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Truth about (AFC) Wimbledon

 

 

The story of AFC Wimbledon

As so often in the Wimbledon story, it all came down to a penalty kick. In the final moments of 2012/13, Jack Midson stepped up to score from 12 yards. It was a goal that not only secured victory over Fleetwood Town but preserved the new Dons’ hard-won League Two status. The wave of euphoria as relieved fans invaded the pitch to celebrate evoked memories of good times past.

Just two years earlier, it was Danny Kedwell whose final penalty kick in the shoot-out decided the Conference play-off final against Luton Town at the City of Manchester Stadium. Such penalty heroics were hardly something new for older supporters, who remembered the saves from the spot that immortalised the names of Dickie Guy and Dave Beasant in FA Cup folklore.

It was preserving that glorious past that drove followers of the club to start again in the summer of 2002 after a specially appointed three-man FA commission shocked football fans everywhere by allowing the old Wimbledon FC to relocate to a Buckinghamshire new town. Determined not to let a proud 104-year history die, Dons supporters organised themselves and within just six weeks AFC Wimbledon – a club the commission had declared would be “not in the wider interests of football” – was born.

The new Dons’ opening match in the Combined Counties League attracted 2,449 fans to Sandhurst Town’s Bottom Meadow ground, where terracing was improvised from bales of hay. After finishing third at the end of that first campaign, AFC Wimbledon secured a league and cup double in 2004. The next season they won the Ryman League First Division South before taking three years to escape the Ryman League Premier Division.

Under the guidance of the experienced Terry Brown, the Dons won the Conference South title in 2008, but the Conference National proved a slightly tougher nut to crack. However, after finishing eighth in their debut season, the Dons secured the runners-up spot in 2011, and captain Kedwell demonstrated nerves of steel in that play-off final in Manchester as he fired home the decisive goal.

The rise of AFC Wimbledon has brought inevitable comparisons with their illustrious predecessors’ climb from the Southern League to the old First Division during the 1970s and 80s. That success culminated in a victory over Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final, prompting BBC commentator John Motson to deliver the immortal line, “The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club.”

Those days may be in the past, but the collective spirit lives on in the large numbers of fans who give up their time to run the present club. After 11 years of unbroken success, the fans are beginning to come to grips with the difficulty of trying to compete in League Two with one of the smallest playing budgets in the division.

Ever a realist, chief executive Erik Samuelson summed up the Fleetwood game from his own perspective. “It was a dramatic and very exciting final day, and we all ended up on a high as a result of that. But when you stop and think that we were only 18 minutes away from returning to the Conference, it is important to make sure that we do learn lessons.”

And the man charged with coupling such hard-headed realism with the enthusiasm of the supporters is Neal Ardley. He made over 200 appearances for the Dons in their Premier League days, and by refashioning the side in mid-season last year he quickly established a reputation as one of the brightest young managers around. He will need all his intelligence and guile as he seeks to move the club up to a new level this time around.

 

 

AFC WIMBLEDON SUPPORTERS OPINION...
 

From time to time I'll be looking at the lies, misinformation and downright idiotic things that Franchise FC customers write in their self-defeating crusade to avoid themselves, Milton Keynes' football club and Pete Winkelman being the pariahs of the football world. I'll continue to do so for at least as long as they continue to masquerade themselves using Wimbledon's 'Dons' nickname in their team name.


Franchise FC is not a legal continuation of Wimbledon FC

The recent rerun of the 1988 FA Cup Final (Wimbledon beat Liverpool 1-0 at the old Wembley Stadium), which Liverpool won 2-1 to give them a modicum of revenge, provided a deluge of nostalgia, memories and fantastic PR for Wimbledon. It also stirred up a few people who were indignant that the BBC and the national press (almost universally) viewed the game as I have described it above - a rerun of the '88 final.

It's a perfectly legitimate opinion to believe that there is no continuation of Wimbledon FC. I think that those holding that opinion are missing out on an amazing aspect of the game, but it's their choice and they're entitled to it. In agreement with AFC Wimbledon's website, and as I've stated before, I think there's much more to a football club than just the legal entity that controls it financially and administratively. As the website states, "The supporters of AFC Wimbledon believe that our club is a continuation of the spirit which formed Wimbledon Old Centrals in 1889 and kept Wimbledon Football Club alive until May 2002. We consider that a football club is not simply the legal entity which controls it, but that it is the community formed by the fans and players working towards a common goal.
 
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There are some that ridicule us for this belief, but that's water off a duck's back to us - we know our football club, we know what it is and where it came from. Others are entitled to their opinion, but we are the ones who know who Wimbledon's football club is.

The other side of this is the status of Franchise FC. I've written about this before and the position has not changed, no matter what wishful thinking comes from a small minority in Milton Keynes. 'Milton Keynes Dons' (as they still ludicrously title the football team) is not a 'legal continuation' of Wimbledon FC and has not been since a CVA put into force in July 2004. This CVA transferred the assets (including player contracts) of Wimbledon FC Ltd to a new company called Milton Keynes Dons Ltd. (Wimbledon FC Ltd continued in administration and was wound up in 2009.)

It's important to note that the phrase 'legal continuation' has a specific meaning - the new entity (in this case a company) takes on the legal responsibilities and debts of the old entity. I had never seen the phrase used in connection with a football club until some joker at Franchise came up with it as a wheeze some years ago - quite a pervasive and stubborn wheeze as it turns out, but still a big fat lie. It's usually used for far weightier matters relating to countries that change their name and such like, not football clubs trying to claim some shred of legitimacy.

So... CVA meets 'legal continuation' claim - and CVA wins, because the main point of a CVA is to separate a company from its past debts and stop all legal proceedings against it. In fact it's not claiming too much to say that a CVA could be renamed a 'Company Legal Discontinuation', because that is precisely what it does.

If Franchise FC were a 'legal continuation' of Wimbledon FC, then they would still be liable for all Wimbledon FC's debts and subject to all its liens and encumbrances. It isn't. Case closed.

It's a very simple matter of fact and anyone telling you different can only be ignorant of the facts or a shamefaced liar.

If anyone wants to have the opinion that AFC Wimbledon isn't a continuation then that's their prerogative, but if they also claim 'MK Dons' are a legal continuation, then they are factually and provably wrong.

I'm sure I'll still be debunking this lie in another 10 years time, but the only harm it does is to Franchise FC and its customers, as they continue to fail to properly create their new club as a Milton Keynes club, instead keeping it mired in the past and stirring up bitter recriminations. Only when they eventually come to terms with this reality will they drop the 'Dons' and get on with creating an already legally disconnected club that Milton Keynes can properly get behind.
 
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