John’s note: I know this isn’t about NZ Football, but this one matters an awful lot to me. Thanks.
Mid-2013 in the early British summer, so not that hot but not too cold either, I caught the P13 bus from Streatham to East Dulwich for the first time. I was headed through St. Francis Park, crossing Edgar Kail Way and dodging the mists of spray from the car-wash by the turnstiles of Champion Hill.
I’d not long been in London, and my friends had been there the season before when Dulwich Hamlet had taken the Isthmian League South title with Xavier Vidal’s equalising goal against Burgess Hill Town.
It was a proper way to spend a Saturday afternoon, they said. You could take your beer onto the terrace. You could have a smoke if you wanted. Nobody would tell you to sit down, or put that out. If you fancied a different view you could take a wander around the edge of the pitch, although standing behind the opposition keeper and switching ends at half time meant you were in the best position to see the action.
They lost that day, to a youthful Millwall side, 4 – 1. The only Hamlet goal was a delicate chip from Erhun Oztumer, who was playing so far below his level of talent that it was practically cheating. I was hooked.
Uncovered terraces and autumn monsoons at home to Carshalton. Bloody freezing Tuesday nights away at AFC Hornchurch. A coach trip away to real ale festival hosting Lewes which ended with vomit and regret. A jet-lagged fuelled trip to Twickenham to roar on an edgy 1 – 0 win over Hampton & Richmond. The bloody Wealdstone game where we came back from 2 – 0 to draw it. And finally at the end of the season, an agonising 1 – 1 draw with Kingstonian at home – which meant in our first season back in the Isthmian Premier, we didn’t get into the playoffs. Some great goals mind you.
I was leaving to emigrate to New Zealand, but I made sure I was there for a couple of final pre-season games – making solid use of a Toby Carvery at Beckenham Town and missing a penalty after a post-match pitch invasion as we lost 3 – 2 to a Crystal Palace team which featured 1 cap England striker Fraizer Campbell.
Fortunately, Step 7 of the English league system had recognised that it wasn’t too technically or cost prohibitive to record games. Initially highlights of each game was available for a $10 a month fee via Football Exclusives but at the start of the 2016/17 season Dulwich Hamlet began its own DHFCTV service, which included highlights with commentary and interviews/updates on the club for free on YouTube within about 48 hours of the end of the game. Including this, frankly ridiculous, free kick.
Each season the club has come closer to the promotion they’re after. But off the pitch the club is under serious threat. This week they were evicted from Champion Hill by Meadow Properties, a U.S hedge fund. Meadow had promised that they would sustain and support the club, even if their plans for housing on part of the current Champion Hill site were rejected.
However, when they were rejected (for not having enough affordable housing included), they began to pile invoices on the football club, while simultaneously first keeping the bar profits and then closing the matchday bar altogether. Gate receipts were also funnelled through Meadow, who deducted ‘costs’, handing the remains to the club.
The club has only managed to keep going through the efforts of the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust (DHST), donations from supporters and a lot of hard work from manager Gavin Rose. His old mate from school, Rio Ferdinand, made Meadow an offer of 10 million for Champion Hill – double what they paid for it – and was told ‘the site is not for sale’.
The club also received a letter from a legal firm acting on behalf of Meadow, informing them that the name Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, The Hamlet and DHFC had been trademarked by Meadow – and threatened them with legal action should they continue to use the name they have gone under for 125 years this year.
Needless to say, this hasn’t gone unnoticed. Southwark Council and the Mayor of London have written to Meadow asking them to sell the site, or it will be bought under a Compulsory Purchase Order. On Friday there was a 30 minute debate in the House of Commons regarding the future of the club, and there has been support expressed from ex-Hamlet players like Peter Crouch, Erhun Oztumer, and other football stalwarts like Gary Lineker and Danny Baker.
If I were Bill Gates I would buy this despicable property company forcing @DulwichHamletFC from their ground tonight – and their snidey yellow-eyed lawyers – and I would sack the fucking lot of them. Then bulldoze their worthless buildings for more football pitches.
— Danny Baker (@prodnose) March 6, 2018
Let Dulwich have their meadow to play on, Meadow. https://t.co/VnWErihBQp
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 8, 2018
In the last few hours it’s been announced that Dulwich will play their remaining 6 home games of the season 7 miles away from their ground at Imperial Fields, home of their bitter rivals Tooting & Mitcham United. The rivalry is expressed in song and some on-field clases, but when it comes down to it – they recognise Dulwich are a non-league team who need help.
The DHST meanwhile, are attempting to get access to Champion Hill, as much of their merchandise stock remains in the club’s Mega-Container store. Gavin Rose and club Directors have also been denied access, despite their personal belongings remaining on site.
On-pitch, however, it’s been a great week. Tuesday saw Dulwich retake top spot in the league after beating Billericay Town 1 – 3 in darkest Essex.
Thursday saw them into the semi-finals of the Isthmian League Cup, with their on-loan goalkeeper scoring a 90th minute free-kick.
Tomorrow they head to Brightlingsea Regent (and side-note, don’t they have amazing names down in non-league) hoping to extend their lead at the top.
But the club needs help. And if you can spare anything to help them, there’s a crowdfunding site raising funds to keep the club afloat for the rest of the season.
Or you can check out the Save Dulwich Hamlet website, for more information.
Categories: English/UK Football