Non-League football fans pull out the stops for refugees in need
Dulwich Hamlet Football Club know all about using the power of football to make a difference.
The club and their fans have used the beautiful game to tackle homophobia and support gender equality, among other campaigns, and now the club's Supporters' Trust is doing its bit for the ongoing refugee crisis.
A collection is being set up for fans to donate unwanted clothes, food and belongings, which will be taken to refugee camps in Calais, while those unable to attend in person can donate to a GoFundMe page set up to support the collection.
JOE spoke to Dave Rogers and Duncan Hart from the Dulwich Hamlet Supporters' Trust to shed more light on their Calais appeal.
When did you decide to embark on the collection, and what was your thinking behind it?
Dave Rogers: We have been discussing it for a few weeks now. Things have escalated over the last few days and we decided we need to get a plan into place sooner rather than later considering how dire the humanitarian situation has become. We managed to get this up and running in a few hours on Thursday morning, but there are many more hours of work ahead.
Have you been involved in any similar appeals in the past?
Dave Rogers: The Supporters’ Trust has been very active in our local community. For example, we worked closely with the Football Club earlier this year to host a collection for a local food bank.
Duncan Hart (Chair, Dulwich Hamlet Supporters’ Trust): We are also always looking for ways to attract new fans, and we go the extra mile to make sure ALL are welcome. We did a lot last season on anti-homophobia. We initially backed Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign and had a banner made to have permanently in the ground.
The highlight of this work was when we helped the Football Club and its Committee arrange a friendly with Stonewall FC – the gay world champions. This was a very special night when the result didn't matter, and it was the message that was sent to our local community, i.e. a clear commitment from the Club that we are committed to inclusion and making Champion Hill a welcoming place for everyone.
Have those associated with Dulwich Hamlet got any close personal connection to the current situation, or was this just a case of trying to do the right thing?
Dave Rogers: Dulwich Hamlet welcomes ALL, so naturally we have friends of all races and nationalities. There will be people within the support that will have a connection with this humanitarian crisis, so as a Club we all have a connection.
How much do you expect to bring in this Saturday, and will this be an ongoing thing for future home games?
Dave Rogers: We have no idea how much will be brought in at this point. If we can fill a car boot we will be happy, if we can fill a van we will be very happy. We will be acting as a donation point for the next few games at least.
Will any DHST members be making the trip to Calais personally following this weekend's collection?
Dave Rogers: I will be going along with Jack Spearman (another of the Trust’s Board members) over the next few weeks, along with a couple of supporters.
Do you think or hope this will encourage Premier League and Football League clubs to attempt similar things in the coming weeks?
Dave Rogers: We hope so. Dulwich Hamlet FC has led a lot of initiatives over the last few years which we would love the top clubs to adopt. Duncan mentioned the friendly against Stonewall FC. We also supported International Women’s Day by giving away free tickets to South London women’s football teams. We also raised funds as part of Mental Health Week in May. Small things like this open up football to a much wider group of people.
What are your thoughts regarding the pledges from Bayern Munich and other Bundesliga clubs, as well as those in other countries across Europe?
Dave Rogers: I think their initiatives are fantastic, they show football supporters around the world refugees are people too. We very much hope that other clubs and fan groups in England can also lead on initiatives like this.
Feature photo courtesy of Duncan Palmer Photography.