DRIVER CLAIMS REDS OWE HIM 'THOUSANDS'
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EXCLUSIVE BYSAM MUNNERY
09:00 - 26 March 2008
A furious coach driver claims to have been "cheated" out of thousands of pounds by Crawley Town Football Club.
Darren Meekings, the owner of D & K Coaches, says he is owed a whopping £13,000 by the club for the transport service with which he has provided them this season.
The father-of-three set up his coach hire company last year but now says that Crawley owe it so much money that it has almost ruined his business.
His claims come a week after it was revealed that the club face being wound up if they do not pay tax debts to HM Revenue and Customs.
Despite the sum of money that Meekings believes he is due, he claimed that Crawley Town had cut its ties with his company after a disagreement ahead of a midweek game at Altrincham.
The players had to drive up to the evening match because the club did not pay a part of the debt upfront, Meekings claims.
In the Altrincham match report on Crawley's website the club cited "late travel problems" as the reason.
But an incensed Meekings has decided to speak out so fans know his version of the story.
"They have not paid me and I was very close to losing the business over it," he said.
"There was no problem with the coach. I asked them for a minimum of £3,000 of the £13,000 they owe me and they came up with £1,200.
"I feel cheated. I knew what they were playing at. But we couldn't even afford to go shopping the other day and the owners of Crawley are driving round in £100,000 cars."
Meekings set up his Seaford-based business last year after previously working as a driver for Hallmark Coaches in Charlwood.
He is a regular driver for local sports teams, having driven Lewes, Eastbourne Borough and Grays football clubs and the Sussex County Cricket team, as well as taking Horsham to their FA Cup replay at Swansea this season.
Meekings, who has three "football-mad" young sons, was booked to take the Crawley squad up to Cheshire to face Altrincham two weeks ago, part of an £18,000 season-long contract to cater for the Reds' travel to away league matches.
According to the coach driver, that price included a £9,000 discount and D & K arranged with the club for the money to be paid in £2,000 instalments over nine months.
But Meekings claims he has not received payments for the last five months making him £13,000 out of pocket, and matters came to a head on March 11 when he went to collect the Crawley team from the Broadfield Stadium for the long trip north.
He says he forewarned the club via e-mail several times that he expected £3,000 of the debt to be paid to him before he drove the team to Altrincham.
But when he arrived at the ground he says he was handed just £1,200 in cash and told that the club had no other money to give him at the time.
"I don't want to be doing this but at some point you have to draw the line," said Meekings.
"I e-mailed them on Friday and said I wanted the money. I thought: 'I'm being given the runaround here'.
"I sent another e-mail on Monday and said unless a payment of £3,000 is received before the match I wouldn't be able to take them. They knew the score but obviously thought I would be a soft touch.
"They were due to depart at 1pm so I got there at 11.30am and they gave me £1,200 in cash. I asked where the rest of it was and they said: 'We can't get it, we have not got any more money'.
"The thing is I've got a young family and I'm really struggling now. But like everyone else I have been cheated by Crawley Town."
Meekings added he felt "gutted" at leaving the players stranded and even offered them a lift to the railway station, but said he had finally had enough of not being paid.
"I felt upset and uptight that I had let them down but up until now I have had a good relationship with [the club]. But it's not my problem," he said.
Crawley Town were given a chance to respond to the figures quoted by Mr Meekings. A spokesman for the Reds said the club would not comment, adding: "We do not discuss our business affairs through the media."
This has turned into a complete joke, the Conference is being destroyed by twats like this. Theres like 6 teams doing the same at the moment, but surely creepy Crawley are the worst.