Friday, 1 November 2013

Wimbledon FC finances - the liquidation lies

Time for a history lesson. Many Wimbledon fans already know this stuff of course, but if anyone has ever told you that "Wimbledon was financially unsustainable" or similar, using it as a glib justification for the Milton Keynes move, then tell them it simply isn't true and never was.

Let's start with some cold facts - Wimbledon FC Ltd's accounts from 1995-2000 (the year Winkelman approached the club about an MK move):

1994-95 - operating profit £874,757
1995-96 - operating profit £1,775,708
1996-97 - operating loss £193,539
1997-98 - operating profit £4,928,194
1998-99 - operating loss £5,236,214
1999-00 - operating loss £2,437,814

That's an accumulated operating loss over six years of less than £300k.

Yes, you read that right, over those six years Wimbledon FC Ltd was profitable much of the time and virtually broke even. It was not in a hopeless state financially and it did not have massive accrued debt - those are total fictions and accounting tricks made up later.

Now, accounts are complicated and I have very deliberately simplified things down to the operating profit/loss in order not to get mired in the details. Within the accounts are many nuances (1998's had to be restated for instance, resulting in a much larger profit figure than initially stated), but the overall picture is clear - Wimbledon FC Ltd was categorically not a financial basket case at the time of the Rokke/Gjelsten takeover ('97) and it was still financially viable at the time Winkelman approached the club with the MK scheme.

Naturally Sam Hammam will forever be damned for removing the covenant from Plough Lane and then selling it to a supermarket, but under his stewardship (sold up in '97, left the board in '00) the club itself managed to stay comfortably in business, usually via player sales. It is only after the Norwegian duo invest ('97) and then take full control ('00) that the club starts to be run differently and the losses mount up, losses that include a reversal in transfer policy with the purchase of Hartson for £7m - money that was believed to be being invested by the Norwegian duo, but was in fact just creating debt to the club's owners, Rokke/Gjelsten. It's into this situation that Winkelman appears with his promise of riches in Milton Keynes.

Understanding the timing is key to undertsanding the truth, rather than the lies that have subsequently been told.

Relegation in 2000 clearly had profound financial consequences for the club, but at that point there was nothing inevitable about what would happen next. The figures prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if the owners had sold players, cancelled contracts and budgeted sensibly for life outside the top division, then the club could have continued to operate. The owners chose not to do that, but instead devoted all their efforts to trying to secure the MK move.

You simply cannot ignore the effect that Winkelman's approach has in 2000 on the actions of Rokke/Gjelsten. Consequently one cannot do anything but hold him and the MK consortium responsible for their part in events.

The only thing the club needed saving from was two owners hell bent on moving it to Milton Keynes, when it could have gone back to being financially viable in London. As awkward as the facts are for those who wish Wimbledon FC had really been unsustainable, the accounts going back over years prove it wasn't. It means one still has to hold Rokke/Gjelsten/Koppel directly responsible for the club's destruction, but be under no illusions, without Winkelman and the MK consortium there could and should still be a Wimbledon FC playing in London. Rokke/Gjelsten/Koppel fired the gun that killed Wimbledon FC, but Winkelman loaded it for them.

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