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.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The real Dons

Want to know who the real Dons are? These guys... Roy Law, Les Brown, John Martin, Bobby Ardrey, Dave Willis, Mike Kelly. Why? Because they were part of Wimbledon's 1963 FA Amateur Cup winning side.

The Dons beat Sutton United that day at the old Wembley Stadium, with Eddie Reynolds scoring all four goals of a 4-2 victory with his head.

There are Wimbledon fans around who still remember that day and their shared history, along with that of the players, continues to exist at AFC Wimbledon. Indeed, the 1963 cup winners are being honoured at the home game against Bradford on 11th February. This from the official AFC Wimbledon website:

"Thursday 26 January 2012
club news
FA Amateur Cup winners’ reunion at Bradford game

We are pleased to announce that as part of the club’s involvement in True Volunteer Foundation’s (TVF) project celebrating the history of sport in Wimbledon, several members of the 1963 FA Amateur Cup winning team will be attending the game against Bradford on Saturday 11 February. 

We are looking forward to welcoming the following players to the Cherry Red Records Stadium:

Roy Law 
Les Brown 
John Martin
Bobby Ardrey
Dave Willis
Mike Kelly

Also joining them will be regular attendees from the 1973/4 era Dickie Guy, Ian Cooke and Tom McCready."

So, what's all this got to do with Franchise FC? Nothing. That's the point. At AFC Wimbledon these guys are heroes, some of them still attend games and their achievements are recognised. If they were trotted out at Franchise, how many would know them, know what they achieved, or care? A handful of people, if any at all. And that's what makes them using the 'Dons' nickname in their club's nicked-name such a travesty. They claim it is to reflect their club's origins, but what a sham and a disgrace that is when they have given up all other pretences of a connection to Wimbledon. An ex-player like Roy Law could walk unrecognised and unappreciated through their crowd, pressbox and boardroom, without a soul either knowing or caring about what he and the others achieved.

If Franchise truly wanted to recognise its bastard birth from the ruins of Wimbledon FC, then it would be doing far more than clinging on to a nicked-name. For the sake of every Wimbledon fan and every ex-player who was proud to pull on a Wimbledon shirt, it's time Franchise dropped the 'Dons'.