Friday, 30 September 2011

Tapping up a football club

Everyone in football is now familiar with the concept of 'tapping up' and fans always hate it when this happens to one of their players. So why is it that Franchise customers think it was perfectly OK for Winkelman and the Milton Keynes Stadium Consortium to 'tap up' an entire football club? Tough one to swallow, now isn't it? Do the same Franchise customers that claim Milton Keynes has 'saved' something of Wimbledon FC also claim a player has been 'saved' when another club unsettles him and goads him into a transfer? Because that's precisely what Winkelman and the MKSC did to Wimbledon FC – they took a club already having problems and deliberately sought to destabilise it further by dangling the carrot of a 'free' stadium in Milton Keynes in front of the owners. Winkelman told them exactly what he knew would make the pound signs (or krone in the Norwegians case) light up in their eyes, just as one entices a player to want away from their club with the offer of more money. The fact that to this day Winkelman still maintains the delusion (I'll be generous in this instance and not call it a bare-faced, total lie) that it wasn't about poaching another community's club, shows just how deep in denial some still are about the reality of what happened.

I've touched on this subject before of course, but to remind of just how blatant the tapping up was, let's revisit some of the other attempts made. First off, the confirmation from the FA Commission that it was Winkelman and the MKSC who approached Wimbledon FC:

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.”

Wimbledon FC hadn't issued a 'come and get me' plea to Milton Keynes – this was Winkelman popping up out of the blue, giving Koppel a nudge and a wink and telling him that MK would build his football club a stadium that the club would own and wouldn't have to pay a penny for. Too good to be true for Koppel... and that's exactly how it turned out, but it didn't stop his greed from getting him to pursue it.

Previous attempts at tapping up clubs had ended in failure, most famously as reported by QPR's Trust. ( and It is telling to remember that QPR fans were told the same thing we were about going to Milton Keynes – move or die! And just look at where QPR are now. Sure, they've had some major ups and downs and upsets along the way, but far from being their only option to be saved, Milton Keynes now looks like it would have been as disastrous for them as it was for Wimbledon FC. And it's telling to note that if this had gone through, we'd probably now be looking at the 'MK Hoops' in League 1, which tells one everything one needs to know about how absurd it is that a Milton Keynes team continues to have Wimbledon's nickname in its team name.

Luton had been the first to have Winkelman's beady eye settle on them and just look at the promises he was making them too:

Winkelman said: "If Luton Town Football Club decided to move here it would still be an integral part of the town's culture."In fact, young players involved at youth level would benefit immensely from being part of a huge regional team. "A combined club called Luton MK would respect the Hatters past but, more importantly, embrace the future by providing more professional academies, training facilities and club affiliation right across the region."

Check out that “Luton MK” comment. Bear in mind this is long before he told the FA Commission that he supposedly wanted to retain the Wimbledon FC identity (Commission extract, “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.”) Clearly this is a man who was prepared to tell whatever audience he had in front of him whatever they wanted to hear, regardless of his actual intentions, just so long as he got a Football League team to facilitate his property deal.

And let's not have the history re-writers try to warp things, Winkelman was relatively open at the time about having approached many clubs:

Winkelman has made no secret that he tried to persuade Barnet, Luton and QPR to move to Milton Keynes before hitting the jackpot with Wimbledon.”

(Also interesting to note this observation in that 2002 piece: “The local newspaper, the Milton Keynes Citizen, has received no letters expressing the kind of moral outrage heard in SW19. Driving through the city you understand why. The strangely antiseptic atmosphere makes Milton Keynes the perfect location for such a franchise move. It is hard to glean any sense of community. Houses are peculiarly hard to find. The city centre is defined wholly by its gigantic shopping centre - the kind of structure which in any other city would be on the windy outskirts, on some brownfield industrial estate.” It really does seem to have been a do-nothing place – do nothing to make the move happen and do nothing to stop it.)

Wimbledon FC were tapped up by Winkelman and, as the report above says, in the greedy but foolish owners of the club he hit the jackpot. Wimbledon FC wasn't 'saved', it was tapped up with false promises that still to this day haven't been met – the stadium isn't finished, the football club doesn't own it, nothing of Wimbledon FC survives in MK and all the recommendations from the FA Commission were signed away in the 2006 accord. Winkelman still owns Franchise FC, Winkelman owns the stadium and Winkelman is the one still profiting from his own piece of tapping up. And Franchise customers wonder why this whole issue won't go away, when they continue to put money in Winkelman's pocket and treat him as some sort of hero. When you know the truth about what Winkelman did, you'd never pay him a penny.

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