Monday, 18 November 2013

Why don't some Franchise customers 'get it' yet?

When the Franchise FC experiment got underway in 2000 and went into full gear in 2002, it was understandable that lots of people in Milton Keynes didn't really have a clue about what was going on or even what being a football fan was all about. For them the anger and vilification that has been heaped on them for 10 years must initially have been a shock, because they simply didn't understand how fans feel about their football club. 10 years have passed though and by now they ought to be getting it, realising how much one's football club means to one and therefore why Wimbledon fans and others were so incensed about what was done. And yet... you look on forums, Twitter, Facebook and article comment sections and there are not just older Franchise customers with lack of understanding and empathy, but some of the children who've grown up with Franchise show not only the same lack of knowledge and understanding, but a really nasty streak of bitterness and hatred towards Wimbledon and its fans. Why is that?

Bunker mentality
The obvious answer is that 10 years of being one of the most hated clubs in the country has an effect. Undoubtedly they have retreated into a bunker mentality and somewhat understandably sometimes lash out at what they perceive as attacks on them. Initially they tried defending themselves with a variety of means, but all of these are pushed aside, either because they weren't relevant or they weren't true. In fact it has been a long succession of clutching at straws that they hoped would stem the tide of hate or give their club legitimacy. Let's not mince words, some of the attempted 'defences' have been outright lies cooked up those who don't care about the truth and they include increasingly twisted attempts to blame Wimbledon fans instead of those actually responsible for the move.

The blame game
Of course the main thing they blame us for is all the hate and abuse that has come their way for 10 years. That would be fair enough if it weren't for two things... one, it's not hate and abuse if it's facts and the truth, and two, we don't control what other football fans think or do and never have. Point one deserves further explanation too...

...It's not wrong to say our football club was stolen from us, it was. The fans never gave permission and received no recompense. It's not about legality and 'stolen' does not mean 'illegal'.

...It's not wrong to blame Winkelman and his associates for the move, he approached Wimbledon FC, he promised the 'free' stadium, he helped convince the 3-man Commission, he blocked Koppel's consortium and much more. Even he admits it was wrong and that he made it happen.

...It's not wrong to say we didn't desert our club, the owners deserted us for Milton Keynes. It has been proved time and time again that AFC Wimbledon was set up exactly when it needed to be in order to re-form a football club for Wimbledon.

...It's not wrong to call it Franchise FC, it is the only example since the league system was properly formed of a club moving between towns. There are a number of definitions of the word 'franchise' and the one relating to the North American sports franchising system is entirely accurate.

There are many more things, but the point is clear, these are the facts. It's not abuse, it's not a smear campaign, it's not lies - it's the truth. Sometimes the truth hurts, but that won't stop it being the truth.

What about the children?
What about the youngsters growing up in MK who have only ever known 'Milton Keynes Dons' on their doorstep as their local club. Nearly everyone, even the most dogmatic of Wimbledon fans, would have to agree that a kid just supporting their local football club is a good thing. It's a bitter pill for us when it means it's lining Winkelman's pockets, but I've never expected a 10-year-old to fully comprehend why I'd prefer them not to hand over their pocket money to Wormtongue Winkelman every fortnight. However, when they've grown up, I do at least expect them to know the facts and not the twisted pack of lies that were and are spread around by Koppel, Winkelman and their accomplices. Some of those young children back in 2003-4 when Franchise FC arrived in MK are now in their mid-to-late teens and early-20s - and a noticeable minority are repeating as gospel the lies and propaganda from the last 12 years, without the slightest pause to think that they've been lied to all those years.

Some of them do 'get it' and have had the gumption to do their own research into things, like this Charlton blogger I linked to recently (, but too many others demonstrate ignorance of the facts and, more worryingly, a vile hatred of Wimbledon and its fans. Recent forays into the land of 'tweeting' have revealed all too clearly that a number of these people exist and their inability to understand or accept the facts is a sign that they have been badly let down by their elders, either at home or at the football.

Empathy, what's that then?
The most amazing thing is that by now I expected a large number of Franchise customers to have got the football bug, fallen in love with it and therefore started to understand just why Wimbledon fans and others were so hurt, upset and angry about what happened to Wimbledon FC. Yet this empathy seems to be entirely absent. There's the odd claim of 'I know it was wrong but we've both got good clubs now, can't you be happy with that', but that's still a selfish 'just leave me alone' excuse and not a sign of empathising at all.

Trying to get them to imagine what it would be like if their club now moved to Wakefield or wherever, still seems to fall on unthinking minds. Instead of picturing how they would feel, they just say it won't happen. Maybe it's a guilt thing that means they simply can't process and accept the information?

Instead of trying to understand what happened in 2000-3 and understand why 95% of Wimbledon fans backed a re-formed club, I just see jibes about 'abandoning', delusions about 'saving' Wimbledon FC and lies about Winkelman's part in it all. Surely after 10 years there must be a few among the Franchise customers who can see past the lies and spin to the truth? If not, one fears for the future. Not for Wimbledon's football club, built on all the right things like passion, determination, loyalty and community, but for Milton Keynes' club, built on lies, deceit, guilt, hate and bitterness. It's a slow poison, but I see it clearly eating away at particularly the MK youngsters, the ones who should be taking the most from being part of a football club, but who never will be able to while it clings to past misdeeds.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting read - thank you. I live in MK and I well remember what happened. I lived in London at the time and thought it was awful for Wimbledon. I'm an arsenal fan (and always will be) but my boys have grown up in MK and although they're arsenal fans too, we live 5 minutes from the stadium. They don't really understand the history, although I have tried to explain it to them. However, they do love football, and it seems crazy not to let them watch it every fortnight just because of what happened. It's a great time for them and me and one I certainly couldn't afford at the Emirates. I think there is a gradual growth of support as MK moves on and accepts the team. My hope is that next year (it being the 50th anniversary of MK) they will drop the 'Dons' tag and rename themselves MK City. We'll wait and see - but I think it's a more complicated situation than either side sometimes paints it. Yes, the club was stolen - but equally gate numbers were way down with the ground share at CP and a lot of people who now claim to have been appallled were nowhere to be seen at the time. I feel very sorry for the true fans who had their club sold out from under them, and really they're owed an apology by MK. I hope there will be a way forward for MK. Living in MK, you can't help but notice their presence and commitment to the community, it's just a shame that it can about under such dodgy circumstances. I certainly wish AFCW every success - they're a great club.