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Two years on

This could become a regular feature on the 28th May. Like the Queen’s birthday, September 11th and some cup competition we won once, this very day is more symbolic than most.

Symbolism can be an ironic thing. As I write this, there are two major events relating to Wimbledon going on. One is the AFCW golf day, where people, er, play golf. For the cause of AFCW, obviously. And the other is the now seemingly traditional Soho Square gathering at the Football Association’s plush HQ. It’s a strange mix of events, but – two years since the 3 man commission bottled it – where AFCW is concerned, it only seems natural.

By rights, we don’t need to give the FA more grief, but the interest in such a gathering is still pretty high. Despite winning the CCL double, a more settled structure within the club, and the feeling that AFCW has been with us for eternity (I did find myself wondering what AFCW was doing 5 years ago, and not WFC), the feelings of betrayal and hate still abound. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that it will never die for many people, myself included.

You can’t underestimate the depth of hatred, nor can you tell people to “move on” – whenever Franchise’s plight is mentioned, for example Inland Revenue court cases, people sit up and take notice. And by that, I mean a LOT of people sit up, take notice, and make “informed” comments that sound more like wish lists. You know the sort of thing, “The Inland Revenue aren’t going to let this go”. “The judge will see through Franchise’s case”. I’ve done it, and I bet you have as well

And is this a good thing? Doesn’t it sound slightly obsessive? Actually, I think by hating Franchise still, it motivates people even more to make AFCW a success. It’s symbolic (that word again) that in the very week that Franchise bought their way out of admin, AFCW organised not only a golf day but a big parade in SW19/SM4. So big that the local paper splashed it over their front page. It’s a celebration and also a massive one-fingered salute rolled into one. People have that focus – they have the focus to make AFCW the highest it can be (witness Dave Anderson’s appointment, hardly the sign of a club willing to mill about in the CCL for eternity). They have the focus not to make the same mistakes as Franchise did with marketing – you thought that the parade was just a thanks for all of us? And they have the focus to – eventually – overtake Franchise on the playing side.

So what of AFCW since this time last year? The on-field stuff is self-explanatory. Things have settled down as an organisation, there is a hierarchy, a better sense of knowing who does what (for the main part anyway). Kris is now our CEO, whatever that is (he gets paid for it, another step towards professionalism). And generally, the club is well respected by its fans, which is unusual for a club called Wimbledon

There are problems of course. The Terry Eames saga worked out well for the board’s credibility : however, given the mood amongst many at the time, had TE managed to prove that he was wronged, the fanbase could have easily turned against those in charge. And then what?

Perhaps just as importantly, and this came up during the TE saga, the club still needs to know how to handle criticism, not only by outsiders but its own fans as well. I think it’s a result of the rather painful cross-over between being a club run by “mates” and one that is run as a business.

Puzzled? OK then. While AFCW is positioning itself as a football club, it then has to expect people to talk about it as though it’s a football club. Which does mean that people will say things about how contracts are written etc, whether AFCW likes it or not. That is part of the nature of being a football club – christ, look at the stick we gave WFC even when they weren’t acting like the devil incarnate.

The higher the club goes, the bigger the level of expectation, and (especially when you “sell” democracy as an AFCW birthright) the more inclined people will be to focus on perceived and/or real grievences. AFCW has to grasp this, and soon. If somebody is making a comment about administration issues, or the way the DT works, 99,999 times out of 100,000 it’s because the people making the comment care deeply about the club and want the best for it. It’s like the old arguments with football hooligans not being “real” fans, when in many cases it was them turning up to games that kept them afloat. Hello, Chelski.

While at the moment there is general reluctance to make a fuss about things (and having seen what happens when fuss is made, I’m not surprised that people keep quiet), it won’t last forever.

Generally, I think the club is a lot more professional than it was last season. It’s had to be. It’s too big to just be a friendly social-club-with-football-bolted-onto-it. Some people may rue the loss of some of the abject friendliness from this time last season, but in truth the club couldn’t have survived in that mentality. If/when AFCW becomes a Conference side, its makeup will be totally different from the AFCW you see at the moment. In fact, AFCW this time next season will be different from the AFCW currently holding the golf day.

As for now, though, you’ll be best off sitting back and watching Euro 2004 with your feet up. As Soho Square reminds us, we’ve come a helluva long way in two years, and when you’ve done the equivalent of a journey to the moon and back, you do need a rest.

And anyway, you can still laugh at Franchise.