Dover MP Natalie Elphicke has spoken out at the “unfair” treatment of the town’s football club by the National League.
A 12-point penalty and a £40,000 fine has been handed out to Dover Athletic after they were forced to stop play during the Covid pandemic through lack of funds.
The income at Dover dried up after grants which had been awarded in the opening months of the campaign ceased. With no fans allowed in at Crabble, chairman Jim Parmenter felt their only way to survive was to shut up shop for the remainder of the season. The rest of the National League carried on.
Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover and Deal, said: “It is simply unfair that Dover Athletic has been punished for not fielding a team during the Covid lockdown.
“The Club could not put on matches safely or profitably. Grassroots football doesn’t have the big pockets of the Premier League or bigger clubs. The National League’s action to penalise the club is just not on.
“I have written to the Sports Minister to ask him to make sure that smaller clubs like Dover Athletic are not punished with points deductions and unreasonable fines as a result of the pandemic. As well as to former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP, who is conducting a review into governance of football for government, to ask her to look into the behaviour of the National League as part of her review.
“Grassroots football clubs should be fully supported as the country unlocks and clubs gets back on their feet. Not punished with points deductions and fines.”
Dover’s league record for the 2020/21 campaign has been expunged but they will remain in the National League next season, albeit possibly starting on minus points.
Mr Parmenter has already appointed lawyers to deal with the matter but the club don’t expect their appeal to be heard before mid-June.
The chairman offered an update to their fans on the club’s website on Friday night, with Mr Parmenter saying: “Suffice to say we have appointed Queen’s Counsel to represent us at the hearing.
“I must pay tribute to and thank both Sean Gorman and Simon Tovey of the Outset Group Maidstone for their legal and practical advice, which quite frankly has been superb.
“It has been freely given, extremely thorough and without them, we could not have come this far and all our supporters should be extremely appreciative of what they have done for our club and we are as confident as we can be that we have a just and indisputable case.
“Our local MP Natalie Elphicke is also on the case and I understand representations will be made at the Ministerial level as well as with Tracey Crouch’s inquiry into football governance.
“I am extremely heartened by all the messages of support from all over the country as well as the football media’s vocal support.
“I would also like to thank from the bottom of my heart all those people from far and wide who have contributed to the JustGiving page that has been set up by one of our fans.”
Dover supporter James Pearce set up the fundraiser, which hopes to raise £40,000 to help and support the club. 155 supporters have so far pledged a donation, taking the total to £4,459 at the start of this week.
More: Hess gets the nod to stay on as Whites manager