If enthusiasm, commitment and loyalty were the only ingredients of success – Dover Athletic would have no trouble in meeting its financial liabilities and every prospect of resolving its current problems and securing its future.
Because over the last couple of weeks the good people of Dover, from the casual supporter to the Club Chairman have clearly demonstrated the sort of whole hearted support that is so important to winning important campaigns.
I have to confess that if a man’s measure of support for his local club is judged merely by his number of attendances at matches then I would barely scrape into the casual supporter category and it’s no secret that my first love is rugby union, but having lived in River for the last 25 years and having witnessed the highs and lows of football in Dover I’d like to be considered a stakeholder and I’m pleased to be a long time member of your Supporters Club.
When the news of your financial difficulties first broke I let it be known that I would be pleased to help in any way I could and at the weekend I talked to Dover Town Centre Manager, Mike Webb who as you know is one of your Trustees, who is currently co-ordinating the rescue plan, and I offered to take Club’s case to Westminster and raise Dover’s plight on the floor of the House of Commons.
The complexities of Value Added Tax is one of the reasons why Dover Athletic is facing such large bills and it’s probably the critical factor threatening your future so I have agreed to make representations to Ministers and seek clarification of the rules that govern the sale of food and the degree of discretion the VAT collectors have to waive outstanding tax demands or to negotiate less onerous pay-back arrangements.
And to put all these matters under the spotlight I have asked Mr Speaker to allow me to hold a special debate on the floor of the House of Commons to air Dover’s plight and to invite a response from the Government.
It’s impossible to judge whether all your hard work and all your generous donations will be enough to save the Club of course and at this stage in the campaign I couldn’t better the wise words of Gazza when he famously said: “I never make predictions… and I never will.”
* Dover Athletic would like to thank Gwyn for his substantial personal donations this week to the Fighting Fund and Supporters Trust.
WHAT THE OPPOSITION PARTIES SAY
Paul Watkins, Conservative candidate for Dover and Deal, has raised the financial crisis at Dover Athletic with Shadow Sports Minister and Kent MP Hugh Robertson.
Watkins said: “I hope Hugh will raise this matter in the Commons. It seems unfair that retrospective VAT rulings should bring down a fragile football club.
“This matter does not just affect Dover AFC but has implications for other small clubs who live hand to mouth and are supported by the generosity of local business people and Supporters Clubs.”
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate Antony Hook is taking action to help save Dover Athletic. This weekend, Mr Hook was briefed by Fighting Fund co-organiser and Town Centre Manager Mike Webb.
Mr Hook said: “Mr Webb has told me on the club’s behalf that the current crisis that may
bring about the closure of Dover’s football club is two-fold. One aspect of it is the existing terms for re-payment of creditors, which the club was meeting well. The problem, they tell me, is the simultaneous bill for additional VAT.
“Mr Webb has told me that the club’s perilous cash-flow situation can be largely resolved by an extension of time to pay the outstanding VAT.
“VAT is the domain of Customs & Excise on behalf of HM Treasury. Both have wide legal discretion in deciding how speedily to pursue outstanding VAT debt.
“Dover Athletic is an important cultural facility in the same way as are local art galleries, museums, and cinemas. Without such places the community would be a social wasteland, in which fewer people could pursue non-work interests.
“It would not be in the overall public interest for Dover Athletic to close. That can be averted by Treasury discretion to delay collection of the club’s VAT and that is what I am fighting for.
“The club has been successful in recent years. It has contributed to growth in GDP and national tax revenues. That would be lost if the Treasury close the club over VAT. Given that the Chancellor’s forecasts for national revenue are not being met, which is probably the main problem in an otherwise reasonably sound economy, there is a clear long-term benefit for the Treasury to be pragmatic and delay collecting the club’s VAT.”
“I have written to Chancellor Gordon Brown in whose hands this matter ultimately rests. We know that the local Labour MP’s lobbying is unlikely to be successful. He always does the Government’s bidding when the chips are down and is taken for granted by them.
“Liberal Democrats have committed themselves to protecting local amenities such as a cinemas and rural pubs to pay reduced business rates. There are strong arguments for granting sports clubs some support too. Slight tax loss to the Treasury is matched by greater community benefits.”