Dulwich Hamlet Football Club have warned they may not see their 129th year in existence – as chaos continues to engulf the National League amid continued Covid-19 restrictions.
The Hamlet released a statement on Sunday outlining the peril they are in, as they take the hit of continued postponements of their National League South games.
The Hamlet have seen seven of their last eight National League South fixtures postponed, and expressed their exasperation at how the situation is being handled, including funding for clubs whose main income is match-day revenue.
The Hamlet statement said: “Last week we celebrated our 128th birthday, this week we face decisions that are likely to determine whether we see our 129th and so we have started a consultation with club officials, directors, shareholders, our supporters’ trust and our whole fan community.
“We have been dependent on our community to see us through this difficult period and would like to thank everyone who has volunteered and so we feel it is important we now listen to that community.
“Having steered the club away from the brink of extinction in 2018 and cleared huge debts along the way to finally achieve a financially stable and self-sustaining model we are now being asked to voluntarily place the club back into significant debt as a direct result of the following events:
“In summer 2020 the club received frequent written assurances from the National League that the 2020-21 season would not commence before crowds could return so clubs would have income to cover costs.
“In September 2020 the National League abandoned that stance and made all clubs commence the season on the assurance that they had secured a commitment for funding based on the forecast data submitted by clubs at the League’s request outlining expected lost revenue for the six months from October to March from playing behind closed doors.
“After the first games were played the National League informed clubs that the grant funding was only three months, not six but the sports minister did confirm in parliament that the allocation would be ‘absolutely focused on gate receipts’. We budgeted accordingly.
“The National League then informed clubs that it had come up with its own allocation method and funding would not be ‘absolutely focused on gate receipts’ giving some clubs considerably more than expected and others (including us) with considerably less.
“In November 2020 it was announced that any future funding for the next three months starting in January 2021 was no longer guaranteed to be grants.
“In December 2020 clubs were informed that it was highly unlikely that the funding for 2021 would be grants and instead require clubs to get into debt by taking out loans to continue in the competition.
“On January 1, 2021 the period of grant funding expired and all clubs entered a period of incurring costs for which no income could be generated and no funding was confirmed.
“Two weeks ago the government confirmed that 2021 funding would be loans, denied ever informing the National League that grants were a consideration beyond December and challenged the league to produce evidence to the contrary. As no evidence could be produced attempts by the League to reverse that decision have failed.
“As a result the application process for loans was communicated to clubs and includes three important facts:
“Clubs will not know before the end of February and possibly later whether they are to receive loans to cover costs they have already incurred.
“Not all costs are eligible to be covered by the loan, wages are capped at less than the current furlough level, something that will impact clubs at our level badly but the impact on the league above with higher wages will be substantial.
“The government’s current position is that funding decisions will be based on a return to normality on April 1 and normal levels of income by the start of next season meaning, (1) there is no commitment to funding in any form after March and, (2) clubs will be highly unlikely to meet the ‘exceptional circumstances’ required for a grant to be offered as they cannot claim they will have insufficient revenue in future to repay a loan.
“This week all clubs will be asked to vote on a resolution from the National League on the future of the league season (which is not due to finish until two full months after the period covered by loans).
“The club has submitted multiple requests to the league in writing asking for confirmation of the consequences of clubs not proceeding with getting into debt just to complete their competition. No responses have been received.
“We completely understand and sympathise with the clubs who can continue regardless as they have the independent means to do so or they received more than they expected from the last grants.
“We understand those clubs may be frustrated by the situation of other clubs such as ours who are owned by their communities or who received less than expected from the last grant funding allocation, but our primary responsibilities are as the temporary custodians of clubs who have been here long before us to ensure they are here for a long time to come.”