Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Kingstonian revisited

I know some people think I exaggerate about how bad some Franchise customers are, but a recent post on one of their 'protected' forums demonstrates just how deluded some of them are. Get this:

"However, the key point made by Kingstonians was that the sale of the ground took place just 2 weeks before a meeting to set up a Kingstonian Supporters Trust. And those setting up the trust that had announced its intention to purchase the ground back from the Khosla's. AFC (knowing this full well) immediately did a deal behind the backs of Kingstonians."

For once, one of their own has tried to correct the deluded individual, yet they press on with this insane notion that a K's Trust that hadn't even been started yet could somehow have got together the funds to purchase the ground from Khosla. And all this flies completely in the face of what the K's Trust chairman has had to say on the matter, as previously linked to:

The person quoted from that Franchise forum are the sort of blinkered, brainwashed individuals that are out there, spreading these kind of lies about Wimbledon, in what can only be construed as a misguided attempt at revenge. Rather than face the truth about their own club, they have descended into an obsessive campaign to smear Wimbledon, when there's simply no reason for them to do so. Wimbledon fans have plenty of reason to despise Franchise FC and those responsible for it, but what can possibly justify trying to slag off Wimbledon? These people have got things very, very wrong and it makes you seriously wonder what sort of customerbase Franchise is going to end up with when it has people that screwed up amongst them.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Forgiving and forgetting

Almost since the verdict of the FA Commission was made on 28th May 2002, we have had people telling Wimbledon fans to 'get over it', 'move on' and other trite phrases suggesting we are collectively supposed to not only forgive what was done but somehow forget it too. And I am not exaggerating - as other Wimbledon fans will confirm - from the very start we've had people saying things like 'Hey, it was only a football club' or 'But you've got a new club now, why aren't you happy with that'. Most of these ignorant comments have, of course, come from the Franchise customers, who either just don't have the first idea of what a football club means to most fans or who don't want to have to face the guilt of knowing what was done in their name to bring them a Football League place.

The most recent 'get over it' example we have comes from Jeremy Alexander in The Guardian:

He gets quite a lot of basic facts right, but repeats a now tired, old mantra just the same:

"The hot breath of the hijacked is on the necks of the hijackers – except that this perspective, initially raw with feeling, should now be dead and buried."

Cute line about hijacking, nicely done Jeremy, but he's still grabbed at the old 'move on' aspect. The comments that follow the article further demonstrate how the customers still don't 'get it'.
I'll make one simple point to the Franchise customers and others who think we're supposed to have 'got over it' by now - how and why would you forgive or forget a wrong that was done to you, when not one person involved in doing that wrong has ever had the guts to even apologise?

No one... not Winkelman, not Koppel, not Raj Parker or Steve Stride, not the Football Association, not the Football League... no one. None of the main parties involved in ripping a football club away from its fans and community has ever uttered a word of apology for either making it or allowing it to happen.

Just one apology has ever been received and that was from a Merton Council that wasn't in a position to stop what happened, but that many argue could and should have done more than it did:

Some will doubtless think apologies are worth nothing, but if any of the protagonists of creating Franchise FC were serious and sincere about wanting Wimbledon fans to 'move on', then it's the least they would do, right? It costs them nothing... not a penny... and yet still, nine years on, not a word of apology comes from those still involved - Winkelman, the FA and the FL. Indeed, far from apologising, Winkelman and his customer acolytes continue to fan the fires with the kind of lies and misinformation that this blog highlights.

The other factor now brought up is the return of the trophies and honours - as Alexander does in his Guardian piece:

"Franchise FC may have been fair and funny in 2003 but in 2007 they returned Wimbledon's trophies to the Borough of Merton and kicked off in Stadiummk"

So what? For one thing, those honours should never have been in Milton Keynes in the first place and for two, what about the Football League place which was far more fundamentally valuable? Are we giving rewards to thieves who return some stolen property while keeping other stuff now? Frankly, the return of the trophies and honours was long overdue and the grudging, mealy-mouthed way in which they were returned to Merton - those at Franchise couldn't even bring themselves to give them to AFC Wimbledon - did them little credit in making up for what happened in 2002.

Don't be sucked into the other twisted manner Franchise customers portray things either - they like to suggest those like me who remember and remind are somehow bitter obsessives with nothing else in their lives. Of course they want to think that and have others believe it, because they can't cope with the fact that normal, happy, intelligent and balanced people absolutely despise Franchise FC and what it stands for still. Frankly, I'd think there was something wrong with someone who had 'got over' having their football club destroyed in the manner it was in 2002. Blocking out that sort of hurt and rejection as if it never happened can't be healthy.

And what of AFC Wimbledon? It's brilliant thanks... a happy, thriving, successful club, which every fan, new and old, can enjoy and trust to be around forever. It exists and provides that joy solely because of the efforts of Wimbledon fans and fans of other clubs who have helped us along the way. Its existence is not a reason to either forgive or forget what happened in 2002, particularly when we were told by the Commission that such a reborn club was "not in the wider interests of football".

To those who expect everything to be forgotten, I ask one simple question... What have you ever actually done to understand or compensate for what Wimbledon fans went through in having their football club franchised to Milton Keynes?

If the answer is nothing - other than maybe to have cast a vote to return honours that should never have left Wimbledon in the first place - then you have your answer as to why these things will not be forgiven or forgotten. The onus of responsibility lies with those who did the taking, not those who were taken from.

I doubt any Wimbledon fan is holding their breath expecting Winkelman or the FA to apologise, never mind compensate us, for what was done in 2002, but until the guilty parties show even the smallest sign of remorse, I and tens of thousands of football fans like me will not be forgetting or forgiving. And if you don't like that, I suggest you 'get over it'.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Stadium ownership and why it matters

One thing it has always been difficult to get Franchise customers to understand is how their new club is in fact no better off than Wimbledon FC was at Selhurst Park, because Franchise FC doesn't own the stadium it plays in. You will encounter no end of stupid responses to this fact, usually based on the ironic notion that Winkelman won't abandon the football club. Explaining to them that that is exactly what most Wimbledon fans would have told anyone asking during the late 1980s and early 90s about Hammam, tends to fall on deaf ears, with the same mantra about trusting Winkelman coming back.

Conveniently, the customers have had a relevant thread in the last couple of days, located here:

It features a number of extraordinarily misinformed and just plain dumb comments about Franchise FC's lousy financial position, but let's pick out the matter of what the football club actually owns, what it owes and what that means for its future. Here's what one, apparently respected for some strange reason, customer said:

"We have the backing from Clydesdale to secure this club for another 12-15 years on the basis of that level of annual loss."

This is the first catastrophically wrong assumption. The football club only has a small chunk of the overall bank loan (which is to the parent company) available to it and that has to be repaid by July 2012. The matter of the football club running out of money is therefore both immediate and pressing. As ever, it demonstrates the inability of some Franchise customers to tell the difference between the football club (a Limited company in its own right) and the parent company (InterMK), which exists largely as a property development company.

Astonishingly, it goes on to say:

"Debt is not an issue, just the ability to service that debt."

Not an issue? It really is astounding how little some people have learned both from the Wimbledon FC saga and from the troubles of other clubs. Their football club has never managed better than losing just under £1m in a year, yet they think a debt that just keeps getting bigger isn't a problem. They also presume that future losses will be reduced, when attendances have fallen and costs risen. Some might call it optimism, but I'd call it reckless lunacy.

So let's look at the football club's accounts again and see what assets it has to justify its position. Remember that the football club's debt (2009-10 accounts) is over £10m. Current assets, including fixed assets (tangible and intangible) and current assets (stocks, debtors, cash at hand) amount to £1.6m. Oh dear. That is a huge gap.

For comparison, bear in mind that in Wimbledon FC's last set of audited accounts (2000-01), the same calculation of assets came to nearly £11.8m. WFC was still trading at a loss that year of course, but just look at the disparity in assets - and WFC didn't even own Selhurst Park! So, what we have in Franchise FC is a football club with virtually no assets at all, other than a few player contracts, which clearly don't amount to much.

This being football, player assets can rise quite quickly, so it's no surprise Franchise has had to cash in its one major youth player development to West Ham recently. The underlying message from the football club's accounts though, is that there's very little for the club to call on - and certainly not the stadium.

Why does it matter?

Here's the crux of the matter... It matters because without assets the football club is literally no better off than WFC at Selhurst, and you can even make a case for it being worse off, particularly because it doesn't have the established youth development program WFC had.

And what of Winkelman? The Franchise customers sole hope is that Winkelman, through InterMK, will continue to prop up a football club that would, without his yearly guarantee of funding (presumably derived from the property deal), have been declared insolvent every year since 2004. Which brings us full circle back to Hammam and Wimbledon FC. We all trusted him once too - near worshipped him for overseeing Wimbledon's elevation to the top flight and FA Cup win. And yet he wasn't, in those days, even as blatant about his property dealings using the football club as a bargaining chip or makeweight as Winkelman is.

Ironically, it will of course be far too late to do anything about it when the majority of Franchise customers realise just how vulnerable a position their football club is in, with virtually no assets and just the whim of one man as to whether it survives or not, but if/when the day dawns that Winkelman tires of his plaything or runs out of money, I doubt there'll be much sympathy for customers who've never shown interest in doing the right thing by Wimbledon fans or even in getting Winkelman to do what he told the FA Commission he would.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Actual facts of the move

Just for a bit of fun, let's take the Franchise customer association's lies-by-omission ( and list some of the things they completely neglect to. The amount of essential facts and detail they omit - nearly all of it damning evidence against Winkelman - reveals the truly despicable purpose of the propaganda exercise they have indulged in.

June 2000
Pete Winkelman reserves the domain names relating to 'MKDons'.

August 2000
Winkelman approaches Wimbledon FC with his property deal to move a Football League team and Football League place to Milton Keynes. The FA Commission says so:

"10. In August 2000 Mr Peter Winkelman of the Milton Keynes Stadium Consortium (MKSC) approached Mr Koppel. MKSC is a group of local business people who together with stakeholders and community groups are working to secure the provision of professional football in Milton Keynes."

That's two months after registering the domain names. A man that plans ahead, clearly.

May 2002
Pete Winkelman tells the FA Commission he wants to retain the Wimbledon FC identity (extract from Commission report):

"76. MKSC is made up of various partners from local government, commerce and industry (including retail and hotel groups), community groups, parish councils and the like. Mr Winkelman spoke with passion of the benefits for the area, and for football in general, of having a team of the stature of WFC in the new stadium which will be ready for the start of the 2004/5 season. It will be owned by WFC and paid for by commercial and retail enabling development. He believes that with over 40,000 school children in the area WFC will be fantastic news.
77. He is an advocate for retaining the identity of WFC and would work with the Football League and WFC to achieve this, if we gave permission for the relocation. He talked of renaming the area “Wimbledon Park” or renaming roads and of the similarities between the new town of Milton Keynes (now almost 30 years old) and WFC."

June 2004
Winkelman changes the team name from Wimbledon FC to... wait for it... can you guess?... 'MK Dons'. The name he registered for domain names in 2000.

Curious how one can establish domain names in 2000, give contrary evidence about club naming in 2002 and then rename the club in 2004 to the name envisaged back in 2000. And this is the kind of evidence the Franchise customer association doesn't want people to know.

I'll be coming back to this again... and again... filling out the facts and the timeline. If you'd like to assist in compiling the timeline, do let me know via the usual channels (like the WUP guestbook or by email) or by signing up as a member of the blog and contacting me that way.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Trust In MK. As if!

One of the most inglorious episodes connected to Franchise customers (and being covered by popular request) was the abortive setting up of a supporter's Trust. Normally you'd think this was something to be applauded at any football club, but, as we shall see, in this instance it was actually just an opportunity for egos to be inflated, and for money and time to be wasted.

Quite why in 2004 certain Franchise customers felt they should establish a Trust (as specified by Supporters Direct, these should be an Industrial and Provident Society - ) is something of a mystery, but at the time there was lots of talk that suggested it was based on nothing more than the fact that Wimbledon had one and so they wanted one too.

Now, the problem with that is that as far as SD were concerned, they had already handed over public funds once to start a supporters' trust for this particular club as defined by the FA - The Dons Trust. So their hands were tied, because Franchise continued to claim to be the continuation of Wimbledon FC and SD simply weren't allowed to help fund a second Trust at the same club. (Publically funded bodies have strict requirements to meet and SD felt it had no choice in this matter.) That, of course, was a huge problem for Franchise customers, because either they had to establish that Franchise was a new club with no connection to Wimbledon or they had to stick to the ridiculous continuation idea and set up a Trust for themselves without SD's help.

The MKSA open letter referred to in the link above is just one of the documents missing from their own lies by omission (, as is any other mention of 'Trust in MK' in the entire set of documents, other than an incidental mention in the 2006 Accord. Curiously, the chariman of the MKSA, John Brockwell, also signed the open letter and helped set up 'Trust in MK', but apparently doesn't see fit to mention it in his own association's claimed 'facts of the move' - or anywhere else for that matter. Indeed, the more you look at the MKSA's 'facts of the move', the more obvious it becomes what a distorted piece of nasty propaganda it actually is. These aren't innocent omissions of documents they don't have, these are clearly deliberate omissions of documents they don't want remembered, which makes their claim to be presenting 'facts' entirely empty.

The row about SD funding and helping a Franchise Trust even made it as far as parliament. The local MP, Phyllis Starkey, wasted her time and parliament's with this:

It didn't change anything, of course, because SD was correctly applying its rules, but it didn't stop Starkey, Brockwell and others from stamping their feet and trying to get their own way.

Eventually, money was raised by Franchise customers (about £2,000 if I recall correctly) to establish a Trust and it was duly done. I say eventually, because it was still being dragged out in late 2005:

'Trust in MK' eventually launched though... it had a website... it had a board... it started to get people to pay for membership... and then... nothing. If you look on the internet now, it is hard to find any trace that it even existed. It is as if those involved have tried to wipe it from existence. And yet this was something deemed so important that they took the matter to parliament!

Where did the money go? Were Financial Services Authority rules for IPSs kept to? (There's a lot of them... The last mention of it seen on any Franchise forum involved lots of denial of involvement and lots of sweeping things under the rug, but that too has disappeared.

'Trust in MK'? Turns out that was as complete an oxymoron as you could wish to see. I wouldn't trust anyone involved as far as I could kick them.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

What about Kingstonian?

Turning the spotlight on to AFC Wimbledon for a change, Franchise customers often lash out by making claims about the club Wimbledon share the Kingsmeadow ground with - Kingstonian. The accusations are fairly wild, with a common theme being that Wimbledon aren't as fan-friendly and good for football as most people think, because of how Kingstonian have been treated. So, is there any substance to the accusations? Let's take a look at some specific attacks that have been made...

1. Wimbledon killed Kingstonian
Not hard to refute this one - Kingstonian are still in existence and still play at the ground (Kingsmeadow) they played at before AFC Wimbledon arrived.

2. Wimbledon got Kingstonian into financial trouble
This is also simply not true and easily refuted. Kingstonian went into administration in October 2001, while Wimbledon fans were still trying to get Wimbledon FC to stay in London.

3. Wimbledon stopped Kingstonian's Trust buying Kingsmeadow
Again this simply isn't true. Kingstonian didn't even have a Trust when AFC Wimbledon were buying Kingsmeadow, as this contemporaneous account from on 1st April 2003 shows:

"The K's Trust has issued the following statement:
Plans are moving ahead for the launch of The K's Trust on Monday 14th April, at 7.30pm. The embryonic organisation has already made contacts with several local businesses, and two - Captain Oi! Records and Cherry Red Records - have already agreed to donate four figure sums to the trust, and to sponsor several matches next season.

At a meeting of the Kingstonian Supporters' Club on Monday night, Ivor Heller - commercial manager of AFC Wimbledon - urged the K's fans present to give the trust their full support.

He said: "The trust movement is the future for smaller clubs. We are living proof that it can happen, and bigger clubs like York City and Leicester City are showing how effective they can be."

On AFC Wimbledon's agreement to buy Kingsmeadow, he assured those in attendance that Kingstonian would be well looked after. He gave details of several clauses that would be inserted into the contract which would leave K's even better off than they have been this season.

He said: "Our history goes back to 1889, yours goes back even further than that. We will not let your club die. You will be fully looked after, and we will be the best landlords that you could dream of. My long-term ambition is for The K's Trust to have a share in the ownership of their ground. I want this ground to be shared 50/50."

Mr Heller has confirmed that he will be in attendance on April 14th, as have many others - from football, the local community and the business community. The meeting is open to anybody with an interest in football in Kingston, and everyone is urged to attend."

And as a recent post on K's on forum shows, any suggestion that an embryo K's Trust could have bought the ground in 2003 are fanciful:

"I don't know, but with the covenant on the lease that it has to be used for senior football, so it's only really worth what a senior football club will pay for it. We have 300 fans, you have 4000 and you had enough difficulty paying for it - unless I'm mistaken you were in debt to Khosla for a few years at quite a poor rate of interest until you eventually paid enough off that you could refinance with a bank?

The Ks Trust has a five-figure sum that has been raised. But if you think we can raise any serious money in nine years you're misunderstanding how hard it is for small clubs. Our fans' fundraising efforts are very good for the size of our club, but that all goes in to just surviving in the Ryman Premier, it's not realistic that 300 of us can build up a seven-figure fighting fund."

4. Other accusations about Wimbledon damaging Kingstonian
The ground is still predominantly decorated in Kingstonian's red and white colour scheme.

Kingstonian now play rent free at the ground - probably the best rental deal ever.

"A condition of the proposed lease agreement is that AFC Wimbledon will grant a new 25 year licence to Kingstonian FC to share the ground for its home fixtures.  The first 10 years would be rent free, with Kingstonian FC then paying a ‘peppercorn rent’ of £12,500 per year (rising by RPI each year) for the remaining 15 years of the licence.  In effect, this would secure the future of Kingstonian FC at Kingsmeadow until at least June 2033."

The leasehold on the ground guarantees the site must be used for the borough's football team, it cannot be used for property development.

Ground sharing is never ideal and there are always points of conflict, but AFC Wimbledon and Kingstonian get on about as well as any two clubs could be expected to do. It is clearly the hope of all parties that one day Kingstonian will take sole possession of Kingsmeadow and Wimbledon will own a new ground even nearer to Wimbledon, but for now the arrangement is good and ensures the future of both clubs.

For more detail on events and from the Kingstonian side of things, you can't get a fuller, franker and more clear summation of events than this piece on the ever-excellent twohundredpercent blog by Mark Murphy, the K's Trust chairman:

And if that's the view of the K's Trust chairman, why would anyone, particularly Franchise customers, doubt it? This one has been well and truly put to bed.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A tale of fans success

Particularly today, one can't help but counterpoint the Franchise FC situation with another club... and it's not Wimbledon! So forgive me while I digress from the main theme. What is often forgotten in all the furore over Franchise, is all the other clubs up and down the country who have missed out because of franchising a Football League place to Milton Keynes. (Missed League spots, missed cup runs, missed revenue, missed media exposure and so on.) Much like the AFC Wimbledon story, the Exeter City story largely speaks for itself - it's a tale of a community and group of fans who really did stand up to be counted and who have achieved incredible things. So, on the day when some Franchise customers are crowing about a result in a competition they've never earned the right to be in, I hand you over to Gary Andrews, courtesy of SBNation, to read about a truly inspiring tale. Whatever result Exeter City get against Liverpool in the Carling Cup, they've earned the right to be there. Somewhere out there are many more stories like this one that could and should have been written, but for Franchise unjustly taking Wimbledon's place in the Football League...

Monday, 22 August 2011

The inability to differentiate between things

One of the most ironic and self-defeating things that Franchise customers do, is their constant moaning about being blamed for things they haven't done, when in fact they haven't been blamed for anything except giving Winkelman money to keep Franchise FC going. This is simply a statement of fact - when they give money to Franchise FC they are giving money to the man that lured Wimbledon FC away from its fans to Milton Keynes. Wimbledon fans rightly hate Winkelman for that and therefore disapprove of anyone that rewards him for his actions. It's not hard to grasp, now is it? And yet when faced with this very simple notion, some Franchise customers simply ram their fingers in their ears, screw their eyes tight shut and refuse to acknowledge it. They trot out "I'm just going to watch my local football club" as if it is some form of magical armour that will deflect everything - it doesn't and never has.

Personally I've no interest in engaging with individual Franchise customers about their reasons for attending Franchise games, but, as this blog demonstrates, I do care about the lies and misinformation that they have been fed from day one and are still reproducing, as well as adding new twisted forms of nonsense all the time. Everyone makes their own mind up about what actions they should or should not take, but I will be damned if Franchise customers will ever be allowed to whitewash either the perpetrators of the move or the facts, just because they want to feel better about a choice they made that many thousands of people disapprove of.

And let's not forget, they did have a choice and they had every opportunity to know full well what it was they were choosing to support. There was massive amounts of media coverage, the protests were long and loud, the fans opposition was always crystal clear and the local campaigns in MK made it clear the move was about a stadium and a supermarket, not saving a football club, so there was no excuse for being under any misapprehensions:

The true irony here is that Franchise customers moan about being blamed by everyone, when no such thing is the case. Wimbledon fans despise Franchise customers for supporting Winkelman's franchised football club, but I've yet to meet a fan that actually thinks they are to blame for the move. Yet this is the lie that some of the customers have convinced themselves of. The very generalisation that they say they hate, is the one they have applied to themselves!

For example, read all the posts in this blog and you won't find a single example of me blaming Franchise customers for the move, except, as in this post, the responsibility they bear for helping finance the project once it was in MK. Yet if you read the reactions to it on Franchise forums, you'd be convinced I'd blamed each of them personally for killing Wimbledon FC. Not to put too fine a point on it, they have become their own worst enemy, exhibiting a martyr mentality and a complete inability to deal with the actual facts or rational argument.

Of course, this is just a few internet posters that have painted themselves into a corner and have no way to escape their own faulty logic, but, as we've seen before with the 'legal continuation' lie, sometimes these things can be quite pervasive. Next time you're talking to neutrals about Franchise, bear in mind that they might have been exposed to these Franchise would-be martyrs, who've managed to completely lose track of why it is we don't like them. Winkelman's still the villain, Franchise FC is still the ill-gotten gain being paraded in front of us... and all the Franchise customers are is a continuing conduit for lies and misinformation.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Franchise finance

One of the ways in which Franchise customers are both wrong and unwittingly hilarious is over the way the football club is run. They often proudly proclaim how sensibly Franchise FC is run financially, meanwhile still maintaining that Wimbledon FC had to move to survive. What makes this astonishing is that the facts simply do not reflect this at all. It's as if there is some form of group hypnosis going on where most of them have been brainwashed into believing these things, even though the actual facts prove the opposite. The pinnacle of hilarity comes when these customers ridicule clubs like Plymouth, Luton, Stockport and others, who have been in administration or other financial trouble, little realising the mess Franchise FC has been in from the start and is still in.

Let's look at some numbers for Franchise FC, going back several years. All figures taken from the annual accounts of the Milton Keynes club:

Operating loss (excludes player sales)
2004-5: £2,367,171
2005-6: £2,290,153
2006-7: £2,995,275
2007-8: £1,957,298
2008-9: £1,950,758
2009-10: £1,446,851

(NB the club has never made an operating profit.)

That means that over 6 years, Franchise FC has made a loss on its operating activities of a staggering £13m. Some of this has been offset by player sales and compensation received for manager moves, but for a club that has spent all that time in the bottom two divisions of the Football League, it is a staggering level of loss, most certainly not indicative of a club being run well or within its means.

Some have claimed that the losses are at least getting smaller, but that is precisely the sort of thinking that has got every other financially troubled football club into deep water. A loss is a loss, and when the smallest ever loss is nearly £1.5m, the business clearly has a fundamental problem of unsustainability.

To highlight the problem, in the last ever set of audited accounts submitted by Wimbledon Football Club Limited (year 2000-1), the club posted a staggering operating loss of £7,069,128. Now, you might think that shows Franchise isn't so badly off, but look a little deeper and the picture is very different. In those same WFC accounts it says, "Post year end sales of player registrations amounted to £5,540,000". In other words, the actual loss for the year was under £1.5m, a far cry from the horrendous figures used in public and to the FA Commission to justify the move. (More of that another time.)

So, what are Franchise FC's actual losses since 2004? Even after player sales and manager compensation, the football club has lost a toe-curling £10,011,865. £10m in six years. Does that sound like a sustainable, well run football club to you? No, of course it doesn't, it sounds like a football club being run either as a rich man's plaything or a football club that is inevitably going to end up the way all other clubs that live beyond their means do.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Why does anyone still care?

One of the things that seems to perplex Franchise customers (though it really shouldn't), is why anyone still cares about how their football club came into being. There are two answers to this, a short one and a long one. The short one:

Because it was wrong, still is wrong and no one has ever righted the wrong or even apologised for it.

And the long one, which is really just analysing in greater detail the short answer. There are several parts to deal with, as follows:

1. Why was it wrong?
2. Why is it still wrong?
3. Why has no one ever done anything about correcting the situation?
4. What needs to happen now?

1. Why was it wrong?
Even most Franchise customers that have looked at the history will admit that moving Wimbledon FC and the Football League place to Milton Keynes was wrong. It's really not in much dispute, but let me reiterate a few things to demonstrate just how wrong, because although there is no scale for 'wrongness', the sheer weight of opposition to and condemnation of the move helps inform why this isn't something that will go away.

a. The Football League board twice rejected the proposed move and never authorised it, deferring what should have been their reponsibility to the FA Commission, to which they submitted evidence opposing the move. The FL always considered the move to be against their rules and attempted to tighten them up subsequently to prevent a repetition, thus further confirming they considered the move to have been wrong.

b. The Football Association also gave evidence to the Commission opposing the move and its chief executive stated afterwards that it was "appalling" that permission had been granted.

c. The vast majority of the fans opposed the move, as demonstrated by the subsequent boycott of what was by then Franchise FC. Of course it was wrong to move their football team more than 60 miles away from them to a completely different town. Even the Commission didn't try arguing it was right for the fans.

d. Ironically, the FA Commission also laid out the great extent of the opposition, which two of them ignored, all telling them the move was wrong. This extract taken from the report:

"Objections to WFC’s proposal to play home matches at Milton Keynes
51. The proposal has met with considerable opposition, and not just from the WFC fans one might think would be opposed “root and branch” to such a move. Respected football writers in our national press were generally supportive of the Football League’s decision last August.
52. A Parliamentary All Party Committee (chaired by Alan Keen MP of the All Party Football Group) which comprises 150 members in the House of Commons and the House of Lords is opposed to the proposal.
53. Merton BC is opposed to the move and believe a stadium can be built in Merton for WFC.
54. And of course the Football Association, the Football League, the FA Premier League and the Football Conference Ltd have all provided statements which stress: the identification of clubs with community; the sacrosanct nature of the pyramid system based on sporting merit (English football does not allow a franchise system) and the precedent or floodgates argument, which all weigh against permission being granted for a move of this nature and distance.
56. Indeed most of the hundreds (over 600) of communications we have received have argued against the proposal. They have generally been from individual WFC fans.
57. Supporters’ associations and individual fans from many other clubs and people from as far afield as the United States, Australia (Wimbledon Supporters Downunder), Russia and Norway have also expressed similar views."

All these people and organisations opposed the move and said it was wrong and, importantly, continued to do so after the Commission's decision. Not one of these organisations has, in the past nine years, revised its stated opinion that the move was wrong.

2. Why is it still wrong?
This is fairly straightforward, because nothing has ever been done to either right the wrong or compensate those who lost their football club. Something does not become not wrong through the passage of time. It may gradually fade the memory or the intensity of the matter, but it remains wrong.

Some matters have been resolved - the 2006 Accord signed by WISA and Franchise FC has returned the honours and patrimony of Wimbledon FC to the London Borough of Merton. However, this in no way rights the wrong of the club and League place being taken away in the first place. The honours should never have left Wimbledon.

Nor does the success of AFC Wimbledon returning to the Football League right any of the wrongs. Wimbledon fans have achieved this feat without any assistance from those responsible for taking away the original club and League place, so why should they be let off the hook due to the efforts of Wimbledon fans? It has cost considerable sums of money and vast amounts of donated time by volunteers to achieve what Wimbledon fans have done and none of that should reduce the guilt that resides with those responsible for necessitating that expense of time, effort and money.

Finally, not one word of apology has ever been offered to Wimbledon fans by those responsible for killing their football club in 2002. The easiest thing to give is the one thing that has never been given. So when the wrong has never been righted and not so much as an apology offered for it, why would anyone seriously expect Wimbledon fans to consider the matter closed?

3. Why has no one ever done anything about correcting the situation?
WISA (Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association) and Wimbledon fans in general tried to do plenty about it both before, during and after the move, as chronicled on the WISA website and archive.

It is thanks to them that the 2006 Accord was achieved and they continue to press for changes that will prevent other fans having to go through the same things and also to get Franchise FC to take further action, notably by dropping the superfluous 'Dons' nickname from Franchise FC's team name.

No attempts have been made since 2004 to either return Franchise FC to south-west London or to return the Football League place to Wimbledon, because any such moves would, by nature, have to be legal and therefore prohibitively expensive. And that's regardless of the likelihood of anyone involved at Franchise FC being prepared to do either thing anyway - clearly it would be irrational to expect either thing to happen, which is why Wimbledon fans went about getting our football club and Football League place back themselves and without the assistance of anyone else.

4. What needs to happen now?
Clearly the time has passed for Milton Keynes to give up Wimbledon's League place - being the town that bought/stole (depending on your perspective) a League place from somewhere else is just a stigma Franchise customers and the rest of MK will always have to live with. However, there are two substantive things that can still be done. They won't right the wrongs of the past, but they can at least acknowledge them and enable all parties involved to draw a line under some of the ongoing issues. The two things are:

a. Pete Winkelman issues an apology to Wimbledon fans, on behalf of the Milton Keynes Stadium Consortium, for instigating the events that led to the destruction of Wimbledon FC.

b. Franchise FC drops the 'Dons' part of its team name, in recognition that it has no connection to Wimbledon and wishes to be seen as a Milton Keynes team.

How likely or desirable you think either of those actions is, very much depends on your view of things - there will be many on both sides of the argument that disagree with me. However, these are the only substantive actions that can now be taken to alter the situation, prior to a potential and increasingly likely meeting between Franchise FC and AFC Wimbledon on the football pitch. I would have thought that those at Franchise FC would be keen to ease the tension and animosity prior to such a fixture occuring, but at present there are no signs of them doing the right thing. I suppose one shouldn't be surprised, given what was done by Winkelman and cohorts, particularly between 2000-2004, but the onus is still on him to attempt to repair some of the damage that he himself caused.

To sum up... it was wrong, still is wrong and no one has ever righted the wrong or even apologised for it. That's why people still care and that's why Franchise customers should be getting their own club to do something about it instead of pointlessly whining about people still going on about it.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Who stole Wimbledon's football club and League place?

One of the regular whines from Franchise customers is that they didn't steal anything. The trouble with that is that to my knowledge no one has ever accused an individual Franchise customer of stealing our football club and/or Football League place, and most Wimbledon fans differentiate between Milton Keynes as a whole and the people responsible for luring away our football club. Wimbledon fans and the media use the 'stolen' word for good reason and here are some salient facts to remember as to why:

1. Football fans are encouraged by their clubs (Franchise FC included) - even ones owned by wealthy individuals or corporate structures - to consider themselves part of the club and to help it out when it's in trouble.

2. Wimbledon fans received no recompense for their football club and Football League place being taken away.

3. Wimbledon fans did not give permission for their football club and Football League place to be taken away.

Put all that together and you have a situation where Wimbledon fans clearly did have their football club stolen from them. That is indisputable.

What is at issue is not whether the fans had the club stolen from them, it's who did the stealing. That's a much harder question to deal with and, since we aren't talking about any laws being broken, it isn't one with a definitive answer.

And I will digress on to the definition of the word 'stolen'. It does not mean any law has been broken. It means something has been taken without permission. The tired comeback of 'report it to the police then' and variations on that, are about the most witless, ignorant responses I've seen, yet that is surprisingly frequently what Franchise customers resort to. I usually ridicule it by asking them if they reported it to the police the last time someone stole their heart, but I think the richness of the language and the fact that I'm laughing at them is usually lost on them.

Back to the question... Who stole a football club and Football League place from the fans? Who you blame is a matter of personal opinion - there are plenty of culprits to look at. In my opinion all of the following bear responsibility to one extent or another and can be held accountable for helping steal Wimbledon's football club and FL place away from its fans and community.

1. Sam Hammam
In selling the idea of the Dublin move to the Kjell Inge Røkke and Bjørn Rune Gjelsten when he sold them Wimbledon FC Ltd, Hammam certainly paves the way for the events that followed. He's gone by the time Winkelman approaches the club though, but he's certainly a villain of the piece. One can delve further back to the removing of the covenant on Plough Lane and other matters, which have all irreparably tarnished his reputation with Wimbledon fans.

2. Charles Koppel, Kjell Inge Røkke and Bjørn Rune Gjelsten
Koppel was the hatchet man appointed as chairman by the Norwegian owners, who had paid Hammam an absurd sum of £30m for a football team that only really had playing staff as assets. Without doubt they must all be held directly responsible for taking the club away from its fans. They tried Dublin and then succeeded with Milton Keynes. None of them ended up profiting and all are no longer involved with Franchise FC.

3. Pete Winkelman
Headed up the MKSC and made the approach to Koppel, having arranged the deal with Asda/Walmart to fund a stadium in MK as an enabling development that would allow them to circumvent planning regulations in place at the time and build Europe's biggest (then) supermarket. The deal required a Football League club to play at the stadium (at the insistence of the local council) and this led Winkelman to approach numerous clubs to try to lure them into a deal to move to MK. His role is pivotal - without him, no move to MK happens. Would Wimbledon FC's owners have looked elsewhere without the Winkelman approach and thereby still stolen the club away from its fans? Possibly, but by no means certainly. On that basis, Winkelman's culpability in helping steal the club from its community is clear.

4. The 2002 FA Commission
In granting permission for the move, the three man commission is undoubtedly culpable in the stealing of the club and, most crucially, the Football League place. Their decision (by 2-1 vote - Steve Stride and Raj Parker are understood to be those in favour of the move) imposed the legal authority for the move and therefore for the transfer of a Football League place from one town - Wimbledon - to another - Milton Keynes. They argued that this unprecedented action did not set a precedent, thereby flying in the face of the facts - you can't simply claim you haven't set a precedent when your actions show that you have. They neither started nor finished the process of taking the club and League place away from the fans, but they could and should have stopped it.

5. Others involved - Merton council, MK council, FA, FL, Milton Keynes residents and so on.
There are many other minor players in the matter, all of whom have involvement and responsibility, but none can really be held directly accountable for stealing a football club and Football League place away from the community of Wimbledon and its football fans. They are all guilty of complicity to one degree or another though, whether it be through inaction or by being an accessory after the fact.

Blame whichever villain/s you choose for the theft of Wimbledon's football club and League place from the community and fans, (who had to re-form a club and took just nine years to regain the League place), but be in no doubt that when anyone speaks of Wimbledon's club and League place being stolen, they are speaking the truth.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

What have they done?

A quick update to answer a question that the Franchise customers seem to think cuts to the heart of things - and in a sense they are right, but not in the way they might have hoped. This is what was asked:

"What have I done apart from having the good fortune to have a football league club arrive on my doorstep?"


Not one thing.

You've done nothing to either deserve a Football League team on your doorstep, nor to stop it moving from where it was.

You have done absolutely nothing except pay money to the people that started this whole thing off.

What is it about Franchise customers that makes them think they are supposed to be rewarded for doing NOTHING?

The inevitable comeback from these lazy, feckless, can't-do types, is "But what can I do now?" Drop the 'Dons'. That simple. If you want to make a difference, if you want to actually DO something for once in your idle, useless, comfy-seat life, then get your football club to stop using Wimbledon's nickname in vain and get your own damn team name.

And you know what they'll actually do? Say it with me... NOTHING.