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Roekke the boat


by Village Don

What follows is based upon some investigation by myself and others, some logical reasoning and a healthy dose of speculation. Keep an open your mind, and see what you think:

It all starts when, about 6 months after being sold 80% of WFC for £30 million by Sam Hammam, Kjell Inge Rokke realized that he had bought a dud. The proposed Dublin relocation, on which Rokke was sold the club, had fallen through, leaving him with a football club with few tangible assets for which he had paid about three times its real value. Like any good businessman, he started looking at his options. A number of ideas were mooted, but the strongest was Milton Keynes. Milton Keynes, in one form or another, has been on the agenda for many years. It was first proposed by Ron Noades when he owned the club, and has been rearing its ugly, concrete head ever since. Not only did it offer a free stadium, the ‘home’ for which Wimbledon has wanted for 10 years, it offered another, far more complex possibility: the opportunity to recoup the money lost on buying WFC.

And this is where it gets interesting. I believe that Rokke quickly came to the opinion, for one reason or another, that Wimbledon could never make the sort of money he wanted. Contrary to the line we are being spun about Milton Keynes offering salvation for the Dons, Rokke does not believe that MK will bring tens of thousands of new fans to WFC. This fact is supported by evidence supplied by WISA that there simply is not the current market for Wimbledon in MK. Even Peter Winkleman, the ‘music impresario’ driving the MK project, accepts that the relocation is a gamble on converting children into future audiences. We know that Rokke wanted an ‘out’, by why not just sell the club, albeit at a loss? What’s £15million loss when you’re worth £1 billion? What does Milton Keynes offer him?

Shortly after Rokke realized he had been ‘had’ by Sam, he purchased a company called Dexion which produces archiving systems. This company is situated in Hemel Hempstead, on prime industrial land, close to the M25 and in a hinterland with low unemployment and high wages. For those who don’t know, Hemel Hempstead is about 30 miles away from Milton Keynes. A look at the company accounts shows it is not in a great way, but is situated on land worth in the region of £25m. I am in the process of running a search on who owns this land, but I am of the belief that Dexion owns it.

So why does an archiving company in Hemel Hempstead provide Rokke with his ‘out’? The planning application for the MK complex, constructed with and submitted to MK’s local authority, shows a substantial area of land being put over to commercial purposes. In all likelihood part of this commercial land has been promised to Rokke in return for moving the club to MK. And what does he want this commercial land for? Well, in my opinion, once the development of the complex was given the all clear, Rokke intended to move Dexion to MK. This would enable him to sell the £25m worth of land that Dexion is currently situated on, and effectively swop it for ‘free’ land on the MK complex.

Not only that, but MK being an area with higher unemployment than Hemel Hempstead, overall running costs would be reduced through lower wages. Add to this that a possible further condition of WFC moving to MK is likely to be that Aker, Rokke’s construction company, perform some of the site development and we can see that moving to MK enables Rokke to recoup his money REGARDLESS of the performance of WFC, or indeed which league it is in.

The reason I believe this has come to a head recently is that Rokke has business problems. He has recently taken his company back into private hands, which can be a sign of financial problems. Also, a £6m loan he gave to Wimbledon was charged at annual rate of interest of 10%. Not only did this interest contribute to about a third of our annual losses last year, it is hardly the mark of a man awash with money. £6m is very small fry to a billionaire isn’t it? He needs cash and needs it quickly. He knows that he wouldn’t even get half of what he paid for WFC, so there is no point in just selling it. However, moving to MK gives him at least £25m from the sale of the Dexion site, plus money from Aker developing the site, plus anything he might get for selling WFC.

As I said at the beginning, conjecture plays a large role in the formulation of this theory. However, I believe that this theory offers a real insight into Rokke’s motivations for the Milton Keynes relocation. The whole process is being pushed by Rokke to get quick cash and to recoup his outlay on WFC. Rokke and Chairman Charles Koppell say it is for the survival of the club. I don’t believe that, you don’t believe that, and I don’t think Rokke and Koppell believe that. I believe the owners are using the club to leverage the relocation of Dexion to MK in order to recoup their original outlay. Thus it is not merely a case of the owners having a misguided notion of what is best for WFC, they are abusing the club in order to make money. Make no mistake, there is no concern here for the long-term well-being of WFC.

I also believe that Winkleman’s motives are less clear than they seem. It seems that the MK local authority is only prepared to give planning permission to a development if a football stadium is involved. According to the local press, WFC would retain ownership (probably on a long lease) of the stadium. So what is in it for Winkleman? Well, according to local MP Phyllis Starkey the complex will include hotel, shops, a leisure centre and would involve a £150m investment plan. Assuming Winkleman is not just in it for his love of Milton Keynes, his financial interests must lie in the proposed supplementary leisure developments. Therefore, Winkleman is equally guilty of exploiting WFC. He needs a football team to make this work, and unfortunately that’s us. It can be the only reason why he would be so generous as to ‘give’ us a £40 million stadium. Without WFC he gets nothing, with us he makes his money – a stadium (NOT financed with his money) and some land is the price. But ultimately once the club has relocated, and the complex is built, we are no longer useful to him.

The bottom line is that neither Rokke or Winkleman care about anything other than their bank accounts. But worse than that, they are prepared to use our football club as a pawn to achieve their financial aims. WFC’s relocation lets Rokke make money, and lets Winkleman make money. But what does it do for WFC? Nothing.

An elaborate conspiracy theory? Maybe, but then maybe not. Are you prepared to trust them?