Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The ugly truth about Pete Winkelman

Last week, in the run-up to a highly emotional and potentially explosive 2nd Round FA Cup tie between Franchise FC and Wimbledon, Pete Winkelman, chairman and owner of Franchise, made extremely provocative accusations in the press about Wimbledon fans deserting their club and not buying it out of administration. The problem? None of it was true.

Here are just some of the stories, based on interviews and press releases from Winkelman, all of which contain the same deliberate goading and provocation of Wimbledon fans:





There are more examples, virtually every newspaper and football website ran the story, some of them without even questioning Winkelman's claims. As you can see from the links above, both David Conn and Mihir Bose looked deeper and questioned both the accuracy and the wisdom of Winkelman's claims - why seek to antagonise and provoke Wimbledon fans in the build-up to such a sensitive match? Was Winkelman trying to set the record straight in his moment in the spotlight? No. What Winkelman was doing was trying to re-write history in a quite shameless attempt to disguise his own guilt and to blame Wimbledon fans who were doing nothing more than trying to save their football club. The truth is revealed by comparing the actual facts to Winkelman's completely inaccurate version...


6th June 2003 - Wimbledon FC Ltd enters administration - administrators speak to the press and state that Milton Keynes is the only option for the club.




The quotes from the administrators are unequivocal:

"Whilst not welcomed by many, it is becoming increasingly clear that a move to Milton Keynes is a key element in ensuring that the club has the facilities commensurate with its ambitions."

"We and the directors believe, with the enthusiasm shown in Milton Keynes and the dedicated efforts of the club's staff, we will in due course see a successful outcome."

"Hopefully we will be able to rescue the club and have a successful relocation to Milton Keynes."

There is no suggestion of keeping the club in London and there is no offer made for the fans to buy the club. They are only looking at Milton Keynes.

10th July 2003 (5 weeks into administraion) - this article appears in the Daily Telegraph:


Its damning contents put the lie to everything Winkelman told the press last week:

"The irony is that by now Wimbledon could have been saved. I understand that there was an 11-hour meeting at the administrators' offices in Euston 10 days ago to discuss a rescue plan put together by Wimbledon chairman Charles Koppel."

...10 days before the article, little more than 3 weeks into the administration...

"Present at the meeting were John Cove, Milton Keynes Council's head of community and economic development, and Peter Winkleman, the music promoter whose idea it has been to take Wimbledon from south London to Milton Keynes."

...Winkelman claimed he did nothing for 7weeks! Yet little more than 3 weeks in he is meeting with the administrators. It gets worse...

"Everything seemed to be going well until Winkleman spoke. He has a 25 per cent stake in Wimbledon's Milton Keynes project, but said he wanted 51 per cent. He was also upset that, under the Koppel plan, Wimbledon would initially ground share with Watford or Northampton, only moving when the development was completed. Winkleman said Milton Keynes was tired of waiting for its football and the club must move immediately, even to a temporary ground."

...not only is Winkelman meeting with the administrators but he is already demanding more of a stake in the club and blocking any suggestions of delaying the move to MK further. And it gets worse still...

"He has also given the administrators just over £300,000, which was used this week to pay the June wages of the players - May's wages remain unpaid. This gives Winkleman an inside track with the administrators."

 ...only 5 weeks into the administration he has already given the administrators £300,000 - how is that "doing nothing"? And how can he possibly have forgotten his position at the time, as quoted...

"Winkleman refuses to discus details but said: "We are at the beginning of the process that everybody wants. The end of the road must be Milton Keynes. Technically, the club is dead. I don't want to give false hopes but you can't keep Milton Keynes waiting for its football.""

...he is already stating that the end of the process must be Milton Keynes, yet just last week he expresses his surprise that the fans didn't try to buy the club.

There are only two possible conclusions to the evidence - either Winkelman knowingly lied in an attempt to provoke Wimbledon fans or his memory of events is so completely inaccurate that he needs sitting down and reminding step-by-step of what he actually did.

Before anyone gives Winkelman the benefit of the doubt and presumes he's just misremembering, remember who accompanied him to the meeting with the administrators just 3 weeks into administration? It was then MK Council employee John Cove - the very same John Cove who is now Chief Executive of Milton Keynes Dons Football Club Sport and Education Trust and works closely with Pete Winkelman. Surely John would have had a word with his boss to inform him of his mistakes before he repeated them to every single media outlet in the country? Apparently not.

And now let's return to the subject of why Winkelman made these accusations against Wimbledon fans last week. The suggestion that he did nothing for the first seven weeks of administration had never been made until last week - Winkelman had allowed 9 years to pass without so much as a hint of it, but with days to go to a potentially explosive and guaranteed to be tense first encounter between Franchise and Wimbledon, he drops an apparent bombshell into the media, knowing full well that either they wouldn't check or couldn't find the evidence that what he was saying was completely untrue.

If Winkelman claims his memory was failing him, then why did John Cove not correct him? Are they both suffering from the same tragic amnesia?

If Winkelman knew what he was saying was untrue, then why was he deliberately seeking to antagonise and goad Wimbledon fans in the run-up to the fixture?

Whatever answer you come up with to those two questions, Winkelman is unfit to be the chariman of a football club when he was prepared to risk the safety of thousands of innocent football fans just to wage his own petty vendetta against the Wimbledon fans who he wronged by trying and succeeding to take away our football club.

It is an absolute disgrace that Winkelman's comments last week, now proven to be utterly without foundation and wholly untrue, go unapologised for. At the very least he should be offering a full apology to all Wimbledon fans for making completely false statements about us, and if he is so incapable of remembering the truth or stopping himself from spreading these lies, he should seriously consider his position as chairman of Franchise FC.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Dear Pete Winkelman...

If you're ever in the vicinity of Pete Winkelman, remind him of this quote, one of many similar ones he has made lately:

"I did a deal that was wrong and the owners [of Wimbledon at the time] were wrong. I'm not proud of the way football came to Milton Keynes,"


Then ask him these questions...

If you know it was wrong, why have you not apologised to the people you wronged - Wimbledon fans?

If you know it was wrong, why do you continue to insult and accuse Wimbledon fans of desertion when you know it was your fault their club owners' abandoned them?

If you know it was wrong, why do you so doggedly cling on to the 'Dons' nicked-name that the people you wronged have asked you to remove?

If you know it was wrong, why have you never once said sorry to anyone? (Because you haven't, saying "it was wrong" is not an apology.)

If you know it was wrong, why do you keep trying to justify your actions instead of just accepting it was wrong and making amends?

The truth is Pete, that the facts of what you did don't change (see previous blog entry http://truthaboutfranchisefc.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/pete-winkelman-and-mk-council-facts.html). Trying some hindsight revisionism based on a brief period of administration that happened long after you'd done all the damage you needed to to Wimbledon FC, will not change anyone's opinion of you one jot.

If Pete Winkelman wants anyone to forgive - we'll never forget - then first he's going to have to actually apologise for his actions, drop the 'Dons' and actually accept what he did was wrong, rather than just make weasel-worded quotes to the press about it that he makes worthless through his continued attacks on Wimbledon fans and flaunting of our club's nicked-name. Pete Winkelman - are you a man or a spineless spin-merchant?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Pete Winkelman and MK Council: the facts

Between 1999 and 2001 Pete Winkelman, as part of the Milton Keynes Stadium Consortium, approached a number of Football League clubs from other towns with the offer of a stadium in Milton Keynes that the clubs would not have to pay for because it would be paid for by enabling development.

Those clubs included Barnet, Crystal Palace, Northampton, QPR and Wimbledon. None of them approached Winkelman, they were all approached by him.

In June 2000, Pete Winkelman acquired the domain names bearing the name MKDons.

Milton Keynes Council was a part of the MKSC, as was ASDA/Walmart.

John Cove, an MK Council employee at the time, accompanied Winkelman on visits to football clubs to help put the MKSC's proposals.

The land on which the 'free' stadium was to be built was owned by MK Council.

MK Council was an integral part of the MKSC and knew about the approaches to Football League clubs from other towns, effectively sanctioning those proposals rather than supporting one of its own local clubs.

In 2001 the owners of Wimbledon FC agreed to Winkelman's proposals and applied to the Football League to move to Milton Keynes.

In May 2002 Wimbledon FC was granted permission to move to Milton Keynes by an FA Commission. The Commission report placed great store by the evidence given to it by Pete Winkelman, including many promises about retaining the Wimbledon FC identity.

These are the facts. This is the cold, hard, unvarnished truth. There are no excuses for what was done. This was a clinical, knowing exercise by Winkelman, MK Council and others in the MKSC to approach football clubs from other towns and to keep doing so until one of them agreed to move. If it hadn't been Wimbledon, then it would have been someone else, as was later confirmed by the head of Denbigh Land - Property Week article from 14/5/04 - "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."

There has been no apology from Winkelman or MK Council to Wimbledon fans for their actions, despite Winkelman's most recent claim that he knows what he did was wrong. ("I’m not proud of the way this club came to be. It’s very hard for me to live with that..." is one of the quotes from the last 2 days.)

No amount of hindsight attempts to blame Wimbledon fans will change these facts. There is no 'smoking gun' that either makes it anyone else's fault that Winkelman and MK Council did what they did, nor is there any excuse for their actions - they set out to take a football club away from another town and they succeeded.

These are the facts. This is the truth. It will not change because someone digs up tiny details. The truth has been known since 2002 and nothing has been revealed since then that has changed the facts above.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Damaging divisions

The ugly prospect of Wimbledon having to play Franchise has reared its head again with the draw for the second round proper of the FA Cup. Both sides have to negotiate replays, but in an attempt to goad the Football Gods into preventing the tie happening, I'm presuming that this time it will ocur. So... these 'damaging divisions' that I've titled this piece with, that's about Wimbledon fans, right? Wrong. It's about what this match, particularly when it takes place in Milton Keynes, will do to Franchise FC.

I'll get my personal opinion out of the way first - I never want us to play Franchise, I will never go to a game at Franchise's stadium and I will never directly financially reward Winkelman for his actions in instigating and completing the destruction of Wimbledon FC. So of course I will not be going to any game between the two teams. Many Wimbledon fans differ in their views on this. Some want to go and have a big presence there, some want a total boycott, some would go to a home game but not to Franchise, some want the game to happen and some don't. There are as many different opinions as there are Wimbledon fans.

Based on the above, surely the conclusion is that this issue will split the fanbase? Yes... Wimbledon fans will always be divided in their opinion of Franchise and what to do about it. But the key word there is 'always'. These are differences of opinion that have been there from the very start, have been discussed a thousand times and that come up every time someone mentions a fixture against Franchise. It's not new and the actuality of the fixture happening, while it will cause a great deal of emotion, will not bring forth any new divisions. The day after the game, we will all still be Wimbledon fans, we will all be looking forward to our next game that's not against Franchise and we will all still have our individual attitudes to Franchise and the prospect of playing them. Nothing will have changed. The result on the pitch will have been irrelevant, except to determine whether Wimbledon progress in the FA Cup. The day after, Wimbledon goes back to normal. But what of Franchise?

Franchise manager Karl Robinson is quoted in the press as doing a 'dance of joy around his living room' at news of the cup draw. A number of the usual suspect posters on Franchise forums are positively bursting with delight about the prospect of playing the real Wimbledon. To read some of the comments you would think that all their birthdays and Christmases have come at once. And why? The most sense I can make of many of the incoherent babbling is that they seem to think it's a great chance to rub the noses of Wimbledon fans in the dirt for the 10 years of pariah status that Franchise and its customers have had. Never mind the illogicality of it (pariah status was achieved by franchising another town's football team), does this glee at the fixture happening make any sense for Franchise?

Pete Winkelman has said he is excited at the tie happening, but thus far his response is quite reserved. Perhaps that's because he has realised some of the consequences of this fixture taking place in MK. Let's start with shirts. Wimbledon play in blue and yellow colours. Standard practice at all games is that away colours cannot be allowed in the home sections. Anyone turning up to the game in any Wimbledon top, will be refused entry to the home sections - a first for Franchise. For the very first time they will be forced to face, very directly, that they are not Wimbledon. It may not sound like much, but when Franchise inevitably has to announce that anyone wearing a Wimbledon top will have to go in the away fans section, then the message it sends could not be clearer about the delusions and denial that some have been under for the last 10 years. That's going to be a very bitter pill for some of the Franchise customers to swallow. Yet it does have to happen, Franchise cannot allow Wimbledon shirts in the home sections or they will be breaking one of the fundamental rules of crowd control in modern football. It's unthinkable that they allow the possibility of large numbers of away fans to infiltrate the home sections of the ground. And that's just the start of things.

The noisiest among the Franchise customers online are already gleefully planning all the songs and chants they will be aiming at whatever Wimbledon presence there is in the ground. Almost without exception these chants involve harping on about the past, who the 'real' Wimbledon is and spiteful attacks on Wimbledon fans actions. Not a problem you might think, but what about the customers from Milton Keynes who are just there to watch their football team? What about the families that Winkelman has been so keen to nurture as the future of his club and town? All the proposed chanting and vitriol is going to produce is an atmosphere of hostility. And since it's all based on past events, those new customers may well look on with disbelief at what's going on. It will be a very stark reminder for them that they are supporting a team that refuses to let go of its past and embrace its future in Milton Keynes. Every chant from Franchise about 'We're the real Dons' or similar will be a cringeworthy reminder to those in MK that it isn't really their team, it's still someone else's.

You may think I'm overstating the case, but however few people are put off by it, those are people being lost by Franchise. The more a core cabal of Franchise customers push the 'Dons' issue and the more vitriolic they become towards Wimbledon fans, the more they lose sight of the actual future of their club - a Milton Keynes team in Milton Keynes.

The media will, of course, be all over this game like ants on a sugar high, and that's not going to help Franchise either. All the old wounds will be ripped open, all the reminders of how MK stole Wimbledon's Football League place from its fans - all the negative publicity that Winkelman desperately doesn't want in trying to build up customer support. Nothing has changed remember, Franchise isn't suddenly in the right and Wimbledon in the wrong... nothing about the facts has changed and bringing them back up will only damge Franchise, not Wimbledon.

So picture it, in the aftermath of the match, Wimbledon fans emotions will be raw, whatever the result, but for Franchise customers the consequences will only just be starting. How can a customer base so obsessed with clinging on to the 'Dons' nicked-name ever really be a part of Milton Keynes? How can customers so obsessed with getting one over on a club nearly everyone admires for what it has achieved, expect to reap anything but condemnation and hate for their actions? How can MK residents faced with the bitterness and obsession of some Franchise customers with clinging on to the past ever really take Franchise to their hearts?

Much more may come out of the day, when it arrives, but as the grim reality of events unfolds for Franchise customers, we will see a very different outcome to things than many currently expect.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Facing the truth

Facing the truth is what this blog has always been about - accepting reality, no matter how distasteful it is. I've had to face many unpleasant truths over the last 10 years and I've done so and then got on with life, facing the future with new hope - with every unpleasant truth accepted I have "moved on".

I've accepted that my club, Wimbledon FC, was dead on 28th May 2002.
I've accepted that Milton Keynes took my club's Football League place.
I've accepted that Wimbledon had to start again from the bottom of the football pyramid.
I've accepted that people in Milton Keynes go to watch a football club playing locally.
I've accepted that a football club will prosper in Milton Keynes.

That's just a few of the big things - I've had to accept so many more little bitter pills over the years. And I've done so... swallowed every last one, because denying the truth and reality is pointless and only harms the person in denial.

And what of those on the other side of things? What of the group of Franchise customers who have spent the last 10 years peddling lies and misinformation about the creation of Franchise FC? Some of them are still at it, but just occasionally, usually when Franchise loses, a drop of truth seeps out from the sodden despair. Point in case this weekend... here's a quote from a Franchise customer taken from here (includes offensive language): http://www.concreteroundabout.co.uk/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=5408

"When Winkleman told us at the SA AGM back in the summer that he was spending some money this season, I’m willing to bet the majority of us in attendance thought he meant on the team. Not on more hotel rooms. If he fancied being a hotelier he should have just {expletive deleted} built one without the encumbrance of someone else’s football team."

There's a lot more moaning in the post, but I'm just highlighting the little sliver of truth that slid in... "someone else's football team". See, even the most vociferous Franchise customers know Milton Keynes has someone else's football team and, from time to time, they are made to face the fact that it was always about the property deal and not the football club. Their forums are often more bothered about the new M&S, Primark and hotel rooms going in than they are about the football club.

Normal denial will be resumed soon enough of course and those grovelling around Winkelman will continue to spew out the tired mantra about having him to thank for bringing football to MK (he didn't, MK already had football), but it's not hard to see through the cracks in the concrete facade to the truth beneath - they know it's someone else's football team and they know it was just a property deal. One day, they may even discover some guts and common sense and drop the 'Dons' nicked-name of shame, but that may be a while yet. Until then, continue to enjoy their guilt-ridden suffering.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Paranoid delusions

Ever heard of a football statistic called the 'Red cards to fouls ratio'? No, neither had I. There's a good reason for that - it's of no use to anyone and it's indicative of nothing. However, if you're a Franchise customer, it now apparently means that there's a refereeing conspiracy against Franchise FC. No... I'm not making this up, I'm really not. I know it sounds like far-fetched fiction, but that really is what some of them are claiming. And it's not just one of their usual-suspect loonies on a forum either, it's their customer association:


They end that article by writing, "Have the Dons been targetted unfairly by referees? We'll let you make your own judgement.", but that's a clear judgement in itself - the entire basis of the piece is that Franchise is being targeted, otherwise why write the piece? The only purpose to it is to suggest there is bias against Franchise.

And the whining emanating from some Franchise customers has gone up in volume too, particularly since some paranoid person came up with the 'red cards to fouls ratio' statistic in a vain attempt to prove there's bias against Franchise. What makes it so absurd is that the statistic has no meaning - there is no correlation between fouls and red cards. Indeed, the four red cards Franchise has received this season are all excellent examples of why - they have all been straight red cards. Uncontrolled, studs-up lunges, elbows to the head and similar violent conduct charges get straight red cards.

There is no statistical connection whatsoever between the number of fouls in a match or by a team and the number of offences for which one can receive a straight red card. Bear in mind further that a red card can be received for offences that aren't even fouls! Get sent off for dissent and that's not a foul, but it will still be a red card.

Clearly the paranoia and victim mentality that I wrote about only yesterday are starting to spiral out of control with a growing number at Franchise. Doubtless they are still fooling themselves that it will lead to a 'backs to the wall' fighting spirit, but unfortunately for them, it won't. (It never has. Those pretending anything I've ever written has 'strengthened their resolve' or encouraged customers to attend Franchise, are only fooling themselves.) What it will lead to is more paranoia, greater indiscipline, internal divisions and penalties from the authorities for bringing the game into disrepute. This stuff does filter down to players, who aren't usually the sharpest tools in the box, and it will be in their minds come game time. And anyone with any sense at all knows how that ends up... more whining, more dissent, more berating the officials and... more red cards as a result. Self-fulfilling paranoia. It happens because the players are making it happen. Tell them it's not their fault and they will make it happen even more. It's a vicious circle, which right now Winkelman is helping make spin ever faster.

Frankly I am amazed that Winkelman has not only let things go this far, but has in fact been the main instigator in encouraging this idiotic notion of a referees conspiracy against Franchise. I'll give you a prediction though... He'll be backtracking within the week after someone has a quiet word with him behind the scenes.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Bunker mentality

One hears a lot of nonsense talked in football circles about using an 'us against the world' mentality to motivate players - even Sir Alex Ferguson has been attributed with using such a technique. The problem is that you can only do this on select occasions, otherwise what happens is you create a culture of paranoia, bitterness and victim mentality. And the powerful effects of such a culture within a group of players is not to be underestimated.

Franchise customers have long been ridiculed for their attempt to adopt the Millwall 'No on likes us, we don't care' anthem - it really is utterly cringeworthy - but now it seems the victim mentality and paranoia have spread all the way up to the chairman and owner. Witness Winkelman's reaction yesterday to Franchise's fourth red card in four games:

It's embarrassing on every level. Why is the chairman out there talking to the media when the manager usually would? Can Robinson not be trusted to speak following his team's abysmal disciplinary record? Why is Winkelman blaming the officials for his own players' indiscipline? Why is Winkelman making up lies - Lewington is not grabbed by the throat - about an incident in the game? Why does Winkelman think that the style of football they supposedly play should influence referees' decisions about foul play?

The questions keep stacking up and the only answer is that the Franchise owner has fundamentally lost the plot. Perhaps the pressure of running a loss-making football franchise as part of his property development is starting to tell? One thing is for certain, when the victim mentality and paranoia at Franchise has spread throughout the entire organisation - customers, manager, owner, players - then the only way for them is down, because the mental-energy sapping nature of such an attitude, game-in game-out, creates a spiral of resentment and lashing out that simply makes the problem worse.

Franchise customer forums are even openly discussing the possibility of a referees conspiracy against them! All this from a club that only 2 seasons ago recorded an English football record 128 yellow cards in a single season, has had the manager sent to the stands on a number of occasions and which has been warned about its disciplinary record before.

It is of some amusement to me personally that I have been accused in the past of helping to strengthen the support for Franchise FC by helping foster this kind of 'bunker mentality' among the customers. Well, perhaps today they will realise the bitter end result of adopting such a mentality over a long period - it breeds the paranoia and victim mentality that helps cause yesterday's events. They could all of course have just faced up to the truths a long time ago, wiped the slate clean and started anew, free from guilt, blame and negative thinking, but they've chosen not to, and so we get to witness the embarrassing spectacle of Winkelman basically accusing referees of conspiring against his team. Oh dear, oh dear.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The MK 'can do' myth

A favoured fall-back claim used by Franchise customers when they're on the run and trying to justify the unjustifiable is that Milton Keynes is a 'can do' place, whereas other places, like Merton, aren't. Now for starters it is obviously nonsense that a place can have an attitude, which is where one could happily stop analysing the nonsense, but there is a deeper delusion behind this - the one that people in MK are different to people elsewhere. And no, I really don't make this stuff up, these people really do say these things:

Perhaps they intend coming back later with a witty "Ha-ha, only kidding"? But I digress...

The reality here is simple - Milton Keynes is a new town that was and is given economic advantages and opportunities that are not available to existing towns not designated as 'new' towns. That's it. That's all there is to this 'can do' nonsense. Since the 1960s Milton Keynes has had every possible financial and legislative assistance thrown at it, with planning laws that apply elsewhere being waived to allow massive development of what would otherwise be protected land. Coupled with the incentives and grants given to businesses to encourage them to relocate there, that is the entirety of why Milton Keynes has been able to 'do' the things it has.

Do these people really think anyone in Milton Keynes is different from anyone anywhere else in the country? The idea is, of course, absurd, and yet they persist with this idiocy that MK and its people are somehow different to other places and people. The arrogance and stupidity of it are quite breathtaking.

And don't be fooled into thinking the whole 'new town' business belongs back in the '60s and '70s, Milton Keynes is still receiving significantly greater assistance than other areas:

Pete Winkelman isn't the only property developer and businessman to have taken advantage of the Milton Keynes situation to line his own pockets (he didn't even own the land on which the development is sited, it was council-owned land, despite what an ignorant few Franchise customers believe), but he is the only one who thought it was OK to destroy another town's football club to get what he wanted.

As for having a 'can do' attitude? The answer to that is the same as it has always been - Couldn't set up and support a football club up through non-League the way everyone else has. Couldn't do what Stevenage, another new town, has done. Couldn't do what Wimbledon has done twice. Could not, would not, will not... ever. Can do? Laughable.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Follow the money

To be fair to some Franchise customers, a few of them have seen Pete Winkelman, chairman and owner of Franchise FC, for what he is and realised it was always about the property deal and not about 'saving' Wimbledon FC. However, most of the customers either live in ignorance of the truth or choose to believe the web of fairytales he has spun from start. I'm sure most Wimbledon fans remember the 'biggest conurbation in Europe without a professional football team' lie (you didn't have to look outside England to find more than one at the time (2001), for example Dudley and Wakefield) and heaven only knows what fibs he told the FA Commission, because, as I've shown before, a man that registered the 'MK Dons' domain names in 2000 and then subsequently told the Commission he was an advocate for keeping the 'Wimbledon' name, was clearly not telling them the truth. So what has the weasel-worded one been up to now?

Have a read and you'll find it's the latest instalment in the ongoing property deal that caused him to go scouting for a football club to poach and destroy. He's looking to build a cinema complex, because he didn't get permission to build a casino. As per usual, a number of the dimwit customers have greeted the news with delight, thereby confirming, once again, that some people just don't learn from past mistakes. They are under the blissful misapprehension that this will mean good news for their football club. Extremely odd when you take even a moment to think about it, because the football club won't benefit from any income (it doesn't own the stadium or receive income from the associated businesses - hotel, fast food outlets, etc) and by providing competing entertainment venues (cinema and arena) it will further dilute the available spending locally and actually divert customers away from the football.

Let me pick out one particular quote from the story, because it's the one that you would have thought even Franchise customers could look at and realise they were being taken for mugs, particularly in these times of austerity:

"You could spend your whole weekend here!” joked Pete Winkelman, chairman of MK Dons and InterMK. “People can come down, watch the football, shop, then go out for dinner, go to the cinema and stay at the hotel."
So, let's see...

Football - £30 (or thereabouts)
Shopping - ?
Dinner - £25 per head if you're lucky (fast food crap is not 'dinner')
Cinema - £10 per head
Hotel - £50 a night, at least

The MK Citizen says he's 'joking', but he's the one laughing all the way to the bank of course. And while he's rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of yet more cash in his bank balance, some Franchise customers are acting as if he's done a civic service.

On a related note, and dripping with irony, is the move of the Milton Keynes basketball franchise to London.

The MK Lions had been promised use of the arena at Winkelman's stadium, but he reneged on that promise, as he did on so many promises he made to the Commission about Wimbledon FC. Some in MK are clearly not happy:

The supreme irony that yet another sports team has failed in Milton Keynes due to lack of support, should come as a slap in the face to all Franchise customers that so casually call Wimbledon fans 'deserters'. However, if they haven't been able to see through Winkelman after all these years, the full irony of the Lions failure in MK will also be lost on them. By their  reckoning, the town of Wimbledon failed to support its football team and deserved to lose it, so their own logic must hold that they are all responsible for failing to support the MK Lions and must be held accountable for its departure. Any sane and sensible person knows their logic was completely flawed in the first place, but those are the kind of impossible knots Franchise customers have tied themselves in by trying to justify the unjustifiable.

Will recent events mean a few more Franchise customers see the light? I doubt we'll see much evidence of it from the vociferous minority on the internet, but the continuingly poor attendance figures at Franchise and the complete absence of atmosphere, suggest there's still no great appetite for Winkelman's sorry franchise of a football club.

Edit to add: Just in case you thought I was overstating the case of how misguided and misinformed Franchise customers are, check this out:


I'll just quote a small extract:

"We're now in a position where we can say "we've got the biggest facility in the area and can host up to 5,000 guests and there's 300 hotel rooms on site if you need them". Nightmare scenario would be saying No to these companies because "we"ve got a Lions game on that night"."

We? This is supposedly a football fan (in reality a Franchise customer) talking about their football club, which doesn't own the stadium, or the arena attached to it, or get any income from it. WE?! Either this individual is involved with Winkelman's InterMK company (which would be an even bigger issue) or they are accidentally or deliberately trying to mislead others about where the income from the arena goes. This is just one small example of the illogical and nonsensical thinking afflicting Franchise customers.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

A glorious year and an inglorious franchise

As the sun sets on a stupendous summer of sport and the dust settles on the tenth anniversary of the shameful FA Commission that allowed the creation of English football's first franchise in Milton Keynes, it's time to take stock. Much has changed in 10 years, but, crucially, certain key things remain the same - more of that later.

At a time when the nation is rightly revelling in sporting glory, the return of the football season has brought with it far too many painful reminders of how ugly the business of football can be. Football has brought us: obscene amounts of money spent on players, racism, rape charges, violence, bankruptcy... the long list of appalling bad examples emanating from football clubs and footballers just goes on and on, getting worse with each passing year. Next to some of these it makes the franchising of Wimbledon FC seem a relatively minor matter, but that perspective is something most Wimbledon fans have long since gained. It's not that what was done ranks alongside loss of life or compares to physical abuse, it's that despite 10 years of opportunities to do so, no one has ever apologised for what is still widely recognised by most football fans, even by some Franchise customers, as a great injustice.

And don't let the passage of time dim your memory as to the scale of the injustice we're talking about here. This from August 2001:


It should make for uncomfortable reading for any Franchise customers, even after 11 years. Look at how Henry Winter closed that piece:

"But if the burghers of Milton Keynes yearn for a high-profile team so badly, then they should start one themselves, just like Wimbledon once did, nurturing the club through the bad times and then up through the various divisions.
Yet, like Americans buying London Bridge, Milton Keynes prefer to go for a short-cut: they do not want to put in the hard graft and heartache of building up a club. But they should not be allowed to pinch the prized passion of Wimbledon fans."
Now, 11 years after that was written, Wimbledon has once again nurtured the club through the bad times and back to the Football League. And Milton Keynes? It has a football club one level lower than Wimbledon FC was in 2002 and getting no greater support than Wimbledon FC did in the 2001-2 season. And still not even the hint of an apology from any of the main culprits involved. (http://truthaboutfranchisefc.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/guilty-parties.html)

And what of the things that haven't changed in the last 10 years? No one has apologised, the stadium in Milton Keynes still isn't finished, the stadium won't be owned by the football club, the crowds are no better than Wimbledon FC was getting, Franchise FC continues to lose millions of £s and Milton Keynes still hasn't earned the right to have a Football League place.

That last point is an important one for Franchise customers to remember, because, like an athlete that has tested positive for drugs, the stigma of not deserving a Football League place will always be there, particularly while the absurd 'Dons' nicked-name remains as part of Franchise FC's team name. Some athletes come back from drug bans and are welcomed because they show contrition, apologise for their actions and compete cleanly, but no such behaviour has come from Franchise FC or its customer representatives, who instead do precisely the opposite and strut arrogantly around, flaunting Wimbledon's nickname, throwing derogatory terms at Wimbledon fans and still claiming we didn't deserve our club and that they did nothing wrong.

Wimbledon fans have moved on. It's time Franchise customers and their football club did too. Nothing Franchise FC achieves will be viewed any better than medals won by unapologetic dopers. The club owner and its customers could do something about that. Will they? Who knows... unlike some of the glorious sporting scenes of recent weeks, there's precious little sign of any fair play, bravery or desire to do the right thing coming from those involved with Franchise FC.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Is Rangers a new football club?

The question that heads this blog is one that I have no intention of answering, because I'm not a Rangers fan and therefore I am not in the horrible predicament of having to answer it. However, 10 years ago I did have to answer the question about my own football club, Wimbledon. My answer then was obvious to me and I suspect Rangers fans will find the question even easier to answer. Why? Because the football team that next season bears the 'Rangers' name will play in blue, at Ibrox, in front of the same fans and, crucially, no one is trying to move the team from Glasgow to, for example, Ayr, Kilmarnock or Dunfermline.

I've said clearly before and will again that I adhere to the wisdom stated on Wimbledon's club honours:
"The supporters of AFC Wimbledon believe that our club is a continuation of the spirit which formed Wimbledon Old Centrals in 1889 and kept Wimbledon Football Club alive until May 2002. We consider that a football club is not simply the legal entity which controls it, but that it is the community formed by the fans and players working towards a common goal. We therefore reproduce the honours won by what we believe was, and will always be, 'our' club, in our community." http://www.afcwimbledon.co.uk/honours.php?Psection_id=4&Psub_section_id=7&squad=
The question is also easier for Rangers fans to answer because all the events affecting their club are likely to play out within the same year. For Wimbledon and Franchise FC the events were dragged out over more than 2 years, encompassing 3 seasons and resulting in far more confusion as a result. Even so, the answer to the question for more than 90% of Wimbledon fans was obvious within days of the 28th May 2002 FA Commission verdict and the reformation of Wimbledon's football club 2 days later - AFC Wimbledon was and is the same football club we'd watched at Plough Lane, regardless of what companies had changed. We were stood on the terraces or sat in the seats with the same Wimbledon fans we always had, watching a team proudly representing the town of Wimbledon and playing locally to that town.

I've looked before at the question of what a 'football club' actually is (http://truthaboutfranchisefc.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/what-is-football-club.html) and the matters looked at there still form the crux of whether you considered a club to be 'new' or not. The football authorities inevitably work on the legal basis of their rules, but as is being proved in Scotland, that can come down to a vote of other clubs deciding whether a league share should go to a new company - and that's hardly a basis for any fan to decide whether it's still their club or not.

Rangers fans are going to take a great deal of flak from those telling them they are supporting a new club and trying to take away the decades of history they have with their club, and it will inevitably remind Wimbledon fans of the abuse we still get from Franchise customers who can't bear to accept that the ludicrously nicked-named 'MK Dons' is a new club by every definition one can apply.

Maybe I will answer the question I posed after all... A team calling itself 'Rangers' under the ownership of a NewCo will only be the same Rangers football club if the majority of the fans say it is. If it isn't the same club for them, then it simply isn't the same club, because the club is nothing without its fans, because in all important aspects they ARE the club. Franchise customers would do well to note that too, instead of bringing up their factually incorrect lie about 'legal continuation'. Rangers fans won't, I'm sure, be resorting to such lies, they'll simply point to a team called Rangers playing at Ibrox in blue, much as Wimbledon fans simply point to a team called Wimbledon playing near Wimbledon in blue and yellow. It's not rocket science, now is it?

Edit to add: Steve Gibson at Middlesbrough gets it... http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/boro-fc/boro-fc-news/2012/06/15/steve-gibson-in-message-to-glasgow-rangers-fans-84229-31189858/ 

“Chairmen, managers and players all come and go. But you’re situated in the heart of your town. The club is the people who come to watch it. It’s not a technical piece of paper. It’s being in your town with the people from the town supporting the club."
I couldn't have put it better myself. Franchise customers make much of Wimbledon playing just outside the town itself, but it's a matter of 1 mile, not 60. It's about time Franchise accepted the inevitable and stopped associating themselves with Wimbledon.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Mirages of hope

As mentioned in my previous post I'm returning to Franchise's finances and the role of the parent company, Inter MK. I've left it until now for one simple reason - it's basically irrelevant. Why waste time on it then? Well, it does at least help frame what's happening at Franchise, but be under no illusions, what happens at the parent company in no way guarantees anything for the football club itself. Why? Because the fact that Inter MK owns 'Milton Keynes Dons Ltd' does not mean the football club gets access to Inter MK's funds. Like any other football club owned by another company, Franchise is at the whim of its owner as to what funds are sent its way. Franchise has traded at a massive loss for every year of its existence, so Inter MK has been forced to spend a great deal keeping it afloat, but that does not mean it will continue to do so, as I'll explain.

The first thing to understand is that Inter MK is a property development company - that is the category it comes under at Companies House. Businesses have to declare what business they are in and Inter MK is in property development. This may not seem important, but you simply would not believe the number of Franchise customers that can't grasp the fact that Inter MK does not exist to run a football club, but exists to make money from a property development. Understanding this is crucial - although a handful of the usual suspects among the Franchise customers still persist in trying to convince others that Inter MK will support Franchise regardless, but they are either fools or knowingly lying.

The numbers
In the 2010-11 financial year Inter MK, for the first time, made an operating profit - £1.5m. However, its turnover was only £0.7m, the profit largely coming from a "reversal of prior period stock provision" that amounted to £1.35m. What that actually meant was that the company revalued a piece of land as being worth £1.35m more than stated in the previous accounts. And what that means is that all this is largely being played out on paper - we're not looking at money that will ever be trickling down to a football club.

Inter MK had stocks (development property) valued at £13.6m and debtors valued at £10m, £9.9m of which was "Amounts owed by group companies", which, you guessed it, is the football club. What shows up as £10m debt to the football club is £10m that Inter MK is owed. Don't lose track of that, because that £10m isn't going away - Inter MK can't just write it off without it having some big repercussions.

If you think things aren't looking too bad so far, check out Inter MK's debts - £10.5m falling due within one year (including £8.5m of bank loans) and a further £8.6m falling due after more than one year - a total of more than £19m. That's set against total assets of over £23m, but £10m of that is what the football club owes the parent company and we all know Inter MK is never seeing a penny back from a loss-making football club. Take the club debt out of the equation and Inter MK has £6m more debt than it has assets. Ooops.

Let's not get carried away though, because it's not as simple as the back-of-a-fag-packet maths above. Inter MK is clearly capable of servicing the current debts through the ongoing property sales, but it's not an endless supply of land to flog and at some point Winkelman still has to find his exit route. And on that subject...

Don't forget the S106
The last note to the accounts reads thus:

"On 7 November 2011 the Group completed the sale of Site A (MK Retail Park). The proceeds from this transaction have been used to reduce bank debt by £8.5m and will facilitate the completion of Stadium:mk, as required under the S106 agreement attached to the planning permission granted for Site A"

That's right, they still have not finished the stadium and therefore still have not fulfilled the terms of the S106 agreement with the council. More than 10 years after stealing away Wimbledon's football club to facilitate his property deal, Winkelman still hasn't completed his contractual obligations under the S106 and therefore STILL does not have full ownership of the stadium. That's why he's still desperately struggling to make all this happen, because until he finishes the stadium he can't cash in on it properly and clear his exit route. Give the man credit, he had a vision and has spent more than 10 years trying to make it happen - he just shouldn't have killed my football club to facilitate it.

10 years on
Incredible to think that it's more than 10 years since the outrageous decision of the FA Commission and the sequence of events still hasn't played itself out to a conclusion yet... Winkelman still hasn't completed his property deal and so still needs a facilitating football club, which still loses money hand over fist and still clings to the nicked-name of a football club and town that it has nothing to do with.

And what does all this mean for Franchise FC? Inter MK's operating profit for 2010-11 means precisely nothing - there is no extra cash for a still-failing football club, just enough funds (mostly in the form of bank loans or transfer fees) to keep it limping along until the stadium is finished. It has been highly amusing to see the usual suspects claiming things are getting rosier for Franchise because of Inter MK's one operating profit, but it's only themselves and some ill-informed Franchise customers that they're fooling. The grim truth remains that Franchise FC is no better off now than Wimbledon FC was more than 10 years ago at Selhurst Park and with no more guarantee of a future. And that really is the truth, no matter what the spin merchants and lickspittles round Franchise way try to peddle to gullible customers.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Franchise finance - year ended April 2011

It's that time of year again, when we see how the Franchise experiment is doing on the financial front. The accounts for the year ended April 2011 are available at Companies House and they make for predictable reading. So, let's not beat around the bush, headline statistics:

Turnover - £5.63m, down from £6.26m in 2010
Operating loss - £1.98m, up from £1.44m in 2010
Loss for the year (after player sales) - £1.69m, up from £0.94m in 2010
Creditors amounts due within one year - £11.04m, up from £10.04m in 2010
Shareholders' deficit - £9.70m, up from £8.01m in 2010

Now, one can do an awful lot of analysis on the figures, plus work in the relevance of the numbers for the parent property company (Inter MK), but the simple message is clear - Franchise continues to trade at a yearly operating loss of £2m per year. Those losses have to be covered by player sales or outside 'investment' from the parent company. There is absolutely no indication that the football club itself has made any progress at all in becoming financially viable. 10 years on from permission to move to MK being granted, Franchise trades at a huge loss, has accrued large debt and, without the guarantee of funds from the parent company through a bank loan, would be insolvent. These are the cold, hard facts of the matter and no amount of dressing them up will change them.

Why haven't they gone bust yet?
Franchise has become, out of necessity, a selling club. Ironically, if they want to stay alive they will have to do exactly what Wimbledon did to balance the books - nurture young talent and flog it off at a big profit. After the 2010-11 financial year closed, Franchise sold a striker to West Ham for an undisclosed fee thought to be over £2m and a 14-year-old youth player went to Liverpool for a fee suggested to be more than £1m. Those sales will register in the 2011-12 accounts, but virtually none of those funds was re-used in buying players, and for a very good reason. Amongst the notes accompanying the accounts is an updated explanation of why the accountants consider the club to still be a 'going concern' and not insolvent. The note reads thus:

"The Inter MK Group Limited ("the Group") is currently undertaking a significant development project of the plot of land known as "Site A", having completed the sale of the site in November 2011 to Crown Estates. Under the terms of the agreement, the Group will develop a new retail scheme and will be required to complete further works on the stadium site including adding a further 8,000 seats."

"The Group is financed by bank debt, including a £5m term loan which is due for repayment in July 2012. The prevailing market conditions delayed the completion of the above transaction by several months and as a result, the timing of the release of funds from the development of Site A are also delayed. The Group are currently in discussions with its existing bank lenders to renegotiate/extend the period over which the £5m term loan is due for repayment. The absence of a formalised agreement to reschedule the Group's borrowings represents a material uncertainty when considering the Group as a going concern, however based on current discussions with the banks, the directors are confident on concluding a new agreement with the banks prior to the term loan becoming repayable in July."

"Taking account of all of the above, the directors have prepared a forecast through to 30 June 2013 with the Group continuing as a going concern having successfully renegotiated the bank borrowings. Accordingly, the directors continue to adopt the going concern basis of preparation."

Heavy going, I know, but worth quoting because it demonstrates just how precarious a position not only the football club is in, but the parent company as well.

This also explains where the money from the two transfers is going - to pay off the bank loan.

Presuming Inter MK was able to restructure the bank loan (again! It already did that once at the back end of 2010), it keeps the football club going, but, as before, that is only on the basis that Inter MK continues to cover the huge losses the club is continuing to incur.

One thing to keep an eye on though is that the bank loan is with Clydesdale and only today we have this news:

Will the Clydesdale's retrenchment further affect Inter MK and thereby Franchise? Have to wait and see on that one, but I can't imagine they are keen to loan yet more money to a struggling football club that shows no signs of being able to balance its books except by selling off 14-year-olds!

There's more analysis to be done here and I'll return to the subject soon, but the bottom line for Franchise FC is as stark as ever - the numbers say the football club is still losing huge amounts of money. I don't think most Franchise customers realise just quite how much trouble the club is in and that it's currently surviving by the skin of its teeth. All it's going to take is one big financial hit and Winkelman simply won't have the resources to maintain a loss-making football club. It's at this point we should be hoping Winkelman HAS fallen in love with football and the club, because that way he might go down with it. There are only so many "Sites" on the land for him to sell off and only a fool would keep throwing that money into a failing football club, right?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Not very Bright

We are little more than four weeks away from the tenth anniversary of the FA Commission verdict that killed off Wimbledon FC, and the BBC's Late Kick Off show has provided yet another reminder of why Franchise FC should mark the anniversary by dropping Wimbledon's nickname from its team name. Speaking about Barnet's forthcoming fixture with Wimbledon, presenter Mark 'NV' Bright twice refers to 'MK Dons' instead of Wimbledon, even after being corrected by his co-host. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01glssc/Late_Kick_Off_London_and_the_South_East_2012_Episode_13/) Presuming it wasn't a deliberate wind-up - which really would have been stupid for a professional broadcaster - it demonstrates the continuing problems caused by Franchise FC using Wimbledon's nicked-name.

In this instance, I dare say the less smart among the Franchise customers are revelling in 'NV' Bright's mistake, but just as often the mistake gets made in the opposite direction and has them up in arms about it. The answer is simple - they should drop the 'Dons'. It might take a season for everyone to adapt, but then the matter will be done and dusted, leaving only the occasional fixture-list confrontation to drag up old wounds. The fact that this so obviously makes sense for all but a handful of ex-Wimbledon fans, who bizarrely think Milton Keynes has anything to do with their old club, will not stop the Franchise zealots wanting to continue flaunting Wimbledon's nicked-name around, but that's just the foolishness of bitter people clinging on to the past. Doubtless a few will even claim that blog posts like this one strengthen their resolve to continue denigrating Wimbledon's nickname, but that also reveals the smallmindedness of their position - refusing to do the right thing purely out of spite, the act of a spoiled child. It's time Milton Keynes' football club grew up, it's time it dropped the 'Dons'.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Still a town, still pretending to be Dons

I remarked previously on what sort of a city has a football team using the nicked-name of another town? And as it turns out the answer is... a place that stays a town.

Now I'm sure that whoever decided on the towns being honoured with city status didn't snub Milton Keynes (for the third time) on the basis of the provocative suffix to its football team name. However, when the leader of Milton Keynes' council won't even agree to talk about trying to resolve the enmity that now exists between his town and Wimbledon (http://www.thezonemk.co.uk/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=107&t=6378&p=31429), then it's indicative of an attitude that maybe didn't sit well with those handing out city status.

Whatever you think about the use of a council's time on this issue (I've no strong feeling either way), you can at least say that by trying to resolve this matter Merton council is trying to improve the situation for both towns.

Sadly, it seems, you can't say the same for the council leader of Milton Keynes. Those saying it is a waste of time and energy by Merton council and that none of the politicians or other interested parties should have got involved, should ask themselves why it had to come to that? When the 'Dons' nickname being used as a nicked-name by Franchise FC is so clearly an emotive and antagonising issue, why has the individual in a position to resolve the matter, Pete Winkelman, not taken a single step to do so? Winkelman caused this mess with his approach to move Wimbledon FC in 2000 and with his renaming of the team in 2004, so it's about time he did something to resolve a row that will simmer on otherwise. How far does the matter have to go before Winkelman will finally, for once in this whole sorry saga, step up and do the right thing?

Saturday, 4 February 2012

So near yet so far

Game with Cheltenham postponed and the country in the grip of an icy blast from the north, so time to reflect on some things. The fallout from the Wimbledon Guardian's 'Drop the Dons' campaign has dominated the last couple of weeks and the dust is starting to settle from the initial uproar. But it's not going away. That's the first thing to bear in mind. When, in a few weeks time, the WG brings its campaign to a close and Franchise are still using Wimbledon's nicked-name in their team name, doubtless the Franchise customers will proclaim things to be over and settled, but they won't be. This is just the start.

As we build towards 28th May 2012 and the 10th anniversary of the FA Commission sanctioning of the end of Wimbledon FC and the start of Franchise FC, things are only going to get louder and louder. Ironically, some of the customers claim anything from 6-10 years ago was the time to bring up the 'Drop the Dons' issue, but they're mistaken. Franchise was only renamed in 2004 and how could one protest about the use of 'Dons' then, when Wimbledon fans weren't even aware of the name to be used for Franchise FC until after the Football League had approved the change! Besides, plenty of us objected to them even using 'Dons' at the time, so it's not like it was ever accepted by us then or since.

It has been claimed the 2006 Accord was the time to address the issue, but that is a simple attempt to rewrite history. The 2006 Accord came about because the MKSA wanted to be recognised by the Football Supporters Federation and a condition of that was returning Wimbledon FC's honours and patrimony to Wimbledon. It was never about names or anything else, just those two matters settled between supporters associations and sanctioned by the authorities. I have absolutely no doubt that those involved in the negotiations (I was not one of them) will have tried to bring up the naming issue, but that Accord was never intended to cover all matters and nor could it have.

So, when was the 'Dons' name issue supposed to have been brought up? The 10th anniversary of the FA Commission seems a good time to me. Far enough away that the raw emotions of the time can have dulled a little, but soon enough that things have not become written in stone... even if they have been written in white seats. Besides, just because the WG has launched a campaign, it ignores the fact that I and others have been calling for Franchise to 'Drop the Dons' for several years. This is an issue that has been around since the 2004 renaming and the WG's campaign is just the latest thing to have highlighted it - and in a very high profile fashion. It's completely disingenuous for Franchise customers to claim they weren't aware it was a problem or that the passage of time has made it any less of a problem than it has always been.

One of the more sane Franchise customers started a thread that bears reading, here:

In their initial post they make quite a lot of sense - more than has been seen in the entire response to the 'Drop the Dons' campaign elsewhere. Clearly at least some of the Franchise customers are capable of coming up with some sense on the issue, but the replies to the initial post are largely the same knee-jerk, blinkered and misguided views that predominate elsewhere. And they give a very misleading impression of the state of things. On that thread, there are less than 20 posters. Franchise has an average attendance of about 8,000 and Milton Keynes has a population of over 250,000. And of course those 20 posters are the ones most active and motivated to comment and have a strong opinion. The fact that they think that because THEY have expressed their opinion the matter is closed, reveals just how out of touch with reality they are. They give a number of 'reasons' why they believe the 'Dons' should be kept, but none stands up to scrutiny. I could spend all day pulling each point to pieces, but there's little point when the truth is that not one of their objections is relevant - Winkelman will decide what HIS football club is called and he'll do so based on commercial criteria, not the wishes of a handful of people he ignored in 2004 and has ignored ever since. He'll probably continue ignoring the wishes of Wimbledon fans and the Wimbledon community too, but at least we aren't deluding ourselves about what our opinion counts for.

And note one thing about what Winkelman has so far said about the 'Drop the Dons' campaign... nothing. Franchise customers have chosen to view this as a dignified silence and refusal to give the matter credibility, which could be true, but worryingly for them it also signals something else - by not commenting now he is keeping his options wide open to change the name as and when he chooses, without anyone being able to claim he's going back on his word. Karl Robinson may have mumbled some nonsense about "They had their chance" - virtually meaningless and frankly bizarre - but Winkelman hasn't committed himself at all. He had the ideal opportunity at a fans forum a couple of days ago and the reports from it show the subject wasn't even allowed to come up in the questioning. Franchise customers should bear it in mind before interpreting Winkelman's silence as a good thing. You can almost hear the words coming from him now... "We'll always be the Dons and I want our fans to always call us that, but in recognition of our new city being recognised as such we can all proudly get behind the Milton Keynes ???". And then the customers will chant 'Dons' for a couple of seasons, maybe name a fanzine after it, but before you know it that will go the way of 'Womble Army' too. It's not a prediction, but what Franchise customers should realise (the starter of the thread linked above clearly does) is that it is an all too plausible scenario.

And if Winkelman does come out and nail his colours to the mast in promising never to 'Drop the Dons', well, some might say that's what we wanted all along. Goad him into branding his rotten franchise with the 'Dons' tag in such a way that he can never back away from it without losing face. So that when the 20th anniversary comes around, we'll still be able to pick out Franchise FC as the pariah of English football, never really accepted and never really representing anywhere. I think they'd be stupid beyond belief to go down that route, but, as we've seen in recent weeks, common sense still seems to be a limited commodity amongst the Franchise customers who are vocal on the internet - but that's less than 50 people and the silent majority will speak to Winkelman's wallet more eloquently than they or anyone else can.