Award ‘shows what we’re doing is right’ – but Dulwich Hamlet’s community work has its challenges

Sports Desk (29 December, 2019) Sport Dulwich Hamlet Football

More than 340,000 votes were registered, with Hamlet beating the likes of Bath City, Boston United and Dagenham and Redbridge FC

28274Champion Hill. Image: Duncan Palmer Photography

Ben Henderson

The head of Dulwich Hamlet Community said he was “proud” after the club were crowned kings of community work by the Football Supporters Association (FSA) earlier this month.

Rob Hyneman collected the award on behalf of the club at the ceremony at the Tower of London.

The National Game Community Award, now in its second year, is presented to the non-league football club with the best community outreach work.

More than 340,000 votes were registered, with Hamlet beating the likes of Bath City, Boston United and Dagenham and Redbridge FC.

The FSA is the national democratic representative body for football supporters in England and Wales.

Hyneman summed up how he felt when he accepted the award: “Proud! When I took this role on I had no idea how big it’d be. I didn’t realise the vital role that the club has within our community and what it could achieve from a community perspective.

“This award shows that what we’re doing is right. We get some stick for our community work online and sometimes from visiting officials [from other clubs] who have voiced quite unsavoury views on what we’re trying to achieve.”

In November, Billericay Town fans ripped down LGBT bunting at Champion Hill and unfurled a Brexit banner, as well as singing abuse in the club bar after the game.

Hyneman pointed to this as an example of what his community team are up against.

“We’re not going to change their viewpoints overnight, but we know that what we’re doing is the right thing, and the fact that it was acknowledged by the FSA is absolutely fantastic.”

The kings of the community award

Hyneman was reluctant to select a favourite from the various initiatives undertaken by DHFC Community over the last year, but when pressed he mentioned some.

“The way that the club has engaged our younger fans through activities like the mascot scheme, the local schools football tournament, the Christmas cards competition…when I took over I felt that engagement with the younger fans was what was missing from the club.

“Back then we had a local schools scheme with 20 or 30 kids attending per game. At our last game we had over 200 families joining us.

“I’d probably say my favourite was the event with Red Thread last year. They’re an incredibly important charity that sends a massively important message for where we live in south London.”

Hamlet’s portfolio of community work over the last year that was submitted to the judges at the awards stretched to seven pages, such is the remarkable effort put in by Hyneman and the club.

However, he admitted that a commitment on that scale has brought its challenges.

“The main challenge is that I’m a volunteer and everyone I rely on at the club is, too. It would’ve been far more difficult had I not had the unwavering support of the club directors, the management team, the players and the Supporters’ Trust all the way through this.

“I can understand how other non-league clubs could struggle to get this type of operation off the ground if they don’t have that circle of support. It also makes me very proud that we’ve gone up against clubs that have got established community teams with paid roles, and we as volunteers have matched and even surpassed them.”

Hyneman added that Dulwich winning the award was his favourite moment of the year, as it formally acknowledged that it is a club that is open to everybody, and where everybody feels that they are welcome.

One man who was instrumental in garnering that reputation for the club was local fan Mishi Morath, who sadly passed away before Christmas.

Hyneman paid tribute to the lifelong supporter.

“Mishi was a key driver of everything that we’ve achieved from a community point of view. Hence why the club is dedicating this award to him.”

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