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Koppel speaks

Right, who fancies either Wigan or Notts County at SP on a cold January day in the FA Cup? Anyone? Anyone? Well tough shit, because that’s who we’ve got. The kind of draw that nobody wants, we’ll get a sub 4000 crowd as usual, it’ll be a dire game and we’ll realise just what a soul destroying place SP really is. Like we didn’t know already. Hell, even I’m considering not going….

Now, some of you may have read this, but I think plenty of people haven’t. Before the West Brom game, two WISA representatives met up with CK and David Barnard to discuss various things. Below is an edited (for brevity) reprint of what transpired, together with my own comments. What you will read is pretty interesting stuff (many thanx to Kris Stewart):

“Charles Koppel then explained the owners’ current intentions. He said that they are following a three-year plan, devised when Terry Burton was confirmed in his position in the summer. They believe that Terry is the right man for the job and are committed to him as manager for the duration of the three-year plan. The goal of the plan is to support Terry in building the right team to achieve promotion to the Premiership, to maintain that status and to challenge for honours. Promotion this season would be an unexpected bonus.”

Nothing really out of the ordinary, nothing new anyway. The three year plan seems to be getting rid of the old shit and balance the books, then rebuild the squad. A mass cull, if you will (hey, haven’t we been here sometime before?). It seems like we’re in a good position insofar as the owners believe we have the right man for the job – though some would argue “well, if our owners support him then what would it be like if they didn’t support him?”. I think the stuff with the wages, cutting back on finances etc comes into the plan, I would be very surprised if it didn’t.

“Although the club must be put on a sound financial footing, the owners have not given Terry a list of players who must be sold to achieve that”

Interesting : we know we have to cut the wage bill but we haven’t actually got a “must sell” list. So in other words, TB has been given carte blanche to rid his team of who he wants. A facet of the 3YP? A show of trust?

“Another important part of the plan is the building of a new training facility on Prince George’s Playing Fields in Raynes Park. The owners purchased this land shortly after Sam Hammam sold his remaining shareholding in WFC. The club has recently submitted a planning framework document, outlining its intentions, to Merton Council. The local residents have raised a number of objections to the building of any kind of facility on the land, and there will be an inquiry in May 2001. WFC cannot begin any building works until the outcome of this inquiry is known.”

So, now you know why PGPF has been lying dormant since we bought it. The timescale is not unreasonable, IIRC the David Lloyd Centre next door took a similar amount of time to get up and running. Thankfully we’re now at the BoE for a while

Now onto the ground……..

“The lease agreement on Selhurst Park has five years to run. The owners expect to see out the term of the lease, although there is a clause allowing WFC to leave sooner on payment of a fee. ï‚· The owners are aware of the importance of WFC’s having its own ground. There are many, well-known difficulties associated with finding a suitable site. A new ground will take three years to build once the site is identified and purchased. Finding an acceptable site will get progressively more difficult as time goes on.”

So, if we reckon that it’ll take 3 years to build a ground (must be a pretty good ground then, considering that the Skydome in Toronto took 3 years as well), we really have to start moving now. The last bit of the above quote intrigues me : is this a slight dig at the blatant lack of effort shown within the last 10 years? When you consider that the area around Plough Lane is mostly “new” (well, since mid-80s certainly) buildings, it makes you wonder just what the fuck we were doing at that time. Makes you bitter as well. Certainly does me.

“[It was] further suggested to Charles Koppel that, when rumours surface about WFC being linked with a new ground in, for example, Milton Keynes, what WISA would like is for a club spokesperson to state publicly that such a move will not happen. Koppel replied that the club would not make such a statement. He wanted to emphasise that the owners want WFC to be located in Merton.

Should it prove impossible to find a suitable site in Merton, then the owners want WFC to be based as close as possible to Merton. Koppel then asked the question, should somewhere such as Milton Keynes prove to be the nearest possible location to build a new ground, what should the club do? This was a rhetorical question. [It was answered], by saying that any club based in Milton Keynes would simply not be WFC. Should the club complete such a move, [luck would be wished] with their business venture and do what [it] could to build a new Wimbledon Football Club, playing in Merton, in whichever lowly league would be appropriate. Koppel said that he understood this, but that we should also understand their position, as owners of the club.”

Probably the most difficult question to ask ATM. On the one hand, I’m sure all but the foolish few would like the club to publically write off Milton Keynes. Unfortunately, and this may illustrate the point that a successful businessman can become a fan but a fan can’t become a successful businessman, it’s probably nigh on impossible to actually deny this even if there is a 0.000000000000000000001% chance of it happening. Actually, thinking about it, talk of MK could well work in “our” favour. If we take CK at his word and assume that Merton is the priority, using MK could be a good negotiating tool. Think about it, if negotiations get a bit sticky for a nearby place, then we could use the “benefits” (NOT my opinion) of MK to bargain with. Of course, we have to be careful that MK is still in the background, because as years of Hammam rule proved, the most obscure options could also be the most deadly.

Although not actually mentioned in this report, remember after the Sheffield Wednesday game this season about Gatwick being a possibility? Well, I recently found out that when this particular conversation went on, CK said “the airport (BAA) want us there”. Hmm. Keep this one peeled, I don’t personally have a problem with Gatwick (you can actually do it in half an hour from Morden, which is less than SP) and IMO it’s an extremely viable option. But only if we can’t get anywhere nearer.

“The owners realise that their communication with the fans has not been as good as it should be. They intend to use formal and informal channels, including the match programme, to correct this.”

They’re learning 🙂 There hasn’t seemed to be any major communication breakdowns recently, certainly not after the Dunne (aaargh, him again) fiasco (see below). Maybe, like TB after Palace, the criticisms are being heard, and more importantly being acted upon? Marketing is now being upgraded, certainly, so maybe the hoped-for changes are finally being implemented? Makes the story of BRG selling his powerboat team more significant.

“Charles Koppel [was asked] about the situation which arose earlier in the season regarding the proposed transfer of Richard Dunne. Dunne appeared ready to sign for WFC, when according to reports, Bjorn Rune Gjelsten vetoed the deal because of the level of wages wanted by Dunne, which Dunne believed he had agreed with WFC. Charles Koppel stated that the problem which was revealed by the Dunne situation was one of communication between Norway and London. Koppel, Gjelsten and Rokke take full responsibility for the breakdown in communications and they have taken measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Looks like somebody’s head really did roll after the Dunne deal. Though considering the fact that he’s now on the Man City bench, maybe it’s just as well he didn’t sign for us. As said above, communication breakdown seems to be less of an issue now, certainly on the surface, though I wonder if the recent revelation that money IS tight and the wage bill has to come down is something to do with that? Maybe the fact that this didn’t come out at the beginning of the season is testament to these problems. Whatever, as long as the mistakes earlier this season have been learnt and not repeated so readily, then I can tolerate the learning curve.

All in all, some interesting stuff there, probably nothing overly earth shattering, but welcome none the less. Now, about our SP form………..