BY TOBY PORTER
Dulwich Hamlet chiefs are increasingly confident of the club battling through a crisis after supporters rallied round – as well as those of their rivals.
The Champion Hill football club’s future has looked in doubt since developers and owners of their ground, Meadow Residential (MR), pulled out of paying the players.
But fans of the Bostik League Premier Division outfit – plus the teams they play week in, week out – have raised thousands to keep it afloat. And the club, managed by Gavin Rose, now sit six points clear at the top of the league table – though moneybags Billericay are second with five games in hand.
Already, £10,000 has been raised for Hamlet through a crowdfunding campaign – helped by a tweet from England star Peter Crouch, who began his playing career there on loan from Spurs in 2000.
The former Liverpool and Spurs player, who has been at Stoke for six years, said: “Great club that helped me get a start.”
And Hendon FC, who hosted the club on Tuesday night in a 3-3 draw, have vowed to hand over any proceeds more than the 150 gate from last year’s game in north London, any bar profits and the proceeds of their raffle at the game.
Hamlet are due to issue their half-year season tickets at a discount £93 price, to commemorate the year of their founding in 1893 soon – and there is bound to be a rush as there are only 500 on sale.
There is also talk of reducing ticket prices for single games, now that the right to set them has been handed back to the club by MR.
Chairman Liam Hickey said: “We are confident of meeting our obligations this month and next month.
“Our whole aim is to ensure the players, management and staff are paid, along with all our bills.
“I am optimistic we will get through this period and will be bigger and stronger than before.
“Hendon have made the most direct offer of help. But we have also had contact with Maidstone United.
And I am sure the fans of other clubs have donated without us knowing. “We would like to thank them, and anyone who has helped during this tough time.
“We also want to make our ticket pricing more attractive.”
The club’s twitter feed said: “Between Paypal, Just Giving, & in Cash/Cheque last Tuesday you’ve donated just over £10,000 to @dhfc12 and we’re genuinely blown away by the support. Thank you from all the volunteers here at the club, your generosity allows us to keep fighting.”
Hendon chairman Simon Lawrence said before Tuesday night’s fixture at the Silver Jubilee Park Stadium: “Hi Liam. We’ve been watching developments at your club very closely and wanted to offer you our support over the next few months. We’re due to play you at SJPS on November 21 and would like to take this opportunity to offer some more tangible support.
“In the corresponding game last season, a total of 151 adults paid £10 each to attend. We would like to donate £5 for every paying adult on Tuesday week in excess of 151 to your 12th man fund.
“So if, for example, we have 201 paying adults, we would donate £250.
“In addition, we would like to split our normal bucket collection with you for that game 50/50. I know it’s unlikely to be a huge amount of money in total but we wanted to do something for a club who we hold in very high regard.
“Please feel free to promote the game and our offer of help in whatever way you choose. The better you promote it, the more money there is in it for you (and us). I look forward to seeing you on the 21st.
“I hope developments are positive in the meantime.”
In addition to this, the SJP management have pledged to donate £1 per pint sold to be split evenly between both clubs.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also thrown his weight behind the campaign to save the club. He said: “It’s deeply concerning to me that Dulwich Hamlet’s future remains uncertain at a time when it is doing so much good in the community. I urge the current owners to do the right thing and revisit their application to protect Dulwich Hamlet and deliver more affordable homes, or find an alternative that ensures the future of a football club that means so much to its supporters and local community.”
The attendance on Tuesday was 306, meaning Dulwich took £775 of the gate receipts plus money from the bucket collection. Local resident and former Hamlet supporters club chairman Jonathan Hunt said:
“It’s time to blow the whistle on some of the more unrealistic comments about the imminent death of Dulwich Hamlet, and introduce some financial realism. The fans are terrific in raising and donating money. Long may it continue. But what’s needed most is for them to continue supporting the club in the numbers they do. With average gates of almost 1,500 @ £11 a head, times 25 home games, we are producing revenue of around £400,000 a year. Beer sales plus well-managed catering and letting should bring in another £50,000 pa profit.
“A return to five-a-side on rebuilt all-weather pitches could once again produce another £4,000 a week.
“The team budget at £5,000 a week should leave at least at £70,000, plus dosh earned by fans, to cover other expenses. Some of us foresaw what could happen, and asked in vain for a Plan B (but) they relied religiously without any doubt on their White Knights to build a new stadium.”