pre-season friendly between the clubs on July 29th was “cancelled.” The club’s official statement was more formal but no less daft. “These personal and negative comments, directed at Glenn Tamplin” made it inappropriate “to expose our travelling supporters to such open negativity. The safety and enjoyment of our travelling fans is of paramount important to us and we have therefore had no choice but to cancel the Concord Rangers fixture.” That very day, the local Echo newspaper were able to report that Billericay were “pleased and proud to welcome Leyton Orient to the AGP Arena on July 29.”

The “haters” stuff stank to the highest possible heaven two days later, when Tamplin posted a Twitter meme, replete with club badge and his “kindest regards” as “owner/manager Billericay Town FC.” It advised “all haters” to “choose from one of the following helplines” and listed phone numbers for Alcoholics Anonymous, charities dealing with “drug and addiction” and “mental health” issues and a job centre number for any “dole dosser, benefits cheat, unemployed.” This repugnance was defended by regular Tamplin apologist Mark Baker, who said “a lot of what Glenn does on social media is to grab attention” and put the club “further on the map… he’s not as silly as you think.” Baker was reminded that “suggesting that someone must have addiction or mental health issues is not a fucking joke.” Well, quite. (Baker’s defence appeared on a Dulwich Hamlet fan site thread entitled “Billericay owner Glenn Tamplin becomes manager.” The 38-page thread also includes a valuable perspective from Billericay fan Ben Alltimes, who is very far from a “regular Tamplin apologist.”)

Somebody clearly had a word with Tamplin this time, though, as on this occasion he embarked on a damage-limitation exercise. But this again shone unintended light on his behaviour. He “revealed” (to the Sun, natch) that years building his AGP “empire” put him “in a mental institution for nearly three months after suffering from burnout. I was in a dark place, I wanted to take my life.” This made ridiculing his “haters” for “mental health issues” seem even worse. And worse still followed. Having seen the artwork at Billericay’s redeveloped ground, someone tweeted “Stop the world, I want to get off,” which some might consider to be a relatively polite reaction to what was on display. The home dressing room is “resplendent” with lion murals (“for all my LIONS… kings of the jungle,” Tamplin explained). While another mural on the main stand’s outside wall, contains a frankly distressing drawing of Tamplin in bed with his wife, Bliss. At least both of them are asleep, for which I guess we should probably be grateful. Tamplin has his mouth closed, making him hard to recognise, and he is, apparently, dreaming of “trophys” and Billericay in “professional leagues.”

Tamplin’s response to the “stop the world” tweet? “Tall building or fast train Fella …. just jump if you had enough.” As someone else tweeted, correctly: “Born-again Christian Glenn Tamplin recommends suicide to someone. This man really has no class and a slew of internal conflicts” (external conflicts, too, given that one admirable part of his Billericay investment is the availability of “street pastors… at home games to help people with faith, depression, addiction etc…”) Good job Tamplin “isn’t in the business of criticising or running other people down.” Tamplin’s born-again Christianity came as a shock after hours researching his lifestyle, although he certainly has an American televangelist’s eye for appalling taste. “Happy are those who live in an £18m-£20m mansion with four Ferraris in the drive,” it must say somewhere in the Bible, if Tamplin’s discovery of God is to be believed. And his £7m wedding in 2015 was an entire Gospel of garishness.

There is little need to add comment to May’s “Essex Live” article headlined “Glenn Tamplin discusses his favourite room at his stunning £18m Abridge mansion.” He lives in a “breathtaking eight-bedroom property with Bliss and two sons Archie and Tate. The house sits on 68 acres, (with) a nine-hole golf course, full size grass and 4G football pitches, a dune buggy racing track, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, gym and three other cottages.” It would take something to overshadow the fact that he named one of his sons “Tate Tamplin”, but Glenn didn’t disappoint. “Everything in my dining room is homemade,” he said, although the homes in which they were made were far and wide. The units with the crushed glass took five months to make, whilst the white marble on the floor took five months to import in. My table was imported from Harrods, my Massimo designer light was made and imported from Italy and I have a suite of Salvador Dalis that took me four years to collect.”

Despite all this splendour, the “favourite room” is his “dining-room” because “it is where we sit in the evening as a family and discuss the day and how it has gone for each of us. We turn our phones off for an hour… and talk about what we could have done better, what we could improve on… and whether we owe anyone an apology for something we have done.” Whatever about his personal life and style, though, it feels as though Tamplin has brought non-league football into something approaching disrepute on countless occasions over the last few months. He may, however, be too rich to care. And no sanction within the Football Association’s remit seems particularly likely to to matter to him.

He left Twitter on August 17th, having “had enough.” And he promised not to “open this app until I win the league,” advising “haters” to “go hunt someone else down.” But he was back within three days, claiming that he would “ignore the haters.” Instead, he defiantly retweeted a “Wolf of Wall Street” meme to “all the muggy keyboard warrior haters” to whom he promised “it’s going to happen at BTFC, 200%” (thanks for the plug, Glenn). Of course, the real “Wolf of Wall Street” was a financial fraud who ended up in prison. Alex Narey wrote in last week’s NLP that Tamplin was “taking the gloss off what the players and the football club are really about” and that he should “sit back, enjoy what you have and let the professionals do what you are paying them handsomely for.” Wise words (and I’m not just saying that because he is my NLP boss…)

There’s no immediate prospect of that, though, while HE can win the league. Craig Edwards exacted whatever sweet revenge he sought when his Kingstonian team won 1-0 at Billericay on the season’s opening day (last minute, too). Since then, however, Billericay have hit form commensurate with their wage bill and the league is already theirs to lose. The only way to get rid of him, it seems, is to let a higher league “experience” him.

Hopefully this wearying behaviour is not the symptom of something more serious. The hope for Billericay Town is that he either shuffles off before he does irretrievable damage to the club’s reputation and/or finances or somehow builds something which is sustainable without him, his lions and, we would have to add, his ego. Because non-league football fans know what happened to Canvey after King, Grays after Woodward and Hornchurch after Williams. Tamplin may deserve the owners’ fates. Billericay Town does not deserve the fates that eventually befell these clubs.