Thursday, 15 September 2011

It's a supermarket property deal

One of the things the Franchise customers have tried to revise history on, is what was the purpose and driving force behind the franchising of a football club and Football League place to Milton Keynes. In their rose-tinted, hindsight-and-a-microscope way, some of them have convinced themselves (but no one else), that it was about 'saving' Wimbledon FC. This ridiculous notion has been shot down enough times already by the fact that Pete Winkelman approached many clubs with his scheme and by the fact that nothing of Wimbledon FC has been saved by Milton Keynes. The truth the customers have been trying to hide from is that it was all driven by Asda/Walmart's desire to build a vast supermarket in Milton Keynes, which planning laws at the time were stopping.

Personal motivations of the individuals involved can only be claimed and we can never know the truth of them (Winkelman even claimed the whole thing was about providing his football-playing son with a local club to play for! Sweet, but nonsense when it comes to taking a football club away from another town, building a £50m stadium and enacting a property deal worth even more), but the corporate involvement and the motivations behind them are clear - and they have nothing to do with providing Milton Keynes with a football team, they have to do with providing it with an Asda supermarket.

The Milton Keynes Stadium Consortium was extremely secretive about its composition, but we know it was approaching clubs at least as early as 2000 when it approached Wimbledon FC and that it had previously tried it on with other clubs. Nowhere in the 2002 Commission decision is it even revealed who the members of the MKSC were. Yet this snippet from a 2006 interview In Property Week with Winkelman makes interesting reading:

"Winkelman formed Inter MK and enlisted former ASDA development manager Mark Turner as commercial director and Richard Foreman, director at Denbigh Land and a former director at Lambert Smith Hampton, as development consultant."

 (NB Foreman was also quoted in a Property Week article from 14/5/04 saying "The Scheme {MK Stadium} will go ahead" insists Richard Foreman, a director at InterMK's development consultant, Denbigh Land and a former director at Lambert Smith Hampton who has advised the consortium for  more than four years. "It has the total support of the council and the worst case is that we have a year and a half to find another club" Thereby revealing that it didn't matter which football team was involved and that they were perfectly prepared to go out and get another one if Franchise FC didn't come out of administration.)

Mark Turner is now a director of a number of companies involved with the Denbigh development (do a Google search for Mark Turner and InterMK). The same Mark Turner who, as an Asda employee, featured in this May 2003 piece about enabling supermarket developments through football stadiums:

And it is through this piece that one can confirm the entire purpose of the franchising of a football club. Even with the enabling stadium development, significant doubt is expressed about permission being granted for supermarket developments out of town...

"The stark reality is that for every Milton Keynes or Coventry, there are five or six proposals that don't make it past the qualifiers. As Fryer puts it bluntly: "It costs an estimated 1,000 [pounds sterling] a seat to develop a stadium: that is 20m [pounds sterling] for a 20,000-seater. You are going to have to build one helluva supermarket to achieve that value and it won't deliver the whole cost. You only have to think of a third division football club that is in administration. How is that going to raise the lest {sic} of the money?""

All of this makes clear precisely why Asda was prepared to pay such a vast sum of money for a football stadium to be built - to get permission for its supermarket to be built. As the article says, "Asda declines to comment on the funding terms at Milton Keynes, but it is reportedly stumping up significantly more than originally mooted."

 And how big a deal was it for all concerned? Big enough that rival firm Tesco fought the development too:

Asda's involvement did finally come out into the open:

And the whole fact that it has all been about the property deal has long been known of course, this article from When Saturday Comes in 2006 is just one of many confirming attitudes:

So, remember what that 2003 article in The Grocer confirmed, "More than amenable to joining Redevelopment City FC in exchange for new superstores in out-of-town locations otherwise out of bounds". And remember too the ugly truth revealed in the flyers distributed in MK:

"No ASDA – no stadium. No Stadium – no Wimbledon FC. No Wimbledon FC – no future."

How right they were - no future for Wimbledon FC, that was for sure. Plenty of future for Asda though. Never let Franchise customers revise the truth - it was all about getting round planning rules so Asda/Walmart could build a supermarket. It may be a sad and embarrassing truth for Milton Keynes, but it is the truth.

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