On 7 March, Meadow dropped their ill-advised attempt to stop Dulwich Hamlet Football Club using its own name.
Although this was an embarrassing episode for them, it is no real concession: Meadow should not have made its trade mark registrations in the first place, and it is clear that they would not have survived proper legal scrutiny.
The bigger picture is that all the other elements of Meadow’s apparent strategy to push DHFC out of business remain in place.
It appears from Meadow’s latest statement, issued on 7 March, that their development plans still depend on concessions that are unrealistic, in our view, to expect Southwark Council to make.
In those circumstances, we do not understand what good Meadow believe can come from their continued involvement at Champion Hill.
As we said on 7 March, we believe it would be better for everyone – including Meadow – if they sold the land at fair market value on terms which guarantee the future sustainability of the club. We repeat our call on them to do so.
Whatever course Meadow now take, they must end the strategy of aggression that threatens the club’s existence.
To that end, we are putting the following five propositions to Andrew McDaniel, Michael Tremayne and Didier Colin of Meadow Partners LLP; to Peter Bennison of Meadow Residential LLP; and to Jeffrey M Kaplan of Meadow Partners LLC, which we invite them to agree as a matter of urgency.
- Give the club its home back. Under threat of being locked out of Champion Hill, the club signed a new licence in December 2017, on terms you knew it could not comply with. We call on you to reinstate that licence immediately, to ensure that the club can fulfil its next home fixture, and commit to replacing it as soon as possible with a new licence negotiated fairly and in good faith, to remain in force for as long as you continue to own and operate Champion Hill.
- Withdraw the statutory demand, and stop using alleged debts incurred on your watch to threaten the club. It is unconscionable for you to claim rent and other sums that you would not have pursued if your planning application had succeeded. And it is well established that it is generally impermissible to pursue disputed debts by way of insolvency proceedings.
- Agree to pay over match day bar profits to the club, going back to 1 November 2017, and going forward. When you announced your withdrawal of financial support from the club in October 2017, you did not make it clear the club would not receive bar profits, and only informed it that it would not a few weeks ago. It is the club’s activities, and the loyalty of its supporters, that generate these profits, and they should be allocated to the club.
- We call on you to honour all player and staff contracts entered into on your watch, and to reinstate the bar and support staff who were let go last week. Our players and staff are ordinary members of our community, working extra jobs to support themselves and their families. Withdrawing or threatening a key source of their income has huge consequences for them. You agreed the wage budget for the 2017/18 season, and players and staff were entitled to rely on the assurance that they would receive an income until the end of the season.
- Please remove the unnecessary fencing you’ve put up on the access road to Green Dale behind the stadium.
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We do not intend to comment in detail on Meadow’s statement of 7 March, but there are a couple of points we should address.
First, Meadow’s statement presented their registration of the trade marks as a step taken for the club’s benefit, in the context of “discussions over a memorandum of understanding and ultimate handover [of the club] to DHST”. This may suggest that we knew about the trade marks when they were registered. To be clear, we did not: we had no idea they existed until we saw a copy of Blake Morgan’s letter threatening the club. The updated MoU was signed in March 2017. The trade mark applications were made, without informing DHST, in October 2017. This coincides with the withdrawal of the planning appeals, the discontinuance of DHFC Limited’s claim (as an integral part of the planning application) to extend its lease over Green Dale, and Meadow’s announcement that it was withdrawing financial support from the club.
Second, the statement refers to Southwark taking legal action against the Club. Again, to be clear, the Green Dale lease proceedings were brought by DHFC Limited on Meadow’s watch against Southwark. When DHFC Limited discontinued that claim, Southwark automatically became entitled to an order that DHFC Limited pay its costs. But Southwark has not, to the best of our knowledge, pursued DHFC Limited for those costs. This is in keeping with the clear public statements made by its leader, Peter John, and by the Council Assembly in unanimously passing a motion in support of the club – and is in contrast to the approach Meadow have taken to the debts they say they are owed by DHFC Limited.
Finally, we’d like to place on record our thanks to Tooting and Mitcham United for agreeing to share their ground with the club, and to the countless individuals who have shown their support for the club in different ways over recent days.
We’ll continue to keep our members updated whenever we’re able to do so.