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. (

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.

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