The background noise at AFC Wimbledon and The Dons Trust board this week has been insane. I fully support the Open letter sent to the Football Club Board and Dons Trust Board. Open Letter
We (AFC Wimbledon) are a fans owned club, and are about to move to a new stadium (back) at Plough Lane, we had various levels of communication and meetings as to what this means and some hints towards costing the project and from what I gleaned over the last few years was this all seemed good, our main hurdles where permissions, many unfounded objections that slowed the project and the work of demolition of the old Grey Hound stadium. It was advised there would be a share issue, a loan, crowd funding and such. All seemed to be moving on and we had recently raised just shy of £2.5 million via crowd funding through Seedrs, I was waiting for my email to send details from my custom named brick. But then out of the blue we (the fans) are advised the club is struggling to get a bank loan needed and thus we haven’t been allowed to sign the final financial contract for the building works (although this has started). And we are advised we are £11million short.
The way to plug this gap is outlined in a number of options, which is then reported differently to Dons Trust members via members documents (I don’t think are shareable) from the Dons Trust Board and then as a Club statement. The wording seems to give the strong suggestion that we need to take external investment which from the way it is presented would only be accepted by those parties if we make changes to our ownership model.
I support this open letter as a Dons Trust member whole heartily. I am not prepared to vote for external investment that impacts the current model of the fans co-operative having the majority of control. I would rather we are relegated and have a smaller stadium than pass over majority ownership or control to an individual or group of investors.
I am worried about what appears to me as assurance over the last few years that we could afford this new stadium and now we are told that is not longer correct. I understand costs have gone up thanks to the numerous delays from a host of terrible protests against the building works. But the indication was this was all in hand and more importantly understood.
From the start things appeared to had all been costed sensibly from what I read and heard from Dons Trust Board meetings & the Club. I am a little confused as to what has actually gone wrong.
My own preference at this stage would be that we seek what the club statement has as option 1 to secure a loan as close to £11million and look to alternative models of investment to reduce and pay back that loan ASAP and keep the ownership the same. I understand obtaining a loan of this value has proved very difficult however there is plenty of different buisness models that a progressive football club could undertake and the old model of big external investment must be seen as not working. Do I need to mention Bolton or Bury?
If the majority ownership is not with the fans I would have to do some serious thinking. The model of UK football clubs with investors and money is dreadful and I don’t want my Club to be run with that in mind even if that appears at this time to forfeit a possible future role in the top league in the UK. No one thought we would get this far with this model. No one thought we could do what we have done. We must not throw the towel in at the last hurdle just to get the bigger stadium via external funding only.
Here’s hoping for more details and better consultation on this issue. Once beyond this we need to get more background and details as to what has gone wrong and how we look at the accountability and reporting from the Dons Trust Board and Football Club Board.