Dulwich Hamlet fans have started donating their own cash to the club, after fears that a new funding arrangement with developer Meadow Residential could leave it struggling to pay players’ wages.
Former England striker Peter Crouch, who once played for Hamlet, shared the fundraising page on Twitter, and said: “Just like to share this. Great club that helped me get a start”.
Tension between the club and Meadow follows last month’s news that the company abandoned plans to build 155 flats and a new stadium for Hamlet.
The redevelopment scheme became the subject of planning appeal against Southwark Council, alongside a separate court dispute over the club’s lease on the adjoining Greendale Fields, where Meadow wanted to build the club’s new stadium. Both cases against the council were dropped in October, but Meadow have no plans to sell its freehold on the Champion Hill site.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan today commented on Hamlet’s situation, saying it was “deeply concerning” that Dulwich Hamlet’s future “remains uncertain at a time when it is doing so much good in the community”.
Sadiq told The Independent: “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.”
On Monday, the club issued a public statement raising concerns that Meadow has handed responsibility back to the club (and its director, Nick McCormack) for paying players’ wages
But Meadow is also retaining control on how much money the club will receive for players’ pay, which will be limited to “net profit from match day activities, after costs have been deducted from the turnstiles and the bar”.
It added that the club has been given “no say in the management, pricing or efficiency of the match day operations, therefore our profit is dictated to us”.
A member of Hamlet’s football committee, Thomas Cullen, told the News that Meadow has repeatedly ignored requests financial statements and accounts.
Thomas said without the financial information: “We don’t know how much profit to expect and we don’t know whether it will be enough to cover the wage bills”.
“We’re challenging for the title and we don’t want to lose our best players,” he added. “We should be in a positive financial position. But Meadow tell us the club’s debts have got bigger and bigger… even though attendance goes up and up.”
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Meadow responded saying: “Meadow supplied the football committee and DHST with all the financial information that they need on September 19 and have repeatedly offered for meetings to clarify any questions that they may have.”
Meadow’s statement said: “Our investors will not allow us to continue providing the financial support without a viable development solution for the site and some prospect of our recovering the very substantial funds that have been invested.” It added that Hamlet’s annual deficit has now reached about £170,000.
It also suggested that the club will need to cut its players’ wage bill. “With the benefit of hindsight we might have been unwise in not intervening to address the substantial playing budget of over £8,000 a week gross, including a generous bonus structure for the players,” it said.
The company spokesman added: “There are minimal savings that can be achieved outside of the players and manager salary budget… it is clear that the Club’s current financial situation is unsustainable.”