Two weeks ago, just months before our 125th anniversary celebrations, owners Meadow Residential pulled the plug on Dulwich Hamlet’s funding. For those who are not aware, Meadow want to build on the site where our ground is currently situated and build a new stadium on adjacent land. The club is now caught in the middle of a planning dispute between Southwark Council and Meadow Residential; a dispute centred around the latter’s unwillingness to provide the area with an acceptable amount of affordable housing within their development.
We now face a situation where the financial running of the club has been dumped on us with six days’ notice and no transition period. Volunteers on both the Supporters’ Trust Board and the Football Committee have the unenviable task of piecing together the finances whilst having no control over the bar, the catering or staffing levels for match day operations- which are widely seen as excessive as we have enough volunteers to cover many of these roles.
This last week has been an emotional rollercoaster for the fans and volunteers whose club means so much to them.
Hamlet fans on Tuesday night- image courtesy of Mike Urban
We have had support from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, from Peter Crouch- who started his career at Dulwich- and from across the non-league family, who have offered assistance from Merthyr Tydfil to Whitehawk, from West Didsbury and Chorlton to our London neighbours Hendon FC- who have kindly offered to contribute from their gate receipts and 50/50 draw at our away game next week. Not forgetting of course, our good friends from Altona 1893 in Hamburg, many of whom have signed up to our Supporters’ Trust, and the many non-league fans of other clubs who are too numerous to mention. Many of them would miss away days in south London and our friendly and welcoming atmosphere if the situation ends badly. This is what non-league football is all about.
This week we returned to Champion Hill for the first time since the bad news was delivered, and a large section of the community turned out to support us with an unprecedented Tuesday night gate, just shy of 1200- even more remarkable given there was an England international on TV. The media arrived in numbers too, with camera crews from the BBC and Sky, and reporters from the Guardian and the Independent who have extensively covered our plight in recent weeks.
Volunteers from the Supporters’ Trust and the 12th Man Fund were out in force shaking buckets, selling 350 50/50 tickets and 600 programmes. The Trust kept the club shop open throughout the game and signed up 40 new members. Amongst the melee of activity, the club still found time to hold a winter coat collection for the homeless.
After years of helping the community, we needed help in return and were delighted that they didn’t let us down. The football, as we beat Harrow Borough 2-0, was neither exciting nor spectacular, but the evening was a much-welcomed morale booster sending us five points clear at the top of the Bostik Premier League. Our next milestone will be a home game against Lowestoft Town FC on the 25th November when we will try and push the attendance over 2,000.
Today's author- David Rogers
The questions on everyone’s lips on Tuesday night were, is this enough? How long can this be sustained for? How can a club with such fantastic support be losing the amount of money Meadow are claiming?
These questions will no doubt be answered over the next couple of home games when we find out how much we are getting from the bar sales and turnstile receipts- and we can then attempt to plan for our future.
Until then we will be putting all our efforts into fundraising and doing everything we can to keep afloat. Dulwich fans are not going to let the club go down without a fight.
David Rogers is a Dulwich Hamlet fan who has served on the Supporters’ Trust Board and is a regular volunteer at their home games.
Are you a supporter with something to say, or a budding Bostik League writer who would like a platform for your work? Then please feel free to get in touch, as whether you would like to write about the work of your club’s volunteers, document an away trip, or just to tell us how the club has impacted on your life- or about something else entirely- we’d be glad to hear from you. Please email Ian Townsend and we'll be in touch!
All images courtesy of Mike Urban at Brixton Buzz.