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Franchise FC - The Fight Continues!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 25/09/2003

Football fans from across the country have called upon Pete Winkelman to change the name of his football team and leave the name of Wimbledon to those fans who support a team based in South West London.

They also called upon the football world to recognise the fact that franchising had finally arrived in the English game, with a club stolen from its supporters at the behest of its owners and moved to where it could make a profit as part of a property deal.

Nicole Hammond, Chair of the Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association, said: "Pete Winkelman is always going on about how proud he is of Milton Keynes but he hasn't changed the name of the team to reflect that. It's absurd and insulting to Wimbledon fans to see a team from London playing in Buckinghamshire."

"People have asked why Wimbledon fans can't 'move on', but whilst the club pretends to be something it's not, it's trading on a heritage it repudiated and the memories of supporters it has run away from."

She added: "WISA fought the move of the club to Milton Keynes and predicted the club's slide into administration long before it eventually did earlier this year, but our warnings were ignored by the FA Commission which sanctioned the move without ever properly examining the case for Milton Keynes."

"Fans formed their own club, AFC Wimbledon, last year and averaged 3008 fans for each game, which was higher than the average attendance at Selhurst Park where Wimbledon FC Ltd play 7 divisions higher up the football pyramid."

"Since then, they have successfully found their club a home in South West London, something Wimbledon FC Ltd had argued was impossible and have raised enough money from a share issue to purchase the stadium at Kingsmeadow."

Division One supporters last year boycotted games at Selhurst Park in support of Wimbledon fans and against the concept of franchising in football, and are expected to do so again this year spelling bad news for the cash-strapped Milton Keynes outfit.

Malcolm Clarke, Chair of the Football Supporters' Federation, said: "This summer, fans from 5 different clubs got friendly matches called off against the Franchise because they know what's right and what's wrong. That wasn't something Wimbledon fans asked them to do. The game's governing bodies and some pundits might think that this issue has been laid to rest, but they underestimate how much people think this is wrong for the game."

"Burnley fans have been offered half-price tickets at the North West theme park Camelot and many won't be endorsing franchised football by paying £25 to watch the game. WISA is not staging a formal protest, but whilst many Wimbledon supporters will be watching AFC Wimbledon play away at Bedfont in the Combined Counties League, some will be making the trip to Milton Keynes, where they will make their own protest against the theft of their club, and will be joined by fans from other clubs who will be showing their support for Dons fans."

Hammond concluded: "It's a sad day for Wimbledon supporters, and a sad day for English football. We followed Wimbledon up through the leagues and all over the country. Milton Keynes stole that from us, and we want the name and the heritage that's rightfully ours"

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