Dulwich Hamlet are on the brink of extinction – here’s why they mean so much…

The south London club are engulfed in a grim legal dispute with their owners over their ground Champion Hill

Imagine the club you cherish disappearing before your eyes. Just like that.

Well that nightmare could become a reality for Dulwich Hamlet fans.

Phil Shephard-Lewis - The Times
Hamlet fans face a nervous future

This year their beloved club should be celebrating their 125th anniversary, but instead they face the very real threat of extinction.

The south London side are involved in a grim and arduous legal dispute with their landlords over ownership of their ground, Champion Hill, where they have played their home games since 1931.

What’s the latest?

The latest news is particularly alarming.

As of Monday night, owners Meadow Residential terminated Dulwich’s license to play at Champion Hill just days after slapping them with an £121,000 rent bill to pay within three weeks.

Phil Shephard-Lewis - The Times
The iconic Champion Hill

Effectively that means that while under Meadow’s ownership the Hamlets can’t survive as an entity.

Either they relocate, Meadow sells or they cease to exist. It’s that pressing a situation.

Why do they matter?

Dulwich aren’t your average non-league club.

The likes of Peter Crouch of Alan Pardew are ex-players whilst Rio Ferdinand’s strong affiliation saw him lodge a £10m takeover bid at the end of 2017.

PA:Press Association
Ferdinand holds Dulwich close to his heart

That, of course, was rejected.

But Dulwich don’t have to rely on friends in high places to make a splash.

It’s more than just their affordable ticket prices, their community activism and LGBT rights campaigning.

Phil Shephard-Lewis - The Times
At the heart of the community

The Hamlets are a breath of fresh air to fans who have grown disillusioned with facets of the ‘beautiful game’ in modern times.

I lived in Brixton for two years – which made Dulwich my local club – and can vouch they became mine and a lot of my friends’ second team.

Maybe once a month I would stroll down from Denmark Hill station to Champion Hill just before 3pm on a Saturday – and I was far from the only one.

Dulwich regularly attract over 2000 supporters to home games which, when you consider they’re in the seventh tier of English football, is absolutely astounding.

That’s more than most League Two clubs and nearly 10 times the attendance of some of the rest of the Bostik League.

Arfa Griffiths - The Sun
Manager Gavin Rose has worked wonders

They provide the perfect antidote to title rivals Billericay, who they remain competitive with despite the Essex moneybags’ ability to financially seduce the likes of Jermaine Pennant and Jamie O’Hara.

I can personally guarantee you you will never encounter a more friendly, vibrant atmosphere at a football match.

I’ve witnessed Ash Carew curl in free kick after free kick.

From their community-driven local refreshment stalls to the hilariously inventive chants of ‘The Rabble’, there’s a real sense of inclusion.

Phil Shephard-Lewis - The Times
A pillar of south London

My favourite feature sees the home crowd jangling their keys loudly at a ‘key’ moment, say a corner or attacking free kick.

The whole situation is a sobering reminder of how perilous the future is for some clubs, particularly if they fall into the wrong hands.

Ultimately we need clubs like Dulwich Hamlet. Football is nothing without them.

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