Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Balance in the media

Some Franchise customers have been very fond in the last couple of years of moaning about the 'lack of balance' in media coverage of the whole Franchise FC issue. As I've pointed out before, this is baseless in the first place because the basic truth is that the vast majority of football people think the creation of Franchise FC was wrong, so why would they change that opinion just because time has passed? Just because the facts make Franchise FC, Winkelman and Franchise customers look bad, doesn't make them any less true when repeated. There hasn't been a lack of balance - Franchise customers just don't like the truth about 'their' club and what was done to create it.

However, I do think there is evidence of some media bias over the whole matter - and it has been in favour of Franchise, not against it. What I'm referring to is the near complete absence of analysis or publicity on the effect of parachuting a franchised Football League team into Milton Keynes on the other clubs in the area, both FL and non-League. We've seen plenty of sycophantic coverage about Franchise's academy and community involvement, but where have been the stories about taking talented youngsters away from other local sides or depleting the fanbase from other local clubs? Well, finally, after 9 long years, someone has had the nerve to pipe up...

This weekend just gone by, Franchise saw fit to have an 'Aylesbury Day', seeking to attract customers from Aylesbury, which is as far away from MK as Northampton, Luton and Bedford are. Unlike the first two of those towns it doesn't have a Football League side. Customers were offered a £5 bus ticket return to the game with Wycombe, with pick-up points around Aylesbury. This did not go down well with the local non-League sides, as you can imagine!

One of the Franchise forums reported the response of the chairmen of Aylesbury's two biggest teams:

The Bucks Herald report (not available directly online at time of posting - follow-up now available here: http://www.bucksherald.co.uk/sport/football/aylesbury-fc/we_need_a_top_team_to_stop_dons_takeover_1_3300374) includes this: "Aylesbury FC chairman Danny Martone said "It's all about the big boys bullying the small boys, It's sad and disappointing because we've got a lot of good contacts with MK Dons and then they go and do something like this. We're going to suffer and Aylesbury United are going to suffer. We played them in a pre-season friendly a couple of seasons ago and are trying to arrange one for next year. I've spoken to Pete Winkelman (MK Dons chairman) and he said they've got to make money. I can only hope that the people of the town see this for what it is....a gimmick"."

 If Franchise customers want balance in the media, then it's about time we saw a lot more of this sort of coverage on the effect a franchised League place is having on other clubs. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence of the loss of customers from other local clubs like Northampton and Luton - and of course the local non-League clubs in the MK area, which had small local support before Franchise arrived, have also been affected. What chance does any club in MK, except Franchise FC, have of advancement now? As near none as makes no difference.

The fact that Franchise is trying this kind of aggressive marketing into neighbouring towns and into the catchment areas of other clubs, tells you all you need to know about the lies that were told about the 250,000 in MK supposedly in a frenzy for Franchise FC to arrive. The complete lie about being the largest area in Europe without a professional football team is even more starkly revealed when they start deliberately encroaching on other clubs catchment areas. The reality is that to stand a chance of survival, they're having to look far outside MK for customers and they're now trying to poach the fans of other clubs.

And what do some Franchise customers make of it all? I'll leave you with a quote from the thread linked to above:

"Franchise strikes again, don't bother stealing the clubs, steal the fans instead, love it. Chairboys must be leaking fans to us at a heck of a rate"

Nice, eh? So, next time you see a Franchise customer bleating about media coverage or claiming Franchise is good for football in the area, make sure they know that is very far from the truth.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Not forgotten, not forgiven

If you read the spin and PR that emanates from a handful of internet warriors round Franchise way, you'd be forgiven for thinking that all was sweetness and light in the world of the Franchise customer and that Franchise FC was winning fans over by the coachload. It's a mirage though, magicked up to make themselves feel better about themselves and their decision to be customers of a franchised football club instead of fans of a real football club.

Today, Franchise play Wycombe. Many of the Franchise customers, as always, are desperate to whip up a football frenzy and have a rivalry with anyone, including the other League team in Bucks. Idiotically some of them even think we are rivals, despite the fact we're 60 miles away and have never played them! (Long may that remain the case.) So desperate are they for a real rivalry, that they've been visiting a Wycombe forum and trying to stir things up. Well, they certainly managed to do that, but all it demonstrates is that far from forgetting and forgiving what happened in 2002, plenty of football fans remember it all too well and won't be 'moving on' any time soon.

Here's a link to the forum and some choice quotes from it to follow:

"Good luck to the Chairboys tomorrow.Iwont be going to Asdas quarter filled shed as i begrudge giving money to a joke football club.Come on you blues."

"I'll tell you what denigrates the reputation of the club, affording them any sort of recognition as a legitimate football club. Milton Keynes quite frankly deserves all it gets, they could quite easily have supported a non-league team up through the pyramid - even Winkieman could have taken over MK City and funded their rise up the leagues if he wanted to. It speaks volumes for their consumerist, short-termist, I'm alright Jack sod the rest of you mindset that they could not be bothered to take the time-honoured route into the league. It's your prerogative to look forward to visiting their sordid hypermarket-enabling griefhole, though there' no need to go to lengths to denigrate those with principles who cannot countenance ever visiting that monument to probably the vilest chapter of Football League history."

"As a Milton Keynes residant of more than thirty years standing I am very proud of my town and many of its fine achievements. However the existence of MK Dons is a nasty smear on an otherwise fine place. I cannot blame the many kids and teenagers who support the Dons as they know no better but I am ashamed at the many adults who have chosen to ignore the sordid establishment of their Local team and laugh off any criticism. The sad thing is that within a generation there will be no one who is interested in the history of MK Dons."

"we shouldn't "hate" MK Dons. well, not in the traditional football sense of the word (#we hate col u and we hate col u# etc). that would give them meaning and identity, neither of which they deserve. we should not treat them in any way as we would a legitimate football club, be it pre-match discussions on here and yes, watching one of their games. going to a game involving MK Dons allows them to believe they are a proper, legitimate club. They are not"

It hasn't been forgotten or forgiven, no matter what any Franchise customer may hope to believe. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Naming the Asda:bowl

There have been a couple of interesting stories in the last couple of weeks in which Franchise's Sales and Marketing Director, Andrew Cullen, has been quoted, and in which he's used some very odd phrasing about how money goes to Franchise FC. Most recent was a story about selling the naming rights to Winkelman's stadium:

Cullen is quoted as saying,  "It’s no secret that the club would be seeking a naming rights deal, especially as revenue generated from such a partnership would enhance the competitiveness of MK Dons Football Club." Now that's odd for two reasons - 1) The football club doesn't own the stadium and therefore it's not the club that has the naming rights, and 2) What is this odd phrase "enhance the competitiveness"? If he means 'will get money from', then why doesn't he say that? How else is changing the name of the stadium supposed to 'enhance the competitiveness' of the football team that plays in it? Is calling it the Superpoopermarket Winkybowl, or whatever sponsor they get for it, supposed to fire the players with enthusiasm or make the crowd louder? Clearly not, so why the odd choice of words from Cullen?

I think the answer is obvious when you consider point 1) above. The football club doesn't own the stadium, its parent company InterMK does. Certainly InterMK could direct any monies received from naming rights to the football club, but for accounting purposes that money will have to go to InterMK. Indeed, it's not unreasonable to suggest that with an ownership structure such as Franchise has, they have to be very careful not to misrepresent matters such as this so that they can't be accused of fraud. If naming rights were sold on the basis of the money going directly to the football club, when in fact they went to InterMK, then that would be fraud, so you can bet your bottom dollar that Winkelman's not going to make that mistake. 

Cullen's careful use of words to describe dealings regarding the stadium can also be noted in his response to an email from one of the Franchise customers:

In his response Cullen uses the key phrase, "we want to encourage as many supporters to use red dot bar as money spent there will trickle down to the club". "Trickle down" - yes, that does mean exactly what you think it does, the football club will only see a fraction of the money from the bar, if anything at all. Cullen's response also confirms my earlier posting on the status of the hotel bar's ownership: http://truthaboutfranchisefc.blogspot.com/2011/11/heartbreak-hotel.html There's no guarantee that a single penny spent in the hotel or bar would ever end up with the football club.

On a thread discussing the naming rights issue, just one of the Franchise customers manages to spot the key fact that the club doesn't own the stadium, but it's lost in the welter of poor saps falling for the classic Winkelman "enthusiasm" about Milton Keynes: http://concreteroundabout.co.uk/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=3004 

Will the Franchise customers ever wake up to what's actually going on? I doubt it. They've swallowed the Winkelman hype wholseale for 9 years, so I see no reason for that to change now. However, there are the initial rumblings of dissatisfaction about lack of money spent on the team. How ironic it will be if the customers finally get up in arms about something if it's based on all the money InterMK has been or will be making from the property deal and stadium, money which they think has gone to the football club! They aren't all that dumb - or shall I be kind and say 'misinformed'? - but there are enough of them calling for Winkelman to dip into the £56m from the property deal (http://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/news/business/stadium_mk_retail_park_will_bring_primark_to_city_1_3226483) to suggest that understanding who owns what still isn't very high on the priority list for many Franchise customers. Well, what else can you expect from customers? It's not like they're bothered about which football club it is playing in Winkelman's stadium, any Football League club would have done.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

But what about the football club?

Before you read the attached link, remind yourself that what it's supposed to be about is a football club, playing in a stadium that's far too big for it. By the end of this thread, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that, thanks to the way the Franchise customers, as ever, attempt to 'defend' the situation...

The essential premise is simple - the absurdity of a team attracting 8,000 customers playing in a stadium that houses 32,000, resulting in the bad atmosphere it does and the unsupportable finances for the team.

Rather than actually deal with that reality, the Franchise customers go rambling off about all sorts of things - even suggesting T20 cricket at a venue that's not remotely big enough to house it!

There is one thing that all of these customers fail to address though - the football club doesn't own the stadium. The football club doesn't benefit from other events at the stadium.

These people aren't football fans, and in this instance they aren't even Franchise customers, what they are is Winkelman/InterMK fans! That's who benefits from the completed stadium and other events, not the football club.

This is the most extraordinary thing to still observe at work at Franchise - the customers who simply cannot tell the difference between what's good for the football club and what's good for Winkelman or MK council. They are literally incapable of seeing that the two things are not the same. And they wonder why they are despised as 'Franchise customers', when they care more about a lump of concrete owned by a property dealer than they do about the football club that they claim to support.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Still a property deal

If you ever had any doubt about why Wimbledon's Football League place was franchised off to Milton Keynes, today's news should help cement the reality that it always was just a property deal:

As the report highlights, we have the prospect next season of football crowds of barely 8,000 in a stadium that can house 32,000. Not only will it make for a continued abysmal atmosphere at Franchise FC games, but it will continue to be financially unsupportable for the football club. None of that matters though, as you can tell from what Winkelman says:

"It's not about the capacity for the football in the short term," Winkelman added. "It's about the cultural infrastructure of Milton Keynes. We set our stall out that we would go and build a Uefa standard stadium. It's already brought us international games and of course the Saints games last year. So it's really about all the things we can do if we get the stadium finished."

It's not about the football team (still making massive losses), it's about him finishing HIS stadium so he can put on other events there. And bear in mind, even if Franchise FC got promoted to the Championship, they wouldn't even regularly fill the current 21,000 capacity, never mind the increased 32,000 limit.

It never was about the football team and it still isn't - it was just a property deal facilitated by a Football League place. Even with Winkelman's quotes today, there will be the deluded few Franchise customers that continue to swallow his "infectious enthusiasm", but when big pay days for a visiting rugby club (from which Franchise FC does NOT see any money remember) are more important than the needs of the football club, it's not hard to see where things are headed. 'MK Red Bull Dons' playing home games at the Winkelman Wasps Rugby Bowl anyone? It would sound far fetched if one hadn't witnessed the horrible events of the last ten years. Now, some version of that ludicrous suggestion I've just made is all too possible. We've known Winkelman was looking for a rugby club to play at the stadium from day one and his statement today brings that reality ever closer.

Franchise FC... tenants in a stadium they don't own, playing second fiddle to a rugby club, clinging to the nickname of another town's team and losing money hand over fist. It's like Wimbledon FC in 2001 - except it's a division lower and much, much worse.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Heartbreak hotel

The depth of misunderstanding and ignorance evident amongst Franchise customers sometimes really does defy belief. A recent example is the complete lack of knowledge or understanding of the workings of the hotel that forms part of the MK stadium complex - although their outrage at the matter is also rather amusing, particularly when you realise how misplaced it is.

Here's a link to the thread that brought this up:

Now, the first thing to note - in fact just about the only thing, because everything else follows on from this - is that the football club does not own the hotel or its bar. I think most people, upon being told that, will realise the implications, but not it seems a lot of Franchise customers.

For starters, what possesses them to presume that a hotel bar, however close it is to the pitch, is actually connected to the football club by either ownership or management? What on earth makes them think that Hilton Doubletree gives any control or financial support to the football club, which just happens to play on the pitch that's also part of the stadium complex? It's stuff like this that makes one realise just how much they still don't understand the importance of the football club itself owning the stadium - which Franchise FC doesn't of course.

I'm sure it will greatly amuse a few people that here we have a bunch of Franchise customers handing over money for exorbitantly priced food and drink in a hotel bar, on the entirely misplaced assumption that it's somehow connected to 'their' football club, when the reality is that every last penny of that money is going to Hilton Doubletree. On another thread they are even talking about arranging more social evenings at the venue... which will also benefit the hotel and not the football club. Personally, I can't make up my mind whether it's hilarious or tragically dumb - probably both at the same time.

If they ever wake up to these realities it might open their eyes to a lot of other things, but, based on the current level of misinformation, I think we can expect them to be mushrooms* for a long while yet.

*Kept in the dark and fed on shit.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

It's the little things that count

Franchise customers will maintain their delusions about the state of 'their' club no matter what the facts are, but sometimes even the smallest piece of information can tell you what's really going on. Take this little snippet from a piece that is ostensibly, at first, nothing to do with Franchise:

 "Striker Sam Baldock, who has scored four goals in his last four games, will again start against the Championship's bottom club tonight and Allardyce said: "I went to watch him after a phonecall from the MK Dons manager, Karl Robinson. He told me he had a good striker at the club but that they needed to sell him to get some money in.""

In just one little quote, a great deal is revealed. Not only did Franchise have to sell the player, but it's the manager doing the selling! Now, bear in mind that virtually none of the £2m-plus received for Baldock went on a replacement. The message is clear - the only way Franchise now has of surviving is by selling players. The supermarket money is gone, there are no more property deal subsidies and the bank loan can't continue indefinitely. What we have here is the clearest admission yet (on top of Winkelman's comments about sustainability http://truthaboutfranchisefc.blogspot.com/2011/10/sustainability.html) that the Franchise experiment is still very much in the balance financially.

Thanks Sam. Winkelman has been desperate not to publicise just how bad things are for Franchise FC, but 'Big Sam' has just let a rather scary cat out of the bag. Franchise FC will probably survive, much as Wimbledon FC would have if Winkelman hadn't poached it to MK, but it's increasingly clear they will have to keep finding players to sell just to stay alive.

And why do I bring all this up? Because, of course, it is the difficult state of Wimbledon FC's finances that were used to leverage the franchising move. Yet here we have Franchise FC in precisely the same situation - crowds too low to sustain the team at the level it's at, costs too high for a team that doesn't own its stadium and a business only kept going by player sales. Wimbledon FC survived that way for many years and could have continued to do so but for Winkelman's intervention. Will Winkelman be able to achieve as much? If not, both he and Franchise FC are set to receive zero sympathy having stolen another community's club using exactly the same situation as an excuse.