Well, for better or worse, we’ve now committed ourselves to buying Kingsmeadow for Â£3m by 31/12/02. As you probably should all know, this was decided at the Dons Trust’s SGM, which whilst not full up was extremely well attended.
I suppose I could bore you all with the ins/outs of the meeting, like the knowledge that Â£9k is raised by Golden Goal, or that the DT is going to be the first supporters trust to get a “social audit”, whatever that is, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll give my $0.02 on this whole thing. Don’t expect it to be totally structured though.
Firstly, I’ll state this from the off : I have ZERO problem at playing at Ks. I like it a lot, reminds me of Plough Lane in many ways and I always have thought that it would be wonderful to have a ground like that. However, something bothers me about all this.
Inbetween all the talk of fundraising exercises, like jumping out of aeroplanes – I’m sure plenty will pay for me to do it, most likely without the parachute – I detected a slight reluctance (or realisation) after the euphoria of voting for it. Now, I was pretty amazed that it was as high as 90% or so in favour, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was certainly clear from the DT board on stage that they wanted people to vote that way. But I just can’t help feeling that there was a “what the hell have we got ourselves in for?” vibe afterwards. Fear? Apprehension? Repressed excitement?
In a nutshell, every person in Wimbledon Theatre last night will need to stump up Â£3k each. We basically need to raise Â£3m, and we have Â£250k already for it. Already, I’ve noticed a problem – never mind the fact that getting Â£3k is nigh on impossible for many people, it seems like the figure has already changed from Â£4m from the initial press release :
“However, we estimate that we need to raise Â£3m to buy Kingsmeadow and make necessary renovations. A further Â£1m will be needed to increase the capacity to 6,000”
As cut-and-pasted from the AFCW official site. We’ll need it to be 6k capacity for the Conference. Now, are people going to have to dig deep into their pockets again? Are there any hidden extras that could jump out at us which haven’t been considered?
I have to say, Â£3m for an existing site in South West London is cheap. Very cheap. In fact, it seems too cheap. Why does (say) Plough Lane cost Â£14m and is subsequently unviable (and I’ll come onto that in a minute) yet a similar plot of land in dare I say a richer area of London is a fraction of that? I know that negotiations have – reportedly – been quite favourable with Khosla and for that alone it’s to be welcomed. And I suppose there are restrictions on Kingsmeadow’s use which makes it that price. Even so, Â£3m seems too good to be true..
I suspect that at least part of the reason why people voted for the ground buyout yesterday was more to do with fear as much as a moving forward platform caused by a unique situation. As soon as the words “Noades” and “Ron” were mentioned you could smell panic. Indeed, if you had waved a blank cheque in front of people last night as soon as Uncle Ronald’s name was mentioned I bet that somebody would have written a kite for Â£3m there and then. It’s perfectly understandable of course, Noades’ record with football clubs is reprehensible at best, and I think the sheer feeling of security motivated people as much as anything. Which I can fully appreciate, after all a nomadic lifestyle isn’t always the best for a football club. And yes, being able to borrow money against an asset is a nice feeling for once, though I really hope we don’t need to start doing that. Additionally, I heard mentioned that if we don’t buy Ks somebody like a rugby club could. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
And if you WERE thinking what I was thinking, you’d immediately tune into the word “Merton”. Now, I’m going to be controversial here and actually not make too much noise about returning to our own borough. Why? Quite simply, I want to take up the SWG’s offer of seeing what conclusions they’ve made. I won’t say much more.
Coincidentally, if you really want to be cheeky, T&M aren’t in the best shape…..
Last night as well showed a deffo paternalistic attitude towards Ks themselves. Now, I don’t want to see any club fucked about, been there done that got the stretch-fit t-shirt, but the point seems to be missed : if Ks go under, it will be their fault and their fault alone. It won’t have that much to do with us, much in the same way as having Celsi on our doorstep was never any excuse for us not to do any marketing. I’m intrigued as to how us and Ks will co-exist : we obviously don’t want to screw them about at all but at the same time, will they be happy with us nicking potential supporters? How popular are we with the average Ks fan? Grateful for us bailing them out, I’m sure, but I hope we don’t get too self-congratulatory over this. If the shoe was on the other foot, I wonder how people would feel?
With Khosla, he doesn’t need to sell Ks. He’s independently wealthy, reportedly. He has also offered to make up a certain shortfall by 31/12/03. Which is good of him, though we shouldn’t rely on that.
Although my reasons for voting for a continued groundshare were explained previously, I was interested to hear another justificiation for it – still groundshare and try and push the price down even further.
Quite simply, this HAS to work. If it doesn’t, kiss goodbye to AFCW. I really do genuinely fear of the fallout if it doesn’t happen – could people ever put money in again? Last night’s lawyer bloke spelt it out in stark terms – people really could lose Â£3k of their own money.
Anyway, the die has been cast and we’ve got to live with it. So, how actually are people going to raise Â£3m? It’s becoming pretty obvious that some sort of fundraising issue is going to happen, which is bound to offend some peoples’ sensibilities. The most likely option I would imagine is a share issue, with perks added as well. Last night hinted that the DT would be the main bods still as their shares would be heavily weighted in their favour. Other than that, I really cannot see how funds will be raised without getting some external investment. Granted, I never subscribed to the “by the fans for the fans” mantra of AFCW, it was always going to be challenged whenever something like this came up. Not that I have a problem at all with external investment one bit, it’s par for the course in the business world and I would imagine that some ideals will have to be compromised. One thing though, money always equals influence….
Other than that, there isn’t really much more I can say. I’m still even now trying to place my finger on why this doesn’t feel entirely right. I’ve been told to be “realistic” though as I will willingly repeat, if we’d been realistic on 28/5/02 we’d be planning our M1 excursions. That’s why I never buy the “we can’t return to Merton” thing. I guess I really cannot make that leap of faith over Ks, the memory of Selhurst Park will never let me accept being at somebody else’s ground. Either that or I really AM an awkward bastard 🙂