A campaign to save one of London's oldest football clubs had their fight heard in Parliament after their MP secured an adjournment debate. For more than 80 years the club's been playing at Champion Hill but the pitch is owned by developers and the local council wants to buy it back to ensure the historic ground remains untouched.
Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Labour party's Deputy Leader, Tom Watson and footballer Rio Ferdinand are among the high-profile names to voiced their backing for the community football club.
The future of Dulwich Hamlet FC is currently uncertain after Meadow Residential, which owns its Champion Hill ground, stated it would want to remove the club from its home of 87 years. In a possible attempt to force the club out of business, Meadow allegedly tried to trademark the name "Dulwich Hamlet" and deny access to the club's war memorial.
Legacy Foundation, a firm set up by former England captain Rio Ferdinand, offered to redevelop the site to include affordable housing but Meadow, which is backed by american investment company Meadow Partners, rejected the offer to buy the grounds.
An independent mediator could be appointed by the Government if negotiations linked to the future of non-league Dulwich Hamlet fail, Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has said. She explained she is willing to find and appoint someone to allow constructive talks to take place which would help "secure a future for this well-supported community club for many years to come"
During the debate in the House of Commons, Labour's Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, lead the discussion focusing on the plight of Dulwich Hamlet FC and listed a series of requests to the Government to protect community football clubs. These included an "urgent audit" of league and non-league football grounds across the country to assess the extent of "threat" they are under, greater protection for grounds from development and how funding is redistributed to grassroots football from the Premier League..Speaking in the Commons, Ms Crouch added she hopes a mediator will not be required and a solution will be found within weeks. Her offer comes as the south London football club fights for its survival after being caught in the middle of a long-running property row.
The developer has also fallen out with Southwark Council over plans to redevelop the ground and is now landing the volunteer-run side with huge bills that it is unable to pay.
A fan-run campaign, Save Dulwich Hamlet, plans to hold a rally on Saturday 17 March to highlight the threat to the future of the 125-year-old club, who play in the Isthmian League Premier Division, three levels below the Football League.
A Save Dulwich Hamlet spokesperson has said "we can't sit back and let Meadow Residential destroy our football club. So we're going to have a day to tell the world why we love Dulwich Hamlet, and we don't want to see it go".
ITV London reached out to Meadow, but nobody was able to get back to us at the time of publishing this article.