Dulwich Hamlet’s 12th Man scheme aims to be short-term funding option as club faces uncertain future once again

A long-standing scheme set up to help fund player signings for Dulwich Hamlet reckon they have enough cash reserves to fund the running of the club for the next couple of months.

The Bostik League Premier Division league leaders released a statement on Monday which claimed that Meadow Residential – the owners of their Champion Hill stadium – have ended their “contractual obligations” to pay player wages and oversee the club’s finances.

It is the latest twist in a stand-off between Meadow Residential and Southwark Council – the former wanting to build houses on the site along with a brand new ground for Dulwich Hamlet.

But Meadow have withdrawn a planning appeal and issued their own statement saying they “have spent in excess of £170,000 a year to keep DHFC afloat and to meet the shortfall in income.”

They go on to say they have “had to fundamentally review” their position  before adding: “Without Meadow’s funding DHFC will be forced to close in the near future. Without the support of Southwark Council we will not be able to develop the site and recover our investment.”

It pitches the future of the club, which has one of the largest home attendances in non-league football, into doubt.

Hamlet’s football committee say they are entitled to net profit from matchday activities – after running costs have been deducted – as they look to meet the wagebill.

And the latest development has seen Dulwich Hamlet FC 12th Man, a fan-led scheme set up in 2012 which raises cash to go directly into Gavin Rose’s playing budget, has urged supporters to dip into their pockets in the club’s latest hour of need.

Neil Cole, a co-founder of the scheme, said: “We have raised in excess of £40,000 in five years – that has all come from financial donations, events and raffles.

“This isn’t the first time Hamlet have had financial difficulty. In 2012 we were going through a difficult period where the playing budget was being cut over and over again.

Gavin Rose, left, has led Dulwich to the top of the table
Dulwich Hamley v Needham Market, Bostik League Premier Division, Champion Hill, 7 October 2017.
Image by Keith Gillard

“This is like history repeating itself. The manager, Gavin Rose, was saying he wasn’t able to build a team and it was making life very difficult.

“The club came were days from closure because it hadn’t paid a utility bill.

“We were desperately trying to raise enough money to keep the club afloat. We didn’t want to raise funds from fans to go towards paying utility bills – they shouldn’t have to do that. You shouldn’t have to rely on fans to keep the electric on. We ringfenced any donation to go direct to Gavin Rose to use on his playing budget.

“We wanted every penny to go into that to make sure we were competitive on the field and could compete.

“In our first year we brought in three or four players that season and ended up winning the league. Not only that but the lights were kept on as that all got resolved too.”

Daniel Carr was one of the players funded by 12th Man – he would go on to join Huddersfield Town after a goal-laden start to his career with the South London outfit.

“Our goalkeeper Phil Wilson got injured with about seven or eight games to go and we brought in Chico Ramos. We only lost a handful of matches that season but we didn’t have a second keeper, so we would have been in a world of trouble.

“People make donations weekly or by monthly standing orders. There are always small amounts dropping in.

“If we want to keep the club together then we might have to pay the budget – that’s why we’re making this appeal for fans’ donations.”

Former England international Peter Crouch has also shared the plea for a cash injection. He tweeted: “Great club that helped me get a start.

“We’ve had fantastic messages of support,” said Cole. “Not just from Dulwich Hamlet fans but also from league and non-league clubs who have chipped in.”

The scheme is set to be vital in the coming weeks as it looks to bridge any financial shortfall.

Daniel Carr – pictured in his second spell with Dulwich – had his first move to Hamlet funded bu the 12th Man scheme
Image by Keith Gillard

“It is the perfect short-term solution that will hopefully tide us over until the issues are resolved,” said Cole. “But we hope that is sooner rather than later.

“It is not something we can rely on forever – the generosity of fans to keep the club running. I’m hoping it will be no more than one or two months if we have to step in and fill the gap we are presented with.”

Hamlet had a season-high attendance of 2,417 in October against Needham Market – with fans choosing what entrance fee they wanted to pay – with 1,971 attending their last home league match against Burgess Hill Town against Burgess Hill Town.

But those big crowds don’t necessarily lead to bumper profits.

“Unfortunately the ground is really poorly designed and there are huge maintenance costs,” said Cole. “We have a large clubhouse which is three-storey and multi-use. There are years of neglect and the astroturf pitch and boxing gym are loss-making.

“We have never been privy to the full figures. We only get soundbites coming out of Meadow. It is something the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust want – a really detailed breakdown to see what the situation is.

“We have got momentum on the pitch and it is a real shame that this is threatened.

“On Saturday we have an FA Trophy game and if we win the prize money is quite nice, that will help. But there is then a 50-50 chance of an away draw and we’d have no more home games this month.

“It is a double-edged situation. We hope we win and get a home draw on November 25.”

Cole is clear on what anybody – Dulwich Hamlet fans or just people wanting to help the club’s cause – should do.

“Join the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust. It only costs £10 a year and that not only puts funds into the trust but also means you are completely up to date with communciation. DHST are doing a great job communicating with their members.

“The second thing is any donations you can afford to the 12th Man. That is going to be paying for the playing squad in the next few weeks and trying to keep that momentum on the field.

“And thirdly, come to any home games and continue to boost the crowds. Every game we have got there is really vital.”

To find out more about 12th Man – or contribute – go to http://dhfc12.blogspot.co.uk.

Dulwich Hamlet will aim to make it 13 matches unbeaten in all competitions as they head to Harlow Town on Saturday in the FA Trophy.

They reached the last eight of the competition in the 2016-17 season, losing to Macclesfield in March to end hopes of a dream trip to Wembley.

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