Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Arsenal

I was asked a while back to do a piece about the Arsenal situation from back in 1913. Getting around to it now, although frankly I always have and still do consider it to be of no consequence whatsoever and purely of historical interest. I've touched on it before, but let's address the specific points that tend to come up...

Was Arsenal the first franchised football club?
Yes and no. Yes, they moved a significant distance from where they were playing at the time. No, because even though the distance was more significant at the time than now, the move was still within what was considered to be London. If I'd been a fan at the time, I would still have been mightily annoyed by the move, opposed it and considered it a bad thing, but moving from one suburb of London to another simply isn't the same as moving a team from a suburb of London to a completely different town in Buckinghamshire.

Now, bear in mind that this is as good as the argument gets for those claiming Arsenal's move is in any way relevant to the creation of Franchise FC. In order to support even this part of the argument they have to resort to pointing out that travelling from Woolwich to north London was harder in 1913 than now, which, while true, isn't a big enough factor to make Arsenal's move a genuine case of moving a sports franchise. Bear in mind that sports franchising as we understand it is based on the North American sports model, so moving between even the most distant suburbs of, for example, the city of New York, would also not be in the same category.

Did Arsenal break the rules in 1913?
No. There were no rules preventing teams from moving. By 2002, the Football League did have a rule that it considered prohibited the movement of clubs between towns and it twice stuck to that rule in opposing the move to Milton Keynes. With this in mind, there is simply no comparison between the two cases, regardless of whether you think the moves are right or wrong. For instance, I think moving teams between towns/cities in the US is wrong, but the rules of their sports leagues specifically allow it, whereas the Football League's opinion in 2002 was that its own rules opposed such movements. This is what makes Franchise FC's move wrong and incomparable with circumstances where there were no rules or the rules allow moves between towns.

I may not like what Arsenal did in 1913, but there were no rules then to stop it. The rule in place in 2002, which the Football League used for twice rejecting the move to MK, was introduced subsequent to the Arsenal move. So all that is proved by bringing up the Arsenal move is that progress that had been made was rolled back by the 2002 move to the far more chaotic and dissatisfactory situation of 1913. Clearly not a good thing.

What was the state of the league pyramid in 1913?
This is pretty much the clincher on the whole Arsenal issue, because the league system as we now know it simply didn't exist. A second division was only added in 1892 and automatic promotion and relegation between the divisions didn't happen until 1898. ( So, in 1913 the 'football pyramid' consists of just two divisions of 20 teams each (1905 expansion). All any 'new' club had to do at that stage was be created, get itself elected to the second division and then win one promotion to be in the top division! And all of that would have been within the rules - and indeed exactly that sort of thing was relatively commonplace then - as was all sorts of underhand dealings like the collusion between 'test' teams and Arsenal's elevation to the first division after the war, for example.

Basically, it's like the Football League at this time was the Wild West, where law was random and rough at best, compared with a century later when far greater order had been applied to the game and the cowboys had been run out of town - or so we thought!

That's the reality here... Those bringing up the Arsenal move in 1913 are basically referencing a situation from a relatively ruleless time as a justification for repeating those actions in the current day. They might as well be asking for the return of lynching and gunfights to the law and order process!

The 1913 Arsenal move is fascinating in how it helped shape the rules of the leagues and opinions on clubs moving. That's it. It's not a precedent for allowing the creation of Franchise FC, because it pre-dated the rules to prevent that and the league system that Milton Keynes leapfrogged in 2002. Discuss it all you want, but the 1913 Arsenal move provides no succour or legitimacy to Franchise FC whatsoever.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Finance links

Breaking down the walls of denial and delusion that have been put up by Franchise customers desperate to establish some legitimacy over the years has never been easy, particularly when it comes to the funding and financial status of Franchise FC. So much was kept secret and of course that came on the back of all the lies Koppel told about the club's status to try to force through the franchising to Milton Keynes. Even quoting from company accounts often doesn't penetrate the state of denial, partly because you actually have to pay for copies of these documents from Companies House, so they are not that freely available to the doubters. However, a recently linked-to website is providing certain summarised facts from company accounts, which has at least got through to a few of the customers in terms of just how bad a financial situation Franchise has always been in and, crucially, still is.

Let's start with the Franchise FC accounts:

You can see the figures there bear out everything I've ever posted on this blog. There is a reason this blog uses the word 'truth' in its title - that's what I write, the truth, based entirely on the facts.

Not surprisingly, having to face up to these appalling figures has got some of the Franchise customers in a spin, which has been countered by others basically claiming that 'we're not as bad as some clubs'. Can you believe it? I can, because I've seen these apologists use exactly the same excuse for the last nine years. For some unknown reason, they seem to think that some other club being in worse trouble than they are makes it OK that they are in trouble. Mad or what? It's like trying to reassure a terminal hospital patient by telling them the patient in the next bed is going to die first! An ugly concept, but that's exactly the spin that is being peddled to Franchise customers and it has been the case for a long while now. Franchise FC may not be on its deathbed just yet, but, crucially, it's in as bad a shape as Wimbledon FC was in 2000. If anyone wants to claim what was done to Wimbledon FC had any legitimacy whatsoever, then they should be saying exactly the same things about Franchise now - it's a struggling club, with little support from the community, that can't balance its books and that doesn't own the stadium it plays in. And bear in mind it's doing all that in a division below where Wimbledon FC were!

If you want to check out more of the complex goings on above Franchise FC in the company structure, check out the other companies Winkelman is involved with:

It's not so easy to work out exactly the status of the InterMK companies ( and , but pay close attention to the current assets of the companies involved. Franchise FC itself has virtually no assets and huge liabilities, clearly showing how the football club itself is still basically insolvent, only a going concern because of the yearly guarantee of additional funds from the holding company.
We will have to wait some time for the impact of this year's player sales to register in published accounts of course, but with the Clydesdale Bank (itself with question marks over it right now) loan due for repayment in 2012, there will be more developments on this front within the next year. Have no illusions, the train of events Winkelman set in motion in 2000 with his approach to poach Wimbledon's football club is still ongoing and still far from reaching a conclusion in terms of the viability of franchising a Football League place.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Reflections on morality

A more contemplative piece than usual, reflecting on the moral aspects of things, particularly with respect to the current situation rather than past events. (Once the common lies have been shown for what they are, there's little point constantly rehashing the facts, although I will revisit certain matters from time to time with fresh posts on the subjects.)

Franchise customers want to be able to view themselves as ordinary football fans and their club as just another football club. A minority claim to revel in the notoriety of Franchise FC and how it came to be, but that's simply the hollow bravado of those who have been forced into that last desperate claim - singing Millwall's 'No one likes us, we don't care' chant is the ultimate irony from a customer base that patently obviously does care what people think of them and their football franchise. So, I'll dispense with the minority of internet warriors, because they may be noisy, but in terms of the Franchise customer base, they simply aren't relevant, whatever they may deludedly think of themselves.

The desire to be viewed as football fans of an ordinary football club is usually accompanied by a raft of arguments about lack of involvement with the franchising move and, ironically for those of us who remember Kris Stewart's quote, of just wanting to watch some football. Now clearly if one wasn't involved directly at the time or even attending early Franchise FC games, then there's nothing to discuss in terms of guilt for the actual move - but that's not what Franchise customers have ever been accused of anyway, which is something a lot of them seem to have a great deal of difficulty grasping. (I have often been given cause to wonder if some of them can actually read and understand basic English and basic argument, because the inability to comprehend even the most straightforward of points and logic crops up far too frequently. As a for instance, what I've just written will, I guarantee it, be reported by some as me saying all Franchise customers are illiterate idiots, when that's simply not what it says. Perhaps the failing is mine for crediting everyone with the same reasonable level of intelligence and understanding, but I'd rather do that than pander to the minority of idiots that can't follow even simple points of argument, logic and reason.)

Franchise customers as a rule seem to think this 'I wasn't involved with the move' line is some sort of Kevlar armour against criticism, but it simply isn't, not if they want to be viewed as football fans following a proper football club instead of customers watching a franchised sport-based entertainment. If they want to be just like other football fans and just like other football clubs, then they are going to have to deal with the moral aspects of how 'their' football club came into being. Let me give you an example:

Here they are expressing outrage that players brought through their academy could be got cheap by bigger clubs. Seems fair enough until you think about what was done to Wimbledon FC's academy as part of the creation of Franchise FC. From a moral standpoint, if they want to show outrage at this sort of thing, then they must also deal with the appalling mistreatment of the academy boys at Wimbledon FC by the people who are still in charge at Franchise. To not do so is to demonstrate blatant hypocrisy.

And let's deal with the 'move on' and 'it's in the past' aspects here as well... Simply because something happened in the past does not mean it can simply be forgotten about. If someone is verbally rude to me today, do they expect that tomorrow they can say 'get over it, that was yesterday' and expect me to forgive or forget? No, of course not. When something wrong is done it must either be corrected or at the very least apologised for, and mere passage of time, be it a day, a month, a year or ten years, will not change the situation one bit.

This is the key aspect that a large number of Franchise customers will not come to terms with - wrongs were done that have never been righted or even apologised for. Those wrongs were done in the formation of 'their' football club, by a man, Pete Winkelman, who instigated the whole chain of events and who is still chairman and owner of Franchise FC. In these circumstances, you cannot simply act as if the actions he took are no longer relevant, because they are. Every time a Franchise customer pays money into Winkelman's pocket, they are rewarding him for his actions, whether that is their intention or not. And they cannot claim ignorance of this, because the facts are widely enough known and being unaware of them is no defence.

If Franchise customers want protection for the youngsters in their academy, then where is the apology for the treatment of Wimbledon FC's youngsters?

If Franchise customers want understanding that it's taking time to build a customer base in MK, then where is the acceptance that Wimbledon deserved the chance to prove the same thing?

If Franchise customers want time to build on their abysmal away following, then where is the acceptance and understanding of the same issues Wimbledon faced?

If Franchise customers want their club run at a massive loss (which it is) to achieve success, then where is the acceptance that Wimbledon FC was in the same boat and not about to be liquidated?

There are many other factors too, things which the new generation is saying that directly reflect the exact same challenges Wimbledon FC faced, but that were used as excuses for franchising the Football League place and which Franchise customers still parrot back as attempted justification.

Morally, whether they like it or not, Franchise customers face a dilemma every time they hand over money to Winkelman, because the wrongs have not been righted or even apologised for, but they continue to reward people who perpetrated those wrongs. Doing nothing, as they have done this whole time, will not change anything. Wrongdoing will not be forgotten, nor will it become acceptable. Until such time as some form of atonement is made, Franchise FC will widely not be accepted as a legitimate football club and Franchise customers will not be accepted as football fans. I certainly don't care whether they like or even accept this, but they will have to accept it and pressure 'their' football club to do something about it if they ever want things to change.

Personally, I don't think there is either the will or ability within the Franchise customer base to do anything about it - the vast majority are simply the 'customers' that I label them to be, who will never have either the awareness or the desire to do what should be done. When they are dwindling in numbers, as they are, and barely able to raise 100 attendees at many away games, you know there simply isn't the spine or the numbers amongst them to actually do anything about anything, never mind bringing pressure to bear on Winkelman. It seems Franchise FC, to a large extent, gets the people it deserves - customers, not fans.

The customers are fond of proclaiming that they are 'here to stay' - something I've never disagreed with, because Franchise FC may well be around indefinitely - but they don't seem to realise the implication of being 'here to stay'. The wrongdoing is also 'here to stay'. The abuses and lies of the past are 'here to stay'. Those like me who will never forget what was done are 'here to stay'. The lack of acceptance of 'their' club and them as 'fans' is 'here to stay'. Unless they actually do something to change that of course... but they won't. They don't have the collective willpower or common sense to do anything that will make a difference.

Monday, 17 October 2011


An often heard claim from Franchise customers is that the circumstances surrounding Wimbledon FC really were a "unique problem" and that since no other team has been franchised in the same way it justifies what was done. The problem with that concept is twofold: 1. all circumstances are 'unique' in one way or another, and 2. the precedent that the creation of Franchise FC set was a far more general one of demonstrating how football clubs could be used as makeweights in financial dealings, without any protection for the fans coming from the governing bodies of the game. It green-lighted football club owners to believe they could get away with just about anything and the FA  and FL would be either powerless or too spineless to stop them.

If you need any further evidence of the continuing influence of the 2002 FA Comission decision, alongside many other events of the last 10 years that have taken football along this path, then today's claim by the LMA chief that some Premier League clubs want to scrap relegation should confirm that franchising Wimbledon FC in 2002 was not the isolated incident some try to claim.

Will it happen? People are already saying it's unthinkable, but they said that about the Premier League and they said it about Wimbledon FC going to Milton Keynes. The fact that this is even being contemplated is evidence enough of how the game has changed, in part due to the franchising allowed to take place in 2002. Franchise customers will of course make their usual whine about it 'not being their fault', but the fact is that the continued existence of a football franchise in MK gives encouragement to those who think they shouldn't be subject to the ups and downs of football the way most of us love it.

Franchise customers will rightly claim there's little they can do to stop what's happening, but it also won't stop them being part of the problem and not part of the solution - unique or otherwise.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The truth they can't handle

There's a great truth about the whole saga of franchising Wimbledon FC that Franchise customers simply can't bear to accept - AFC Wimbledon is the genuine and sole inheritor of the Wimbledon FC legacy, all the way back to the Old Centrals. Most fans who know what happened and those in the game have long since accepted this truth, including one of the great names of the Wimbledon FC years, Dario Gradi, now back at the helm of Crewe Alexandra, Wimbledon's opponents on Saturday.

Here is a man who truly understands the enormity of Wimbledon's achievement, having been manager during the early years in the Football League the first time around.

This truth that AFC Wimbledon is the only rightful heir to the Wimbledon FC legacy, is the bitterest pill for some Franchise customers to swallow, and because of that, it's also the very thing that holds them back from establishing their new Milton Keynes club as such. Of course, telling them that just drives them deeper into their bunker mentality, cutting their nose off to spite their face, but that's how it is with bitter, stubborn people in denial. Even Dario Gradi is telling them that Wimbledon are BACK in the Football League. It was a great feeling in May when it was achieved and it just keeps getting better - unless of course you're a Franchise customer in denial! Happy days.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Contradiction, denial and insanity

The Charlton Choice TV snippet that has been doing the rounds makes embarrassing listening for any Franchise customer, but are they capable of learning the lessons that should be learnt from it?

Now Graham wasn't ambushed and the questions weren't deceptive, this was a straightforward interview and it elicited contradictory, confusing and downright delusional responses, as even Franchise customers have been forced to admit. The interviewer clearly expressed his confusion and disbelief to Graham, so this wasn't in any way underhand, and still Graham stuck to his, frankly, crazy beliefs. What the customers still won't admit to themselves though, is the underlying truth that this interview reveals, namely the irrational and illogical position Franchise customers have argued themselves into over the last nine years by attempting (and failing) to gain perceived legitimacy through linking to Wimbledon FC.

The first thing to note is that ex-Wimbledon fans like Graham are the ones that the customers have frequently used as their reason for retaining the use of the 'Dons' nickname in Franchise's team name. Effectively, an entire football club is being held to the beliefs of a handful of people like Graham, who thinks the use of a nickname means he's still supporting Wimbledon. Put all the dressing and excuses you like on it, that is the reality - a tiny number of deluded, illogical people are being used as justification for having the most absurd team name in English football. It is the very height of masochism - siding with a small group of deluded people in a futile attempt to deny the reality of what Franchise FC is.

I don't see the point in dissembling everything Graham says - any reasonable person can tell he's terminally confused and trying to maintain completely illogical and contradictory positions. Other Franchise customers have tried claiming that Graham simply wasn't eloquent enough with his explanations, but the grim reality for them is that it is the concepts at the heart of the matter that are the basis for the contradictions and lack of logic... It's not Wimbledon... Franchise has nothing to do with Wimbledon... Wearing a Wimbledon shirt while supporting a Milton Keynes team does not make you a Wimbledon supporter... It is categorically NOT 'Milton Keynes Wimbledon'. Yet these are the people the customers claim need 'honouring' - as illogical as that is in itself when nothing has ever been done about rewarding them for their actions before - as if maintaining an insane belief that you are something you're not is something to be encouraged.

Franchise FC is not Wimbledon FC. The vast majority of Wimbledon fans knew that on the 29th May 2002 and acted accordingly. The people that re-formed Wimbledon's football club as AFC Wimbledon were the sane, sensible ones who understood what a community club was really about. The insanity of thinking a Milton Keynes football club has anything to do with Wimbledon becomes ever more starkly revealed with every year that passes - it becomes more clearly ludicrous, as Graham has amply demonstrated, not less so. Pandering to his insane beliefs does no one any favours - not him and certainly not other Franchise customers. Perhaps the wider airing of this sort of lunatic belief will help other Franchise customers see the absurdity of their clinging on to Wimbledon's nickname. One can but hope, for the sake of Graham's mental health if nothing else, because trying to maintain his illogical belief system cannot be doing him any good. Graham... you're not a Wimbledon supporter, you're a Milton Keynes customer, and you really need to get past your denial and move on to acceptance of that fact.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Much is made by Franchise customers of their new club's 'prudence' and 'sustainability' financially, but as we've seen, this simply isn't true. ( and The root of the problem seems to be the inability to tell the difference between a self-sustaining club and one 'sustained' by the millions of a billionaire investor. Since the ASDA cash departed the scene, Winkelman has been having to find the cash to fund the football club's huge losses from elsewhere - other retail plot sales, player and manager sales and, of course, the loan from Clydesdale Bank. But there's a big problem looming - he can't keep selling land indefinitely, there's only so much player talent to sell and he can't afford to keep increasing the bank loan. (Indeed, the £5.5m loan is due for repayment in July 2012.)

Something's got to give. We've already seen Franchise FC's star striker sold to West Ham and virtually none of that cash went on buying a replacement. It's no secret where the rest of it has ended up. Check out this article from earlier this year (February) after Franchise had further slashed its wage bill and before flogging the star striker:

There are some juicy tidbits in there, including this:

"Where is the sustainability of a business losing £3million? We try to lose about £1million now and some may say even that’s not sustainable."

'Some may say'? What a curious phrase to use. Since he is the owner of the club via his own InterMK property development company (that's how it is classified at Companies House), either he thinks it's 'sustainable' or it's not. If even he's admitting doubt about the club's sustainability, you know how bad things must be.

What he's revealing here is that at times the club has been completely unsustainable - no surprise there, the yearly assessment in the accounts that the club was only treated as a 'going concern' (instead of being declared insolvent) was because of the parent company guaranteeing to meet the losses each year.

What he's not facing up to though, is that as of the 2009-10 results, the club has NEVER succeeded in losing as little as £1m a year. ( As Yoda said, "Try not. Do or do not, there is no try." Winkelman may be 'trying' to lose only £1m per year, but he's failed to do that every year so far. He's obviously watched Brewster's Millions too many times!

Remember that Winkelman is not personally that rich - he's no Russian oligarch - so he personally cannot sustain the sort of losses that he's allowed the football club to keep trading at. So, either Franchise FC is going to have to become self-sustaining pretty quickly - something it couldn't manage on gates of 10,000 and it's getting less than 8,000 now - or it's going to have to find a new investor to pour money down the Franchise drain, but this time there'll be no supermarket wanting to avoid planning rules, it will have to be someone who really wants to own a football club. Who knows, maybe Red Bull will want to brand the stadium and take the club off Winkelman's hands?

One thing we can be sure of though - Franchise FC hasn't been self-sustaining ever and even its owner has admitted it's been unsustainable, while suggesting even he thinks it may still be. So, when Franchise customers try claiming their club is sustainable, just remind them of their owner's words... "Where is the sustainability of a business losing £3million? We try to lose about £1million now and some may say even that’s not sustainable."