THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

23 May ~ During Wimbledon’s protracted relocation to Milton Keynes, the club’s then chairman, Charles Koppel, remarked in exasperation that many Wimbledon fans would rather see the team playing in the Fourth Division at Plough Lane than in the Premier League elsewhere. It was about the only thing he ever got right regarding the club or its fans. By the evening of the May 21, 2011, the fans’ ambition had taken another small yet significant step towards being realised as AFC Wimbledon overcame a dogged Luton Town side 4-3 on penalties to claim a place in next season’s Football League.

The emotion of the occasion proved too much for many, not least the Wimbledon goalkeeper whose two excellent saves in the shoot-out were a major factor in deciding the result. That Seb Brown is a Wimbledon fan, from a family of Wimbledon fans, is a neat narrative touch in the ongoing story of this club that was formed, and is still run, by the fans of the old Wimbledon FC.

Many journalists and supporters of other clubs have speculated over whether or not the gaining of a place in the Football League will bring about “closure” for Wimbledon fans still understandably resentful over the manner in which the original club met its demise. But to the majority of Wimbledon fans, though obviously delighted at the prospect of playing in League Two next season, to suggest this is to miss the point.

While AFC Wimbledon made no secret of their desire to return to the League at the earliest opportunity, the relocation to Milton Keynes and the enduring enmity felt towards those who benefited from it has always been, and remains, another matter entirely. That one community should enjoy League football at the expense of another, not having earned it through endeavour on the pitch but through machinations off it, persists in being an affront to many.

That the supposed guardians of the game, in the form of the spineless Football League and the infamous three-man FA commission, were complicit in this wrongdoing merely adds insult to injury. What was wrong in 2002 remains wrong in 2011 and those who suggest that moral indignation should have an expiry date are, at best, naive.

Moreover, by waiving the rules regarding teams representing the conurbation from which they take their name – not to mention allowing a town to bypass the established football pyramid system – dangerous precedents have been set. Those who set any store by the football authorities’ assurances that such a scenario would never be allowed to occur again need only look to see how they have enforced their stipulations that the relocated club maintain their links to the old Wimbledon community to see what such words are worth. To lay to rest the ghost of Wimbledon FC is to risk this same injustice happening to another club and its supporters.

In saying this, the play-off final was a remarkably Franchise-free affair. Luton, with whom they’ve tried – and largely failed – to foster a local rivalry, frankly have more important things to worry about at the moment. And Wimbledon fans, for one day at least, remained almost exclusively focused on the fortunes of their own team. It could be said that the club’s continued success is the best argument anyone could make against franchising in football anyway. Shane Simpson

Comments (47)
Comment by mistrollingin 2011-05-23 11:47:18

Really delighted for AFC Wimbledon and for the enormously positive message they have delivered for fan ownership of football clubs. It has been a wonderful story of how football will always endure through the fans.

Comment by Per què a la terra 2011-05-23 11:57:57

Now's probably not the right time to be stressing that the enemy is the notion of the sports franchise, and its embodiment MK Dons, rather than the town of Milton Keynes itself and its people.

But let me stress it anyway. It's ironic that MK is so derided among Left-leaning types, because it represents that rare thing: a legacy of this country's post-war optimism that's endured. An enclave of comprehensive education in the heart of selective Bucks; the site of that wonderful institution, the Open University; a place that has its problems and that's made its mistakes, but that's overall been a real success.

So, er, you know. Think on.

Anyway, aside from that: genuinely delighted about AFCW's promotion. Onwards and upwards.

Comment by HarryWainwright 2011-05-23 12:01:33

AFC Wimbledon are many supporters second favourite team. I saw them at Bath City this year and their supporters were fantastic. Seeing them back in the league is fundamentally good news.

There were so many things wrong with the theft of their league place. If Milton Keynes was such a hotbed of football, why could their supporters not do what Wimbledon have now done? What possessed the authorities to adopt the approach which Tesco's or Sainsbury's use in planning a new store opening - catchment areas, demographics - in allowing such a relocation?

I remember Maurice Lindsay at Wigan referring to Rugby League as a 'Quality Sporting Product', and Milton Keynes will always be associated in my thinking with an approach which equates going to a match on Saturday's with the dull consumption of the shopping mall.

It would be fitting if they now did the decent thing and stopped calling themselves Dons. Let's remove the pretence - they are Milton Keynes, nothing more and nothing less.

I really do hope that Luton go up next year. Smaller clubs are seen as fair game by the authorities for punitive action, and they have had a wretched few years to endure. Their fans again were terrific at Bath this season and no whistleblower will ever expose their club again if these are the consequences.

Comment by Trebor 2011-05-23 12:04:16

I think it's important to acknowledge that we (Wimbledon) are not the trailblazers of fan ownership that some people think: people like Brian Lomax at Northampton Town and the fan-owned club Enfield Town were real inspirations to us, and we owe them a huge amount of thanks. And Exeter City are now showing us what else can be achieved.

Comment by bearlion 2011-05-23 12:12:55

Every time the notorious 3-man commission is mentioned it fills me with shame as a Villa fan. One member was Steve Stride, Villa's long-serving secretary and someone you might call a football man through and through (which is undoubtedly why he got the call). How he voted in favour of the move is still beyond me. I can only think he was told to - and having worked for Doug Ellis for most of his career, he was probably used to doing what he was told.

Comment by Per què a la terra 2011-05-23 13:04:17

"If Milton Keynes was such a hotbed of football, why could their supporters not do what Wimbledon have now done?"

The main reason is that most football fans living in MK at the time of the move were already fans of other clubs. They should by rights, perhaps, have been fans of Wolverton Town, but the place is (a) mostly made up of people who came from elsewhere, and (b) forty minutes by train from London or Birmingham, so football localism was always going to be a hard road there. Still is, I think, as the faux Dons have found to their cost.

Comment by JimDavis 2011-05-23 14:05:55

Isn't Arsenal the first franchise club with their original move across the river and the dropping of the Woolwich name?
What about Queen's Park Rangers - I know you can get a bus from Queen's Park to the other side of the BBC complex at Hammersmith, but Rangers don't even come close to living in the enlarged Borough of Brent.

Comment by Paul Rowland 2011-05-23 15:25:09

In a way, Wimbledon remind me of Barcelona. Great clubs, both of them. Real community clubs, owned by the fans, which is exactly how it should be. Brilliant!

But you know what? Sometimes I find myself secretly wishing that they'd both stop banging on and on about just how chuffing great they are, all the chuffing time. JEEZ. It drives me up the wall it does....

;-)

Comment by Dalef65 2011-05-23 17:18:01

Personally,I hope that,at some point in the not too distant future,AFCW firmly establish themselves in the FL,whilst MK drop into the nether reaches of non-league and get stuck there.

That would be some kind of full-circle justice........

Comment by imp 2011-05-23 17:39:07

It's a small consolation, but a consolation nonetheless - if anyone had to take Lincoln's place in the Football League, I'm glad it was Wimbledon. A big fat congratulations from the general direction of Sincil Bank.

Comment by Hardin 2011-05-23 20:28:49

I registered this account simply to thank the vast majority of the WSC community for their kind words about the Dons over the past few days... It's nice to see the love for the Dons...

Anyway thought some of you may be interested in this London Tonight feature on the Dons which was broadcast tonight. It features comments from Lawrie Sanchez and the head of Merton Council commenting on the stadium situation:

Comment by Kev7 2011-05-23 21:52:10

Well done to Wimbledon, I hope they follow Stevenage's example next year.

One thing I'd need clarification on. This infamous 3-men panel, some articles say it was an independent commission, others say it was an FA-linked commission. How independent was it and who was in it (apart from Steve Stride).

Comment by mkdonsforever 2011-05-23 23:07:13

MK Dons are here to stay. We are the continuation of Wimbledon fc. The stadium will grace higher league football. Whatever you think about the rights and wrongs of it all. MK Dons are established and will move on and on. AFC the fairy tale what bollocks. AFC/fc supporters let their club die from Apathy and lack of support. They washed their hands of their beloved club and walked away. this local club that for how many decades never played in Merton. Such righteous indignation such hot air...AFC the cuckoo club that stole the ground from under Kingston's noses, parasitic blood suckers. MK Dons deserve their place in football and history will prove them right....Well done Afc enjoy your league status, for how ever long it lasts. Look forward to the day we meet. No doubt it will create a barrage of bile from the Afc fascists....MK Dons a real football club, a club based in its community and loved and supported by its youth and community. We will never drop the name because we are the Dons.

Comment by sw2burro 2011-05-23 23:20:27

Just when I was going to say that they people of MK should largely be admired for the way they have responded to the move you came along and spoiled it...

Comment by Janik 2011-05-23 23:22:44

Your illegitimate organisation (it is not a football club and never will be) will die a drawn out death. And people will celebrate. Briefly.

Comment by madmickyf 2011-05-24 05:07:53

Just wanted to say congrats to AFC Wimbledon, you've finally gotten back what was unrightfully taken from you. As a Luton fan however I'm gutted that it had to be at our expense and on penalties too, the worse way to lose!

Thanks to Harry Wainwright for showing an appreciation of Luton's situation, many other supporters just reguritate rubbish from the tabloids about us "paying bribes" without any real understanding of what happened under our previous owners.

As for mkdonsforever, just wanted to say keep living the dream - you are a walking, talking advert for your club and your town!

Comment by Jobi1 2011-05-24 06:25:22

@Kev7 - to our great shame, York's evil chairman of the time was involved in this... http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/football-league/craig-under-pressure-to-quit-wimbledon-panel-663711.html

Comment by notsinginganymore 2011-05-24 10:27:17

@mkdonsforever -

"MK Dons deserve their place in football and history will prove them right...."

If they deserve it then why do they need history to prove them right? I prefer to make a judgement based on what has occurred, instead of waiting for some unspecified point in the future for some vague event to take place that will prove the entire footballing community wrong on this issue. What historical event is planned? If Winkleman is planning to bring world peace and cure cancer then maybe (just maybe) you'll get a few of us to move into your camp.

Comment by davidrees88 2011-05-24 10:54:32

As an 'average' Dons supporter I wish AFC every success in the Football League. It's just a shame that there is now no way to draw a line under the whole affair. Would any of you be up for a "shirt of hurt" exchange?

Comment by eighteen85 2011-05-24 11:56:36

I agree with mkdonsforever - it would have been tragic if the can-do city's football-crazed population had been deprived of the football club that their frenzy warranted.

By the way, does anyone know if the club still offering that special deal on play-off final tickets for everyone who's already bought 2018 World Cup tickets for the winkledome? It's just that they don't seem very keen on answering the question when I ask.

Comment by Lincoln 2011-05-24 16:34:12

I am happy for them, I just wish it didn't come attached with the necessary hatred for MK Dons. I have friends who support them and they are not evil. I feel guilty even admitting I don't mind MK. I like AFC and I like MK, it annoys me that I am not allowed to do this and must like one to hate the other, as so much of football seems to be these days.

Comment by notsinginganymore 2011-05-24 17:29:59

@Lincoln - I can see where you are coming from but many of us (hey, every other football fan I've ever met) see this as a huge issue of principle. The fact remains that Northampton Town, Luton Town, the pre-existing Milton Keynes club and - of course - the original Wimbledon FC have all been very badly affected by this decision and have received no compensation nor even the hint of an apology (unless you count the statement from the FA that said the MK scenario was a one-off and that they consider the result to be unsatisfactory).

Comment by Lincoln 2011-05-24 17:52:53

I can see that, but I am not comfortable with hating another football club, that's for the premiership armchair fans to do. I grow weary of football being more about who has wronged who. Be it a referee giving an incorrect decision, a player joining another team after saying he like the previous team, or the FA making a complete hash of a club wanting to relocate. Football fans should enjoy what is good about the game. Sounds a bit glib but we should be celebrate AFC Wimbledon being a fantastic fan owned club but it comes with the attachment of not even mentioning the MK Dons name. Same goes for FC United where there reson d'etre is two fingers up at the Glazers. Rather than being about a love of football it is about having a vehicle to pour scorn on something else.

I sound a bit hippy like and should probably hug a few less trees but I just remember a friend's grandad who lived on the Isle of White telling me he was a Southampton fan. If they were away he would go to Fratton Park with other fans and cheer on Portsmouth. He supported whoever was most local. While on the one hand showing why moving Wimbledon was wrong, on the other it shows that football used to be about just enjoying the game.

Comment by jameswba 2011-05-24 21:27:04

Lincoln, I agree totally with the thrust of your last paragraph and even identify with your discomfort over the word 'hate'. As a WBA fan, I'm pleased Wolves are staying up and sorry Birmingham aren't.

But Wimbledon and MK Dons really isn't a rivalry or, if you like, there aren't the grounds for any kind of mutual respect in the way there are with Southampton-Portsmouth or Wolves-West Brom.

I'm delighted for Wimbledon and feel for Luton but would also like to put in a word for AFC Telford United, whose promotion to the Blue Square Premier, their third in the seven years following the collapse of the old Telford United, seems to have gone almost unrecognised

Comment by eighteen85 2011-05-25 12:07:36

Sorry, but in this case you can't separate the franchise and its customers. Without the customers the franchise would have disappeared by now - do these people have no moral compass at all?

And before anyone says "what about the children?", what a great lesson to teach them - "no, don't worry about working hard for something, just let someone else do all the hard work then you go right ahead and take it from them - after all YOU deserve it more than they do"

Comment by davidrees88 2011-05-25 13:46:02

Whatever anyone says, the FACT remains. The existence of the MK Dons is NOT my fault!! I did not ask for it and I did not make it happen. However, it has happened and I see no reason what-so-ever not to support the club. And if anyone is interested, my father poured over 10 years of his life, week-in-week-out, to maintaining a Southern League outfit here in Milton Keynes. This meant I grew up on those terraces, I mowed the lawns, I was that ball boy!!! Now I'm older I'll save my righteous indignation for things that really matter in this world. Sorry folks but football is just a sport.

Comment by davidrees88 2011-05-25 13:57:16

And another thing, the original Wimbledon embodied the dream that a club could raise itself through the pyramid system to greatness. I think back to Swansea, Northampton and the like, up all four divisions in succession. However the this notion of the pyramid-system is dead. Take a look at the EPL and the big clubs, there is no way a club like Aston Villa or Norwich (of old) could get promoted from the championship and then win the Prem. Sorry chaps, but the big money at the top end has spoilt this dream forever. Take a look at Blackpool. You berate MK Dons for being a franchise, with customers. What on earth do you make of Man U? Shirts sold all across the far east? Maybe it's playing with words, but surely Man U and the bigger clubs are the real Franchises, just they have not moved location....

Comment by notsinginganymore 2011-05-25 14:53:09

@davidrees88 - two wrongs sounding very much like a right ...

Comment by davidrees88 2011-05-25 15:57:25

@notsinginganymore not what I said. Simply put, we don't live in a "talk-sport" universe where everything is black and white. At the end of the day we're all just going to have to agree to disagree. Have a pleasant day folks, greetings from sunny MK [hits the Submit then runs for his life ;-))]

Comment by frontier psychiatrist 2011-05-25 16:41:43

Nothing should surprise me about Franchise customers, but still I was shocked by the fact david's family had strong links to the legitimate Milton Keynes football club which died when the monstrosity turned up in town, yet he has no qualms about simply shrugging that off and supporting it. Can't think I'd be too pleased if Asda-Walmart had put my mum out of business. Stay classy, MK followers.

Comment by getoverit 2011-05-25 17:19:11

The 'legitimate' Milton Keynes football club was, effectively, killed off by Wimbledon directors in the mid '80s (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Keynes_City_F.C.), not when the 'monstrosity' turned up in town. Get your facts right and get over it.

Comment by Coral 2011-05-25 17:35:25

That's fine that their club was killed by Wimbledon though because it is not AFC. Sorry, and this is unpopular, but to me it seems that AFC gifts fans with two things. A good team playing league football now. And a self righteous feeling against those who have wronged them and the fertilsation of such feeling by the rest of the cynical football followers.

Comment by notsinginganymore 2011-05-25 18:59:37

Eh?

I think when you read that your club is "not in the wider interests of the game" then you move beyond self righteousness. I may be too generous here, but I think that the original Wimbledon fans didn't really realise what they had lost until the FL/FA denied them their club. In a way you cannot blame them as, at the time of the tribunal, footballing opinion was very much (very, very much) that the MK move could never fly. In fact, ever since the decision was handed down, footballing opinion has been that it should never be repeated.

Listen, I'm as easy going as the rest - I eat in Chinese restaurants even though I don't agree with the annexation of Tibet. However the idea that English football clubs can trundle 3 counties hence (should they feel the need to) is wrong and so is the fact that existing clubs in that location have suffered as a result.

Defending it as being part of the modern game (Man Utd = franchise, which I do see as a valid point) doesn't wash either. Big clubs may be killing the sport from the top down but it doesn't mean that anything goes.

Comment by mkdonsforever 2011-05-25 23:37:14

AFC was formed 2002 wimbledon fc moved 2003 mk dons was formed 2004. the righteous spirit of wimbledon lives on in AFC bollocks. If anyone killed or stole their club it was their own supporters. Pathetic...the fairy tale club who stole Kingston's ground hypocrites and liars...oh yeah they did the right thing, their guilt and their guilt only. Mk Dons supporters have no blood on their hands. Just football fans supporting their local club. AFC a nasty little club ask any non league club that has had the misfortune to meet them. Look forward to the AFC myth being destroyed. As for Luton Town you have found your true level which you richly deserve

Comment by madmickyf 2011-05-26 07:15:12

getoverit, your statement that MK City was "effectively, killed off by Wimbledon directors in the mid '80s" is being 'economical' with the truth. The article clearly states that the club was struggling when it was bought by Ron Noades and that it was then on sold by him when the MK relocation fell through before collapsing some years later. It was hardly Wimbledon's fault that the 'good' people of MK failed to support their local team.

Also wasn't it the 2nd incarnation of MK City that was killed off when the 'monstrosity' turned up? This club had no connection to the 1st MK City so your argument has no logic.

As for mkdonsforever, "AFC a nasty little club ask any non league club that has had the misfortune to meet them". We've met them and they're a hell of a lot nicer than Franchise FC fans (as any non league supporter will tell you). I reckon the plastics have found the true level of supporter that they richly deserve - pond life.

Comment by notsinginganymore 2011-05-26 12:33:08

@davidrees88 - see, you were going ok there, the viewpoint was reasonable (if not quite perfect). Then madmickyf comes along with something that put the MK argument right back to Square 1 -

"As for Luton Town you have found your true level which you richly deserve".

As untrue as it is unreasonable.

Comment by eighteen85 2011-05-26 13:16:17

mkdonsforever - on the assumption that you're not a WUM, you're as disgusting as the franchise whom you give your custom to.

Comment by notsinginganymore 2011-05-26 14:00:35

Muchos apologias - I've just realised that it wasn't madmickyf but mkdonsforever who thinks LTFC deserve the staggering treatment handed down by the FA/FL.

Comment by Coral 2011-05-26 17:48:03

"mkdonsforever - on the assumption that you're not a WUM, you're as disgusting as the franchise whom you give your custom to"

Lovely stuff. Normally only a phrase saved for thugs fighting at football but now applies to a man/woman taking his children down to watch some football.

Comment by mkdonsforever 2011-05-27 00:17:52

Thank you Coral. That reaction from 85 sums up the irrational and hysterical hatred stirred up by the fascists you believe the AFC myth. Luton paid the penalty for their misdeeds end of story. Innocent men/women taking their children to watch football are disgusting, going to a "franchise" which supports disabled sports and football, belongs to SET community football, raises money for numerous charities and engages in a positive way to the community and youth of the local area. Evil demonic faceless franchise that has brought nothing but good to its locality. The minority of haters will never change the fact that MK Dons is a successful and decent family club. Supported by decent loyal fans who love football.

Comment by mkdonsforever 2011-05-27 00:23:25

Pondlife does that refer to luton fans rioting when they did not get their god given right to league status. Luton home to the EDF. Luton more plastic than then outrageous advantage given to them by their plastic pitch. How plastic are you. Luton take 45k to wembley and they are never seen again. Madmick what a great advert for Luton you are.

Comment by madmickyf 2011-05-27 00:41:47

mkdonsforever, all I want to say is......sh*t I really can't be bothered arguing with a sadsack like you. You call other people facists but your posts sound exactly like one, you are the pondlife I was refering to. And your argument about AFC 'stealing' Kingstonian's ground is 100% bulls**t. See ya.

Comment by eighteen85 2011-05-27 10:02:07

Ahhhh Coral - a frequent franchise apologist as I recall.

As usual, I note that you're nowhere near as as quick to criticise "bletchleystealersforever" for his/her comments - I would have thought were much more offensive in terms of the language usedd, especially to someone as easily offended as you appear to be. Or is it acceptable if you're a football-crazed miltonian?

And to the frenzoid, there's nothing whatsoever irrational about anyone's franchise hatred. Any genuine football fan should want to have nothing to do with them. By the way, do you routinely handle stolen goods?


Comment by notsinginganymore 2011-05-27 11:06:20

@mkdonsforever - the plastic pitch provided no advantage and the statistics prove that. Still, why let facts get in the way of a rant. Secondly, it was disposed of 20 years' ago - not exactly breaking news is it? Thirdly, Luton fans are anything but plastic with many being 4th or 5th generation fans and many of those 45,000 were ex-pats who returned for that one match (I write from Switzerland and know of many who flew in from Australia and South America for the match - LTFC mentioned fans from 2 dozen different nations attending). Such a heritage that MK can only dream of; you can steal a team but not a history. Fourthly, LTFC are involved in their community in ways MK can only hope to emulate - an organisation called SOLYD provides funding for the youth set-up and there is a steady stream of youth players graduating on to the first team with many of them now playing in the Premiership. I would list names but I guess you're pretty embarrassed already.

Comment by Coral 2011-05-27 11:40:37

No need to criticise "bletchleystealersforever" because people have already done this.

I don't get offended, just bored of people raging against anything and anyone MK. Fine, hate the club. But hating people you have never met is a bit simple.

Comment by HarryWainwright 2011-05-27 13:32:45

This has been the most remarkable thread to read. On the one hand, there is righteous anger from AFC supporters who suffered from a brutal act from the football authorities, their local authority and the club's owners. With equal weight, the MK Dons fans are furious with people who equate supporting their club with approving of a war crime.

One of the most perceptive comments was made by the person who said that most people living in Milton Keynes were first generation, and stayed supporting teams from their childhood, or strayed to established teams within a commutable distance.

It is impossible to establish a tradition overnight. Looking through the list of New Towns built in the sixties and seventies, only Crawley and Stevenage have league status now. Towns like Northampton, Peterborough and Swindon did expand rapidly, but they had teams in situ. It is very difficult to build a base of support when competing with clubs who have been playing for a century in a Victorian town with fourth generation supporters.

The great pity is that Milton Keynes took a short cut and left a number of festering wounds, some within the city itself. Although many of the comments in the thread above are highly objectionable, the passion underpinning them can not be denied. Such deeply felt support will stand Milton Keynes in good stead in the years to come.

Comment by turfmoor59/60 2011-07-25 13:40:15

M K Dons What a Joke As a Burnley Fan Well Done To The Real Thing Afc And Their Fans Who Never gave up

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