Dulwich Hamlet Football Club has a special place in the hearts of thousands of residents across the borough and the news earlier this year that the club had to move from its long standing home on Champion Hill was a devastating blow to all of us.
Dulwich Hamlet is the very definition of a successful local football club. Rooted in our local communities, it is a great local team with a strong commitment to developing and nurturing the talent of our local young people. The club and the supporters have helped raise funds for refugees, our local foodbank and other charitable causes and were one of the first to back the Football Association’s anti-homophobia campaign. Dulwich Hamlet matches are a great, family day out!
Although the club has managed to carry on playing matches in Tooting, thanks to the generosity of Tooting and Mitcham FC, the number of fans travelling to south west London to support the club has dropped significantly and local businesses in East Dulwich have lost out on the trade from fans meeting up before and after local matches.
I raised the club’s plight in Parliament back in March where there was strong support from MPs. The strength of feeling from fans has also been truly amazing, with hundreds gathering on Goose Green on a freezing cold Saturday to march to Champion Hill in support of the club.
The issues to be resolved were complex, but everyone, including fans, the club and supporters’ trust, Southwark councillors and local residents have been anxious to see the club back playing at Champion Hill as soon as possible.
This month has seen a frenetic series of meetings, phone calls and emails between myself and Harriet Harman as the local MPs, Southwark councillors, the club, the Supporters Trust and the current owners of the stadium to try to move things on.
I’m delighted that following a meeting between all of the parties, facilitated by the Sports Minister Tracey Crouch on Monday, Dulwich Hamlet once again has access to Champion Hill, and will be aiming to host their first home game in December, subject to the condition of the ground which will require significant work after months of disuse.
There remain many challenges to secure a sustainable future for the club, but this is much more achievable from a base back at Champion Hill, so for now I will be raising a glass to the good news and thanking everyone who has worked so hard over the last month to move things forward.
Up the Hamlet!