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.


  1. I am speaking from another point of view. I live in Milton Keynes and support Luton Town. I, like many other Luton fans, despise the franchise. In my best Keegan accent, "I would love it - just love it" if Wimbledon beat them.

    When I went to see Franchise V Luton (a few years ago now.) The kids were wearing Man U, Spurs, Liverpool shirts etc. the worrying thing is that the kids are now wearing franchise tops round town - they are creeping in.

    Another worrying development is the rumour that they will be setting up shop in Bedford - which is Luton territory.

    The thing is, I have got a funny feeling that Cambridge City will win tonight. That will let Winkleman off the hook.

  2. Excellent blog post
    In my view no AFC W fan should ever step into the ground, there should be an everlasting boycott untill the day they admit their wrong action, apologise, and drop the dons. I agree with Eric.

    You need to distribute this at the Aldershot game on saturday.

  3. Banquo : surely Bedford is Cobblers territory?

  4. "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?"

    I live in Milton Keynes, though support Leicester. I felt for Wimbledon fans when the move happened and still do now. However the quote I've taken from your article above is unfortunately quite ignorant. These people you talk about, the ones obsessed with stealing your team and rubbing your face in it barely exist. Football forums are not a good place to get an informed option of what a fan base thinks. People who post on them are already a minority type of person anyway.

    I've met not one person in Milton Keynes ever who fits your description. While I accept there are some (because they post on forums), they are such a minority they really won't put off the 99.9% of MK Dons fans who just want to go and watch football. Naturally I’ve chatted to many McDons season ticket holders. My mum is one of them! Most of them support another team and the one thing they all have in common is the desire to watch live football.

    They all desire to watch live football more than me for example as I get to very few Leicester games and have no urge to watch Franchise.

    I accept your point is that these fans might be put off by the idiots who actually believe the McDons are actually Wimbledon but to be honest I doubt it. The main vitriol will be coming from the away end, and in the face of that attack some young lads in the home end shouting back will be appreciated and NOT taken seriously. I’ll be honest, talking to the MK fans the whole thing just isn’t taken seriously. Maybe it should be, but from their point of view there is a football team playing in a stadium locally and they go to watch because they love live football.

    This game won’t damage Franchise. The worst thing that could happen is if AFC doesn’t take a support because their fans boycott the game. That won’t look good for AFC considering the whole country is behind them. The best thing your fans can do is take the biggest support possible (which is going to be added to by fans of other teams who hate Franchise), sing for your team and somehow get a win. That would be historic and THAT could damage Franchise!

    All this talk of stolen teams and silly songs won’t be damaging Franchise.

    Support your team in huge number and take the McDons down. That’s the best thing you can do.

  5. You accept those customers exist, how can someone 'barely' exist? You accept most customers support other teams, thus they are not really identifying with Franchise, now are they? You accept that these idiots exist and could put people off, now we're just arguing about how many they put off. It doesn't have to be hundreds, it's having a negative effect - which is the last thing Winkelman wants of course - that was my point.

    The result of the match is irrelevant except for determining who is in the 3rd round of the cup.

    You may not yet see how Franchise and MK is going to be split by this, but the cracks generated by this coming weekend's events will grow. I'm confident I'll be proved right, but time will tell and it will take a lot longer than the next week for the effects to be seen.

  6. I know hardly any Franchise supporters here in Milton Keynes, but all of them without exception refer to Franchise as The Dons. I even had one tonight tell me he was going to sit in the "actual Dons" end, though he is 15.

    I wouldn't say these supporters are obsessed with the Dons tag, but the few of them that there are do still insist that they rather than Wimbledon are the Dons. It's irritating, but it would irritate me just as much if they were called Milton Keynes because they're just a Franchise. I will never take them to my heart whilst they're parading their essentially "stolen" goods - their name and their league place and place in the football world. They should be playing teams like Stony Stratford by rights (no disrespect to them).