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Dover Athletic chairman Jim Parmenter reveals how expensive it's been to keep the National League side going

Dover chairman Jim Parmenter admits he's ploughed hundreds of thousands of pounds into the club to keep it afloat but could do it no more.

Mr Parmenter says he spent over £500,000 to keep them going last season and has been shelling out around £25,000 a week for the last two months to avoid getting the club into debt. Dover announced on Saturday night that they were ceasing football operations, putting the staff and players on furlough.

Dover Athletic chairman Jim Parmenter has invested around £200,000 of his own money this season into the club Picture: Tony Flashman
Dover Athletic chairman Jim Parmenter has invested around £200,000 of his own money this season into the club Picture: Tony Flashman

Clubs in the National League were handed grants to get them through the opening three months of the season and were expecting them to continue. Those funds haven't been forthcoming and it's meant the likes of Dover have been shedding thousands on wages without sponsorship and gate money to balance the books.

With around 85% of the club's outgoings spent on player and staff costs, the only thing Mr Parmenter felt he could do was to cut that expense out. He hopes they will now survive the crisis and fans will have a club to support next season.

He said: "I am just a local guy trying to keep his town club going and I have done it for eight weeks nearly, in previous years I have done it too, but I just can't keep doing it.

"It has been heartbreaking but it was a decision where there was no other choice really, we had to do it.

"We have carried on for nearly eight weeks now with nearly no funding at all and we have managed to keep the club going but we have simply run out of resources.

"We think we can remain solvent by taking this action, that is the key driver to doing it."

Mr Parmenter, whose business is in fruit and vegetable distribution, admits the last year has been "an absolute nightmare" as he faced dealing with his own company and the impact of Covid, as well as Brexit.

He said: "I am affected by Covid as much as everyone else, my business is affected, all of the other businesses are too. We get goodwill sponsorship as a town club but you look around Dover and the businesses are not operating. If they are, they are not doing very well, so you cannot expect those businesses to come forward with sponsorship.

"I have had all the trials and tribulations that everyone else has with Covid and the football club on top of that. I feel very let down by the authorities, by the league and by the government because we would never have started this season if we hadn't been promised funding. I feel let down that money has not been forthcoming. We should never have started this season."

The club could face sanctions for pulling out of their fixtures.

But Mr Parmenter feels any action against them would be harsh, saying: "I am sure we will be charged for not fulfilling our fixtures. But I think it is against league rules to take the league loans that are being offered at the moment, and equally it was the league that promised the funding when we started the season.

So it is hard to see how the league can punish the club when the funding that the league promised has put the club in this problem. It will be an interesting debate when we get to that point."

It could mean demotion. Any league is better than none but Mr Parmenter won't take any such punishment lying down when feeling his actions have been forced upon the club.

"That's a debate for another time," he said, while adding: "I would think it would be hard to justify punishing a club when the league have promised the funding and the funding hasn't come.

"We will have to see how that pans out with the FA and if necessary the courts. It is a problem down the road we will worry about when we get to it."

He was asked if he could have sent the kids out to play, like some National South sides look set to do, but Dover's only youth scheme is for under-19s. Sending teenagers up and down the country to play at the top tier of the non-league scene was a non-starter for Mr Parmenter. His club were facing two games a week until the end of the season.

Whatever happens in the future, Mr Parmenter is banking on short term pain for long-term gain. He says he has kept the club out of debt for 15 years and isn't willing to put the club at risk of insolvency, something that could have happened as early as next week. The club could have ended up following Macclesfield, Bury and others into liquidation.

"The whole point of this action is to save the club and make sure it is not insolvent," he said.

"You can't trade when you are insolvent, that is illegal, you have to go into administration or liquidation. The whole point is that the club will be here to play football. Where that is? We will wait and see but I don't think that is the most important issue at the moment. The most important issue is that the club is here."

Teams in the National League have been voting whether to play on or scrap the 2020/21 campaign, with fixtures continuing in the meantime. Voting began at the start of the month and clubs have 28 days to respond. It's been a divisive matter and has come down to money. The bigger clubs want to continue, the less well-off don't, or can't.

Mr Parmenter, who has led Dover to the top of non-league from what was the Ryman League, doesn't expect the arguments to go away when a decision is made.

"There is a big split in the league," he said.

"There are the big rich clubs who have either got parachute payments of a million pounds or very rich backers, that are mostly overseas, who can put money into their clubs and it doesn't really worry them. But then there is the other half of the league that are struggling like hell and don't know where the next lot of wages are coming from.

"We are going to have a split vote for sure. All the vote is going to do is bring up more problems because it is not going to solve the main issues, which is that 50% want to play and 50% don't or can't. How do you resolve that? They have put themselves in an impossible position in my opinion."

Mr Parmenter recently quit his position as a director on the National League board, critical over the funding issue and saying the league was in chaos.

Some clubs have stopped playing while the funding argument is resolved, others in Kent have furloughed staff but agreed to keep playing. Dover are the first to down tools completely.

"I think others are scared to do anything," said Mr Parmenter.

"My worry is they will get into financial trouble just because they are worried about repercussions but I think that is the wrong thing to do.

"In general, apart from a few of the really big clubs, it is pretty much a 100% support of the decision we have taken and among the fans as well, I think they realise the importance of the club and keeping it alive.

"You have to take a stand and you have to do what is right. I believe this is the right thing for the club and that is why I am doing it."

Read more: Player had to live with me, says Dover boss

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