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William backs grassroots football fans hoping to save ‘heart and soul’ of clubs

·3-min read

The Duke of Cambridge has shown his support for grassroots football fans hoping to save the “heart and soul” of their clubs.

William visited Dulwich Hamlet FC to meet its new director, former player and ex-England striker Peter Crouch and lifelong football supporters to discuss how the game should be run.

After Conservative MP Tracey Crouch spoke about her fan-led independent review into the state of football, the duke, who is president of the FA, asked what could be done to improve matters.

Duke of Cambridge visit to Dulwich Hamlet FC
The Duke of Cambridge (centre) with Ben Clasper, chairman of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club (left) and Peter Crouch during his visit to the London club (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Told how she had found some clubs to have an excellent relationship with supporters but others which treated fans with “disdain” and “disrespect”, he asked: “Is that also why you can’t necessarily run a football club like a business?

“Because you then miss the point, that heart and soul and fabric of what a club is, if you’re working to the bottom line that the finances drive everything?”

His visit came after he was pictured watching his beloved club Aston Villa take on Chelsea at their west London ground in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night, where they were beaten in a penalty shootout.

The duke spent more than an hour at Dulwich Hamlet in south London, famous for its loyal fans and community feel, to hear from supporters and players about the ongoing fan-led review into football governance.

The review, chaired by Ms Crouch, was announced in April 2021 and is intended as a comprehensive examination of the English football system and how to make improvements.

Duke of Cambridge visit to Dulwich Hamlet FC
William and Peter Crouch take part in a discussion during the event at Dulwich Hamlet FC (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

It takes in issues of governance, ownership and financial sustainability of clubs across all levels of football, as well as the controversial abandoned European Super League.

In July 2021, an interim set of findings and recommendations was released, with Ms Crouch writing to then culture secretary Oliver Dowden to recommend the introduction of a new “Independent Regulator for English Football”, with powers to block any future European Super League.

It outlined proposals to grant supporters a “golden share”, giving them a veto over the sale of a team’s stadium and changes to a side’s name, badge and kit colours.

The final report is due to be released this autumn.

Welcomed by chairman Ben Clasper, William hailed Crouch with a fist bump and joked: “The last time I saw you we were having a curry, now you’ve got a proper job!”

Duke of Cambridge visit to Dulwich Hamlet FC
Peter Crouch and William have met a number of times in recent years (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The pair previously worked on a podcast about mental health and football, during which they ordered an Indian takeaway from the former footballer’s favourite London restaurant.

The duke was introduced to star women’s player Madi Parsonson, 19, asking her how she had found being unable to train in lockdown, and how she had come to love football as a young girl.

He went on to ask the politician about the progress of the official review.

Sitting down with coaches and managers at Dulwich Hamlet to hear about the club’s relationship with fans, William asked: “What is it about the model here that’s worked so well? What’s the best practice that can be replicated elsewhere?”

Told about how the club has kept prices low and now has 2,000 fans for Saturday matches, he joked of future entertainment: “Crouchy will do a half time dance!”

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