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Our governance has descended into chaos” Dover's Chairman resigns from the National League board as the season hangs in the balance

calendario 08.02.2021
by: Richard Vicarage
  • England
  • Vanarama National
Our governance has descended into chaos” Dover's Chairman resigns from the National League board as the season hangs in the balance

As the 66 National League clubs vote on whether to see out the 20/21 season, Dover’s Jim Parmenter resigned from the league’s executive body. In the words of Parmenter’s statement on Dover’s website, Parmenter “can no longer be seen to be a party to actions which I absolutely disagree with.” Parmenter described his resignation letter to the league’s chairman Brian Barwick, citing his respect for unity but his need to speak out. 

The league’s attitude towards clubs who failed to fulfil fixtures became a key reason for Parmenter’s resignation. The Dover official called the leagues “threats'' towards these clubs “ill-conceived,” echoing the attitude of the National League North’s Concord Rangers’s before their league’s temporary hiatus.

National League fans and pundits online immediately pointed to Dover Athletic’s place at second-from-bottom of the National League as a motivating factor for Parmenter’s attitude. In truth, the man himself mentions league positions in the statement. The statement portrays the league in a rich-club / poor-club split, with the vulnerable smaller clubs, to use Parmenter’s words, “subsidising” the larger clubs' achievements. Dover’s dire economic straits raise questions about their ability to take on any loans to finish the season. Their situation offers a bleak contrast to the larger league leaders or even mid-table clubs like Wrexham. When Wrexham were denied access to loans in January, their new millionaire co-owner-elect tweeted that “we don’t need your money.” Dover, on the other hand, do need money. They could also do without any debt.

The club’s struggle this position stems in part from lacklustre performances, but off-the-pitch chaos has also wreaked undeniable havoc on their season. For starters, last season they finished in mid-table 11th. Also, although they lag behind other teams on points, they have also played the least amount of games of any club in the league this season. Dover only have 15 matches played, to league leaders Torquay’s 21 games played. Parminter’s side has suffered a demoralising 13 postponements so far this season. Even if the season does finish, the club may have to play around three league games per week to complete their fixtures, allowing for huge season extension. 

The COVID pandemic looms large at the fringes of elite British sport, and the National League’s approach to tacking it has been inconsistent at best due to their limited resources. In January 2021, as new strains emerge across Britain, the league finally mandated regular lateral flow COVID tests for all of its member clubs. The virus caused multiple postponements, absences, and isolations in Dover Athletic’s playing and backroom staff. Following the most recent isolation, their manager Andy Hessenthaler admitted that “this new strain is causing a lot of problems.” Since then, new strains, and new problems, emerged.

The weather also caused cancellations and postponements for Dover, who suffered a waterlogged pitch on February 5th, which postponed their match with Hartlepool. Unfortunately for the Hartlepools Pools, they travelled 330 miles from Yorkshire to Dover, only to have pools on the pitch force them to travel 330 miles back empty-handed.

However, Dover’s possible relegation is by no means certain. Their recent match against bottom-placed Barnet gave them vital momentum and a precious three points. Two recently-acquired defenders earned them three goals for a 3-1 victory. In particular, an early brace from their powerhouse of a 6”3 right-back Will De Havilland demonstrated the club's potential strength at both ends of the pitch. 

Considering their recent win and their six games in hand, Parmenter's statement can’t be ascribed to Dover's relegation worries alone. The more obvious worry is that of health, finances, and league credibility. When individuals and organisations express concerns about the stark consequences of a pandemic more than 12 months in, they must be taken seriously.

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