MICK KEMP has today pledged to work to the very last minute to save Dover Athletic from going out of business.

The club this morning broke the news in the Dover Express that £48,000 has to be found by December 31 – or it is almost certain that Whites will be closed down.

It has been known for some while that the club could be forced to cough up £23,000 towards the CVA after creditors decided that Dover Athletic should have paid a chunk of their profits from the 2002-03 FA Cup run to accelerate their debt repayments.

In fact, Whites made no profit from the run, with all cash eaten up by running costs of the club.

But the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise view it differently and are the two major creditors who insist that £23,000 should be paid by December 31.

In addition to that, the VAT office has investigated the club’s accounts for the past three seasons.

Chairman Mick Kemp admitted: “The club have not been paying VAT on hot food sold at kiosks inside the ground. Dover Athletic were led to believe that this food is classed as takeaway food and, as such, we’d not need to pay VAT on what we sell.

“But the VAT office insists now that this food is not classed as takeaway food because it’s consumed on the club’s premises.”

This now means, with a shortfall in gates this season, the club must find a further £25,000 – making a total of £48,000 – by New Year’s Eve.

Kemp said: “We will almost definitely be closed down if we don’t reach the £48,000 target – only £23k of that goes to the CVA. The rest to the VAT office and obviously to make up for losses made on low attendances.

“I am going to go out there myself and will spend every last minute trying to collect money. We hope that the business community of Dover responds because we are now in the last-chance saloon.

“We are setting up a fighting fund, where people can pay into it. No money will be touched by the club. So if someone decided to give us £2,000, and we don’t reach the target and get closed down, the money will be refunded.

“Local businesses hold the key. If they can all rally around us now, along with the fans, we have a chance of getting to the target.

“We’d like to think that more than 1,000 fans can get through the turnstiles. If this was to happen, it will send out a clear message to the business community and football in general that Dover Athletic is a club worth saving.

“It’s come as a terrible shock to us all. We only got confirmation of this news on Wednesday. The Dover Express carried the story on the front page today. We are sorry for the bombshell nature of the way this news was released but it is a reflection of how serious the situation is.

“We think it’s a grey area, the VAT issue, and simply continued what had happened before on selling food on a takeaway basis.

“If we had a burger van outside the turnstiles, the food would be classed as takeaway. But, the VAT office insist, that by selling a burger inside the ground, it’s not takeaway food, unless it’s being taken outside the turnstiles to be eaten.”

Kemp insisted the club would make an appeal but said: “I doubt we will be successful. I don’t think we have any solid ground to make a good case unfortunately.”

Dover Athletic’s attendance figures have been the highest in the Ryman League Premier Division this season despite struggling at the foot of the table. It is clear that the club still has a loyal and passionate fanbase but the debts from previous regimes have now become too big a burden.

The Whites chairman added: “This club has had a real positive vibe in recent weeks, thanks to the arrival of Steve Browne. We feel we now have a realistic chance of fighting away from the bottom of the table to rebuild for the future.

“But we need a cash injection from somewhere. If the whole town can get behind the club, we can get out of this mess and at last get Dover Athletic heading in the right direction.

“It doesn’t matter what you can afford. If it’s only a pound, we welcome every pound that can be donated. If it’s £1000 then that’s great too. Rich or poor, we need all the support from everyone.

“Let’s show everyone that Dover can get behind its football club and dig it out of trouble once and for all.”

Supporters Trust chairman Simon Harris added: “As far as I’m concerned, our response must be that the Trust is here to support football in Dover.

“We’ve spent two and a half years struggling to keep the club afloat and we now look to the wider community to stand up and be counted.

“A town the size of Dover should have a football club, and it is up to the people of Dover to ensure that the football club survives what is its darkest hour.”