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Dover Athletic manager Andy Hessenthaler says it was a gamble to start National League season

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Andy Hessenthaler believes the National League’s gamble to start the season has spectacularly backfired.

Dover chairman Jim Parmenter has said his club will not be playing again in the National League until grant funding is in place.

Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Matthew Walker
Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Matthew Walker

It means Whites boss Hessenthaler and his entire first-team squad are on furlough. The 55-year-old former Gillingham midfielder and manager believes it was wrong to start the season last October.

“The National League thought crowds were coming back but they shouldn’t have gambled,” said Hessenthaler.

“The season shouldn’t have started unless they had something in writing that there would be funding there if the fans can’t come back in. But nothing was in place or in writing – for me it was a gamble.

“A lot of people have to answer for this situation and be accountable for it.

“It was a rush and we didn’t know until the start of October if we were going to be playing or not.

“It’s been an eye opener for me. I’ve been brought up in non-league football but the last few weeks have been really tough. I haven’t had much sleep.

“People will say the position we are in, then that’s why we’ve stopped. Yes, it’s not great but it doesn’t matter if we are top or bottom – we can’t pay the wages any more.”

Dover's Will De Havilland on the stretch against Bromley earlier this season. Picture: Keith Gillard
Dover's Will De Havilland on the stretch against Bromley earlier this season. Picture: Keith Gillard

Mr Parmenter pulled the plug on Dover’s season as he is not willing to put the club into debt.

The players were informed of the decision at the weekend and Hessenthaler was not surprised.

“Can I blame him? No. We can’t carry on if there’s no money coming in,” he added.

“We had a team meeting and he told us what was happening. He said to me one-on-one that he needs to take these tough decisions so we’ve got a club for next season and if we carry on then that wouldn’t be the case.

“It didn’t surprise me that it happened. Other teams in the division below have done it but we were the first in the National League that can’t fulfil their fixtures due to finances.

“Of course, the boys want to carry on playing but they understood the decision as they know what is going on in the world. There was disappointment and understanding on the chairman’s part, they are frustrated as they want to play.”

Hessenthaler was full of praise for Mr Parmenter, who has been running Dover for 15 years.

It would have been easy for the Dover chairman to stop paying their wages at the turn of the year but he’s kept going in the hope that funding would be forthcoming.

The chairman didn’t have to do this for the last seven weeks but he wanted to try and keep it going.

“The chairman knows the finances of this football club, he has been doing it for 15 years and he runs it properly,” said Hessenthaler. “He’s never let it go into debt and doesn’t want to put it at risk.

“You have to take your hat off to him. He has put his hand in his pocket, he could have said ‘no, I can’t do this’ weeks ago.

“Fortunately for us the furlough scheme is in place so we will get supported financially. It’s not our full money but you still get some money coming in.

“The chairman didn’t have to do this for the last seven weeks but he wanted to try and keep it going. He hoped the funding would come but it just hasn’t happened.”

Any punishment for Dover is uncertain as they have pulled out of fixtures for the foreseeable future.

There is the potential for hefty fines and even demotion according to the rulebook but proving Dover took the decision without ‘just cause’ will no doubt be challenged given the circumstances.

Hessenthaler said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. It might be that there is funding provided in a week or two and we can play on.

“I can’t see that there will be any sanctions put on the club at the moment – you can’t sanction people until the vote is in. I don’t see how they can do that and I don’t think they will.”

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