Meadow Residential, at the centre of the story surrounding Dulwich Hamlet FC and the reported end to funding for the playing staff and club, have released a statement in which they aim to clarify their current position and the facts relating to the current turmoil.
This is the statement:
‘Following the recent Court hearing between Dulwich Hamlet Football Club (DHFC) and the London Borough of Southwark and the subsequent withdrawal of our planning appeal in respect of the Champion Hill site, there has been considerable public comment regarding the relationship between Meadow Residential and DHFC.
This statement clarifies our position and the main facts.
For many years, one of the main difficulties faced by DHFC is that the stadium and the football club are separated. This was the situation when Meadow Residential became involved with the Club, along with DHFC’s former partners, Hadley Property Group. We purchased the Champion Hill ground from the liquidators at a point when DHFC had no future and was potentially homeless.
Meadow did not buy and does not own Dulwich Hamlet Football Club (DHFC). As developers, clearly our intention was to work with DHFC, to successfully develop the site and in doing so build a new stadium and a secure financial future for the Club.
Since 2014, along with Hadley, we have managed the stadium, and with the agreement of the director of, and majority shareholder in, DHFC, provided funds on a monthly basis to meet the costs to run the football club. This funding has allowed DHFC to continue to operate, despite having a significant trading deficit.
We have pursued a solution that wipes out DHFC’s substantial debts and provides a new stadium that can sustain a growing club. As well as guaranteeing the future security of the club, we have insisted that as part of the deal, the club itself becomes owned by the community, using the model pioneered by experts Supporters Direct.
As the club has grown exponentially in this period, we have built a new bar in the corner of the stadium, and refurbished parts of the ground that were previously unusable. We have also paid the salary of an experienced venue manager to overhaul operations, to ensure that DHFC can provide as good a match day experience as possible. We have also provided financial support for fundraising events for important local and international causes that the supporters care about.
We have supported the manager, Gavin Rose, ensuring that he has the resources to operate the playing side. We have not sought to ‘run’ the footballing side of the Club. We do not own DHFC and our interest has been focused on the planning opportunity, rather than tackling the many operational issues that give rise to DHFC’s unstable finances. We have always taken the view that as much as possible we want DHFC to be able to operate without our direct involvement, aside from providing the financial support and resources for it to meet what is required and expected of it, with agreement from the major shareholder.
Whilst acting in the best of intentions at the time, 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 may also have been unwise to have agreed to pay the fines of players.
We have, perhaps belatedly, attempted to address these issues and our recent attempts to try to improve cost management and increase revenue at the stadium have caused some upheaval.
Our investors provided the funding for us to support DHFC, because it was part of a wider development project. We are currently funding in excess of £170,000 a year to keep DHFC afloat and to meet the shortfall in income. However, the recent Court case and the fact that the Club has lost its lease on the Green Dale astroturf site, means we have had to fundamentally review our position. We have withdrawn our planning appeal and we are now considering our legal and commercial positions. 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.
We accept that all parties: Meadow, London Borough of Southwark and above all DHFC, are now in a very difficult situation. Without Meadow’s funding DHFC will be forced to close in the near future. Without the support of Southwark Council we will not be able to develop the site and recover our investment.
We are now actively seeking to work with DHFC and to talk to Southwark Council, to see if a way forward can be found to build a spirit of cooperation and allow DHFC and the stadium project to continue.’