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.

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