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Town Fans Asked To Boycott Wombles Game!

By: Chris Philips
Date: 06/01/2003

THE Milton Keynes Franchise Football club manager Stuart Murdoch recently exclaimed, "The divorce has happened, now leave us alone". This really sticks in my craw. After all the pain we were fed over the last years as fans of Wimbledon FC this one really bothers me.

It displays a naivety beyond belief from a man who has served the game long and well. You see Mr Murdoch, if your wife had conducted a secret affair with a man in Milton Keynes and then taken all the furniture, the kids and the family photos and moved in with him you too would not be able to simply move on without first screaming "whore".

Then, we have Charles Koppel trying to claim credit for saving a 114-year-old club. What a disgusting liberty to claim that honour. And whom is he saving the club for exactly? Certainly NOT us Wimbledon fans whose wholesale abandonment of our beloved club serves as the biggest shame on him yet.

Amazingly, so desperate is he to gather a fan base after his absurd move away from us that he even organised free coaches, tickets and replica tops for half interested people in Milton Keynes to visit both Selhurst Park and various away games. At least some of them had the good humour to take life sized cardboard cut outs to occupy empty seats!

It has been left to us fans to save Wimbledon's football club and re-build the dream, Koppel is simply preparing to make money, and plenty of it, from his sweet property deal and all the lucrative 'enabling development' that goes with it. I'm convinced the football club is a side issue, kept barely alive to facilitate this deal because it depends upon it.

That explains the multi borough shut down of its award winning Football In The Community scheme, except in Merton so cynical are these people. He will forever have his place in shame and bitter history for his orchestration of the biggest sporting heist in this country's history.

You see it goes way beyond one formerly flush and successful football club brought to its knees with another masterstroke of misunderstanding of the game and bad management. This is the first stage of a voracious virus that has infected our national game.

Your football club used to be a bastion for the common man and woman to feel proud of where you are from, the jewel in the crown of your local identity and an inherited birthright of the next generation. That's what I had lined up for my little boy, what was given to me by Saturday afternoons with my beloved late grandfather, a devout Don.

What is to stop the next corporation buying the total ingredients of a football club including its league place and moving it to the next town and jumping in bed with a multiplex cinema or hypermarket chain? Nothing now, not even for successful clubs. Anyone who objects can get the Koppel treatment. He whines on about doing things by the book yet he threw that book in the bin in the corner of his office laughing and wielded a far more threatening legal book that ultimately took advantage of the sick elephant that is league football on its knees.

Wimbledon fans conducted themselves with dignity throughout this ordeal, the likes of which would never have gone this far at any other club in the land, and set a fine example. Ask yourself what fate would have awaited the corporate Koppel machine trying this on with Millwall, Stoke or Swansea fans at the ready to fight it. Now we can rejoice in our new baby AFC Wimbledon. We will share with Kingstonian this season, and next we return home to our local borough with a ground share at Tooting and Mitcham United, but we haven't tried to buy their league position and leap frog the system at the expense of local pride, history and memories. We have started over as a fresh new entity with an unblemished record and as a property of the fans for which the club exists. This is the key factor missing from Koppel's conscience over there in his Croydon executive portakabin as he packs his boxes for another in Bucks, the club was there for and only because of the supporters.

True, AFC Wimbledon will be run as a business to build resources and secure a home where it belongs but it won't be a business in the traditional sense, no football club can, ever. AFC Wimbledon will always belong to the people of Wimbledon and Merton, not a tiny minority of shareholders who got an unbelievably poor investment for their money. Our club is now wholly owned by equal shareholding fans via the award winning Dons Trust, the biggest football supporters trust in the UK. You see, we've proved a football club is its fans and that's the end of it. What is a football club with no fans, wherever it goes? Ask Charles Koppel. He really believes the people of Milton Keynes will sustain their own club, at least that's what he's saying for the purpose of this move. Judging by the complete lack of interest in Franchise FC thus far in Milton Keynes and the many messages of support we have received from with the town I believe it is a doomed venture. I also believe that factor ! is of no interest to him or his Norwegian masters who are being true to their business portfolio, which clearly states, "buy, develop, sell".

The net result will be an empty or unoccupied stadium in Milton Keynes, a property deal on flawed merits and worst of all the new precedent set in the game for more lucrative franchise moves for ailing clubs to somebody else's hungry local town. What about Bradford moving to Ashford? Why not eh? Meantime thousands of broken hearts in south London are forced to start over and AFC Wimbledon, the fans, has inherited the proud achievements and history of that club. We were there when it all happened for over a century, tears and laughter, not Koppel and his share certificates, corporate sound bites and revenue streams, not Murdoch and certainly none of his franchise babes seeing out their contracts to sustain their shiny Lexus 4X4's and trophy wives.

And on the subject of sustaining a marriage and our 'divorce', speaking with the contempt of a spurned partner I wish only failure and demise for what was taken away from me as it will forever occupy a large part of my life and until it's dead and buried there'll be no closure.

Whilst Koppel's McFootball Club struggles to survive in a soulless new town, AFC Wimbledon will always be our club, at the heart of Wimbledon, there for generations to come.

Time to rebuild the dream.

Chris Philips is a radio presenter at London's Kiss FM and founder member of the Dons Trust

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