by David Challinor
(SW19 Note : This article is adapted from an email sent to me by DC. It’s self explanatory. I have also posted said text on WISA Chat, and forwarded it to WISA as well, and I hope that this is followed up fully)
Dear WFC Supporter,
I write to propose a fresh campaign all Dons fans could get involved in during next season and beyond.
As you know it was a sad irony that our team’s relegation from the Premiership happened 12 years to the day since the most celebrated date in the club’s history – winning the FA Cup in 1988. Next season there is an anniversary which reminds us of a less glorious part of our past: I refer of course to May 4 1991, the day our first team played its last game at our own ground – for the time being. During the 2000-2001 campaign it will be ten years – yes, ten years – since we had a home game and I think it is high time we, the fans and the wider football community, reminded not only ourselves of this fact, but our board and those in power that might help us find a new home.
With our new owners on our side, it is timely to bring up the question of moving from Selhurst Park in a united and well co-ordinated manner. Anyone who has a copy of last season’s final ‘home’ game programme will not need reminding of what our chairman’s thoughts are, but for those of you who missed it, this is what Bjorn (Gjelsten) had to say …
‘We really need to find a home of our own’ and after building a new stadium for Molde … ‘Now we’ve got the same ambitions for Wimbledon’.
I know I am not alone in thinking Bjorn is as good as his word and I think 2000-2001 is the right moment to show those who now own the club not only what we want, but also that we can motivate ourselves to realise our joint goal. Remember, the new owners were not around during the Plough Lane era, or for that matter the first half of the 1990s. And for many Dons fans, despite the good work of WFC fan groups (especially WISA), a permanent home has become something of a distant dream. However, there’s no time like the present, and the 2000-2001 season is the RIGHT time to remind Bjorn and his colleagues we’re right behind their efforts. Look at the energy of our loyal support at Bradford and Southampton last season – surely we can channel that into something we and the club can one day be proud of.
Additionally, after speaking to Terry Burton on Tuesday (June 27) following his appearance on BBC Radio 5 Live’s ‘Any Sporting Questions’ I’m sure he wants a new stadium too, but of course that’s not his only, or his most important goal. While he and his players are getting on with their job of trying to achieve Premiership status for WFC, I feel it is our job to join with our board in seriously seeking a new place where we can all be proud to welcome fellow fans to see ‘the Dons’.
Fine words, but how can we get this message across? A new effort – with the aim to emphasise the fans new hope for a new ground – could take many shapes, but my suggestion is to place the message that it’s been ‘ten long years’ foremost in our argument. Collectively, we must try to get as many groups – ourselves, our board, other fan groups, the media, sympathetic politicians – behind our effort. Our aim cannot be harmed if all these, plus any other influential sources, can feel sympathy for, and be motivated by, our cause.
My ideas (and I’m sure other fans have their own welcome contributions to make) include: Our story * Press releases sent to newspapers papers, football magazines/programmes throughout next season highlighting our memorable heritage, the fact that we have been playing away for so long, and our hopes for the future. This could be what they call in PR a ‘drip-drip-drip’ effort, and would need some thought to put together, but coincide, for example, with our away games this season. Our future * The publicity to include young WFC fans – possibly who are ten years old themselves [ any of you have WFC supporting off-spring who were born on May 4 1991! ]. Certainly those who HAVE NEVER BEEN TO A HOME GAME. On the positive side they epitomise the optimistic spirit we should all try to have for the future of the Dons, despite the traumas of last season.
Another part of the campaign’s publicity could take in quotes from these youngsters…how about:
‘My dad went to Plough Lane to see Wimbledon play, but I wasn’t even born then. When I grow up I want to be a professional footballer – but I’d love to see my team play at home before my 18th birthday!’
‘A friend at school is a Charlton fan – if they can do it why can’t we?’
‘I’m 10 and a half and a Wimbledon fan. I’ve been to Disneyland in America, and on holiday to France and Spain but I’ve never seen my team play a game at home…’
‘I’ve only see pictures of Wimbledon playing at their old ground. I like Selhurst and enjoy going to see my team there, but I think having our own ground would be even more exciting.’
Fictional quotes, I know, but you get the drift. Being emotive is all part of the football fans experience, and there is surely no more emotional feeling football than a displaced club ‘going home’. Joining with fans from other clubs to drive the message home with meetings etc. I’m sure many fans out there WOULD support our efforts. Look at fellow fans support for teams like Chester City and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Remember, we are one of THE most remarkable clubs in England – many fans know of our achievements by simply looking at our list of ‘honours’ in the front of every Dons programme. They set out a clear testimony to our unique position in England’s football history. This could be incorporated into a 2000-2001 publicity campaign for other team’s programmes/fanzines (this would ‘top-up’ the campaign through the year) …for instance WFC Did you know? * Away fans know of our fame, but do they additionally know facts like, as a non-league team, we are the only post-war club to beat an top division side away from home (Burnley 1975) etc? The stats * Part of our publicity could be how many matches we’ve played away from home, how many days it’s been, how many minutes etc Our campaign could culminate at the final ‘home’ league game on May 6 Vs Norwich (then it really will be ‘ten years on’).
To summarise, the time is definitely right for a new push for a new home. And to repeat, while Terry and the boys do everything they can to achieve promotion we – and those that own WFC – should start to concentrate collectively to find our new place in football’s future. We should set ourselves – and the club’s owners – a target to be kicking off a new season one day soon in a new home….and a lot sooner than May 4 2010 ! Thanks for reading this – I just hope I’ve set the ball rolling.
‘COME ON YOU DONS’
Email address: [email protected]
(This letter/e-mail has been sent to: David Barnard, Tony & Joy Brooks, Terry Burton, P Cork, Kenny Cunningham, Reg Davis, Robert Dunford, Robbie Earle, Bjorn Gjesten, M Hauger, Wayne Hurley, C Koppel, J H Lelliott, Mark Lewis, P J B Miller Stanley Reed, Steve Rooke, Sharon Sillitoe, WFCSA, WISA, Xavier Wiggins)