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Old 08-06-2003, 08:33 AM   #1
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the Wimbledon fiasco (not a tennis thread)

From, a Wimbledon fansite.

The facts about The Franchise and its move to MK

By Big Tissue
Date: 15/8/2002

There have been a lot of half-truths and spin in the last week or so concerning the introduction of franchising in British football. This did not have to happen, and it could happen to any club next. Here is a reissue of a previous article detailing the facts.

Although you may not be aware of it, Wimbledon Football Club was killed on May 28th. On that day, the Football Association decided to break all it's own rules and allow our current owners to move the club 70 miles north to Milton Keynes, against the wishes of every true Wimbledon supporter. Since the British press have been impotent in getting the facts out, I kindly request you read the following. The door to gutless US style franchising has been opened, and your club (no matter how big or small) could be next.

Despite the stories The Franchise chairman has been spouting recently, this has nothing to do with the club dieing. It actually made a profit last year. All the accounts claiming poverty do not include 15 million in transfer revenue from last year. That included, the club is 2 million in profit.

This is about Sam Hamman ripping the new owners off. They paid way above the odds for the club, and now they are tossing about the traditions of the game, desperate to make their already rich wallets richer.

The most important thing that must be stressed is that Wimbledon FC are not, and have never been, in dire financial straits. This is the excuse used repeatedly by the corporate pirates who have taken over our club. The chairman, South African Charles Koppel is the employee of the Norwegian owners Kjell Inge Rokke and Bjorn Gjelsten. Koppel first met these two in that most of traditional football supporting hotbeds, the elitist and pompous international speedboating circut.

Not surprisingly, these are two of the wealthiest men in Europe. They are far wealthier than Mohammed Al-Fayed. The club's finances were so bad, it spent over 1 million pushing the Milton Keynes move, including hiring PR company Brunswick. And the club's financial records were coincidentally not made public this year. If you're so poor, proove it!

It should be added that Wimbledon were relegated, from over a decade in the country's top flight, a matter of months after these men took over the club. Not only are they immoral, but incompetent as well.

Pop promoter Pete Winkleman previously tried to lure QPR and Luton to Milton Keynes. Along with his faceless consortium, he has been targeting weak & vulnerable clubs and trying to buy Milton Keynes a place in the Football League for years now. Fortunately, most of the chairman he approached felt a sense of duty to their communities and supporters. He needed to find a chairman who felt nothing towards the sport or people, and he found just that man in Charles Koppel.

Although the present chairman announced the Milton Keynes plans at the beginning of the 2001-2002 season (cynically, after he had season ticket money in the bank), rumours had been floating around for about two years. And owner Kjell Inge Rokke had been rumoured bragging that the move was a 'done deal' about 9 months ago. There is great suspicion that this was decided months, maybe even years ago. After an entire year of both the Football League and the Football Association refusing to come to a decision on the move (and tossing the responsibility back and forth like a hot potato) the news was announced 3 days before the World Cup started, while all the country's football press was on the other side of the planet.

One thing Mr Koppel has been saying is that he broke no rules in gaining this move to MK. And technically, this is true. But the fact is, each appeal he made to this decision (that was rejected about 5 times), cost each club in the Nationwide League 10,000 through shared legal fees.

That's close to 50,000 pounds a club, including 3rd Division clubs. After the ITV Digital fiasco, many clubs couldn't afford it, and The Franchise owners knew this. It was financial extortion. By the rules (which are warped at best)? Yes. Ethical? Not even close.

In addition, there was always the veiled threat of these men just shutting Wimbledon down. They repeatedly said they would 'close' the club if they did not go to Milton Keynes. Not that it would go bankrupt, but they would 'close' it. It was extortion, give us what we want or we kill it.

The Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA) and Merton Council have repeatedly proven that the club can return to Plough Lane with investment. They have produced architect's plans for a 20,000 seat stadium, and commissioned a MORI poll that proved more than that amount would attend regularly. This could be a very profitable football club in Southeast London, one of the wealthiest areas of England. Arguably, wealthier than Milton Keynes. And bringing the club back home will cost 1/4 of relocating it to Milton Keynes.

So why do these owners not invest in Merton? Originally, everyone thought that Milton Keynes was preferred because that meant our multi-billionare owners would not have to fork out for a stadium (i.e. 'invest'). But it has been alleged recently that one of the major players in this Milton Keynes development is one Kjell Inge Rokke (one of our owners). Therefore, the removal of our beloved football club is to allegedly make his property 70-miles away more profitable. Only after the relocation was approved, the owners pledged 40 million to the club. Why then? That's more than enough to keep the club in Merton.

Our owners employee, Chairman Charles Koppel, has shown nothing but contempt for Wimbledon supporters from day one. He has repeatedly tried to provoke, and has never uttered one word of sympathy for our plight. He is quoted: 'When we move to Milton Keynes, they will all go support Fulham'. He is also quoted to say: 'Palace and Wimbledon are the only teams in England to ground-share, apart from the two Sheffield clubs of course'.

He tried to create opposition to the clubs return within Merton itself. The club polled local Plough Lane residents on the return of the club. Those that wrote back that they were opposed (clearly the minority, about 20) were invited to a meeting where club officials tried to get them to organise a community group to oppose the very club they owned. These people were told: 'football supporters are not the kind of people you want in your neighbourhood'.

He has claimed in the press that his private garden was vandalized, but never proved it. And since the Milton Keynes announcement at the beginning of the season, the actions of the Selhurst Park stewards have been very heavy-handed at best. Many supporters have been ejected for extremely minor offences. His efforts to portray Wimbledon supporters as thugs failed miserably. In the face of this, and in our many protests, not one act of violence has been perpetrated by a Wimbledon supporter. For that we can still be proud.

Yet Mr Koppel likes to wander around claiming HE has been the subject of abuse.

And of course, one of the best managers in the First Division, Terry Burton, was sacked just a few weeks ago because he publicly supported one of his players and the club's supporters.

That brings us to May 28th. There can be no doubt that the announcement was cynically timed (two days before the World Cup began) by the owners, FA and FL to coincide with the country's football press being nicely tucked away in the Far East. The day our club died, David Beckham's foot and Roy Keane's temper were all the back pages featured.

The report insisted that the club maintain links with Merton after the move. Yet a mere two weeks after approval of the MK franchising, the youth training 'Football In The Community' program was shut down, the local club shop closed, and all participation in local events cancelled. These events are not being monitered by the authorities whatsoever. The club called 'Wimbledon' now has no ties with Wimbledon at all. Make sense?

Please, no one tell me if I love the club I'll travel 70 miles. The club is about community. And besides, I simply can't afford it. Don't give me that 'poor support, no ground' argument either. Put Middlesborough in Sunderland for a decade. Put Tottenham in Highbury for ten years. Make City play at Old Trafford. Then watch the gates go down. We've been exceptionally mismanaged, that's not our fault. But we pay the price. I know 10 year old kids who are in tears over this. And there is a old fella in his late 60's two rows in front of me who watched the club since they were non-league. These people deserve better. If this is the future of football, I want nothing to do with it. The majority of Wimbledon supporters would rather see their club relegated 5 times in 5 years than lose it. Charles Koppel is not a Wimbledon supporter.

WISA, The Dons Trust & Merton Council have acted fast to form our own club, AFC Wimbledon. We will be playing in the Combined Counties League this season. This may seem like we have given up, but the fight for our club remains. This must be taken in context; after over a decade fighting to get our club back home, and 12 months just trying to keep it in London, most Wimbledon supporters have no more faith in football's owners, players, press and administrators (and quite frankly, are completely knackered from fighting a losing battle).

To add insult to injury, the highjackers of our club refuse to let go of the name, colours and crest of our club. It is asinine to think that a club in Milton Keynes is allowed to be called Wimbledon, but renaming the club would make the truth clearer. All that has been sold is a position in Division One. The ownership has been reported to laughably mutter that if they have to give up the name 'Wimbledon', they will insist that all records of the 1988 FA Cup winners be changed as well. These are clearly not football people.

There is still hope, Koppel and Winkleman have recently failed in getting the club up to MK over the summer, leaving them at an empty Selhurst one more season. But we can not get this decision reversed without your help. We have 12 months.

It's official, the Football Association and Football League don't work for us. In the face of big money businessmen; the supporters, the authorities and the British press are sterile. A position in Division One has been sold, and the entire structure of British football could go with it. It will only change if we all make our collective opinion clear. We kindly ask you, as lovers of British football, to boycott your away fixtures with the new Milton Keynes/Wimbledon franchise.

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Old 08-06-2003, 08:38 AM   #2
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Welcome to our world (pro sports in the US).

Yes, YOUR team could be next.

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Old 08-07-2003, 01:26 AM   #3
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i thank you for clarifying the title.

otherwise i wouldn't have clicked on the link, came in, skimmed the first few words, and posted this.

then where would we be?
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