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What if…?

Another from the occasional “What If…?” series.

To be honest, I’ve been meaning to write this particular one for a number of years now, but for various reasons haven’t. However, with a cursory glance at the Sky Sports schedule tonight, I feel it’s time to exorcise this particular demon.

So, what if………………


It’s May 28th 2002. After a year of mentally and physicially exhausting protesting, the 3-Man Commission have finally made their decision. Rumours were circulating on the internet messageboards beforehand that the move had been given the go-ahead. However, that’s all they proved to be – rumours. The “source” of this was somebody trying to be funny at such a sensitive moment – needless to say, they never showed their cyberface again.

At 11.23am of that morning, the first news came through on the wires – the 3-Man commission had turned down the move. Wimbledon FC was saved yet again. The hours of work put into the submissions paid off. WISA were both relieved and vindicated. Some more pissups down Wimbledon way were planned. Yet again, we’d done it.

Koppout and co had yet another setback, as the following words in a short yet churlish press release proved:

“We are naturally disappointed that the Commission has decided to turn down our arguments to move to Milton Keynes. We believe that in deciding this, the club is therefore in great financial peril.

“The club will endeavour to continue where possible with this move”.

No hint of an apology to the support, no attempts to engage with alienated parties, nothing.

So, then what? Firstly, a bit of historical context. Before 28/5/02, everyone was close to breaking point. There was real tension in the air, in particular over a planned boycott of season tickets. Some argued that the club must be denied money and support, whilst others supported the notion that it was playing exactly into Koppout’s hands, and was supplying him with the ammo he needed to try again. Whatever the arguments, one thing was clear – this wasn’t over yet.

In fact, things would have gotten a lot, lot worse before they got better…

The first thing that the club under Koppout (this terminology is deliberate) would have seen was a semi-boycott of season tickets. In effect, the first real split in the support which had been surprisingly unified. Yes, there was the sit-down-it-will-never-happen-brigade, but even they had a prang of consciousness when the shit really was about to hit everyone.

Koppout would have sensed this, and ramped up the volume again. You see, Koppout and Wankie were that determined to get the move going ahead. But then, they weren’t the only ones.

One of the most often-forgotten things, and perhaps our one big tactical mistake in all of this, was that Koppout was the monkey to KIR’s organ grinder. Roekke would have simply replaced Koppout if it really came to it, and imposed somebody else stupid enough to take the ire, perhaps not even based in the country. If we’d targetted him too, who knows what would have happened? In all likelyhood though, he would have just simply dug his heels in as well, in the following manner.

So, before the start of the 02/03 season, he would have announced that Wimbledon FC was to go to court to overturn the 3-Man Commission. The money to fund it would have come not only from Wankie’s end, but also from the transfer budget earmarked for that season.

Vindictive? Yes, but more on that later. For the present, the money that various parties were supposed to make through the move going ahead, and that was their main focus. The press releases from WFC, which had long ceased to pretend any sort of redemption, now just read like open naked antagonism:

“Wimbledon FC wishes to signify its intention to take legal recourse upon the proposed relocation to Milton Keynes, with immediate effect. The club believes that all attempts to prevent this move are not grounded in company law, and will therefore be mounting rigourous challenges for the forseeable future.

“In lieu of this, the budget of Wimbledon FC will be reviewed as appropriate”.

Now, my legal knowledge only extends to sitting on jury service recently, but there would have been two major flaws in this (from a non-legal point of view). Firstly, it was well known at this time that the rest of the footballing fraternity were starting to get pissed off with Koppout’s antics. They had already been forced to pay up for one of the previous rejected attempts, and now it was getting beyond silly.

It’s impossible to see how or what the League (and various football authorities) could do in response to this – suspend the club’s licence? I genuinely don’t know in this, but whatever the course of action, the likely sanctions put on would have been welcomed by the (vast) majority of us.

Second major flaw would have been Koppout himself. OK, I mentioned earlier he was the puppet, but he still had the responsibility of getting it all through in the first place. It’s often claimed he was a lawyer – actually, he wasn’t. He had a qualification in law, but that’s not the same thing. One credible rumour going around at the time was that Koppout tried to do something at a previous job, messed it up so badly that his daddy (Montague Koppout) had to bail both the company and his nipper out. So needless to say, the brains in the family weren’t passed down.

I believe that he would have shown an amazing ability to combine vindictiveness and incompetence. When you think about it logically, what actually happened on 28/5/02 was either the biggest stroke of luck going or something far more sinister from elsewhere. As in, beyond the capabilities of Koppout and Wankie.  Had he and the rest of them not “won” on that fateful day, the chances of the move to the Midlands happening would have been less and less.

But still not making our own WFC experience pleasant.

Anyway, whatever legal action he would have taken, one of two things would have happened. Firstly, if the lawcourts had ruled in his favour, then AFCW would have just started after that, just like it did on the 29th May 2002. I still believe that plans for AFCW were in cold storage even as far back as 2001, ready to move quickly if need be. It’s not online any more, but if anyone still has Weird and Wonderful World’s comments from the 28th May 2002, they’ll know why I said that.

If the lawcourts followed everyone else and told Koppout and KIR and co to piss off, this is when things start getting nasty. Koppout and co were already operating a scorched earth policy before 28/5. Witness Terry Burton’s sacking when he played somebody he shouldn’t (appearance fees), or David Neilsen getting loaned to Norwich (against the wishes of the management team) then scoring against us. In one of those macabre sort of ironies, them getting the go-ahead on that day was probably the worst possible time for them to get approval*

* – what I mean is, their conduct seemed to suggest that they were going to lose on 28/5, and winning caught them out.

After a failed legal challenge, Koppout and co would have had nowhere else to go. So, there would have been a systematic plundering of anything and everything to do with Wimbledon FC as “punishment”. Any player of value would have been sold off, presumably for relative peanuts. The reserve team may have been scrapped “to save money”. Even the much vaunted WFC youth system wouldn’t have been immune from the targetted wreckage.

Marketing? Forget it. Sponsorship? Stop laughing. Whether Koppout would have been pulled back by this stage by KIR is unclear, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way. The aim by this stage (let’s assume the 04/05 season) would have been to totally destroy the club. The money didn’t matter by this stage, it had already been written off. The actual squad may still be in the Championship, but more likely in League One because of the off-field shit.

Why would they have done this? Surely they could have somehow – somehow – repaired WFC?

The truth is, even if they’d wanted to they couldn’t have rebuilt bridges with the supporters. If things were at a low ebb in 2002, you can imagine the level of mistrust if things had continued as they were. Remember, the reality was that during the embryonic AFCW period, many WFC shareholders were still causing grief to the club that had taken its league place. Ask anyone in a certain meeting around that time about the conduct of one Mr R Davis of Wolverhampton…

There was also the small matter of the Dons Trust forming, which was something that I believe scared the WFC hierarchy. Their premise was that fans weren’t capable of running a club. And they were, obviously. Therefore, there was more than a move at stake, credibility and egos were on the line too.

While all the above scenarios were panning out, the DT would have been building up enough contacts and investors to try and buy at least part of WFC. In 2004/05 (soon after the failed legal challenge) it would have made its initial bid to get a 20-30% share in WFC. It would have been rebuffed, and the wrecking spree would have gone on like a demented rhino on heat.

See, by this stage KIR and his lackeys would have just wanted the DT to be left with a complete mess of a club. If they couldn’t get MK, the next best thing from their point of view was to give the supporters a practically dead club. One that would have been horrifically in debt, with money to Hammam (yes, he was still getting paid off WFC even as far back as 2002) and other little financial booby traps set for any unsuspecting poor sod.

The Dons Trust would have eventually (part) bought WFC by about the end of 2005. There would have been at least two or three investors interested, there always are whenever a club is in major shit. Its first (symbolic) move would have been to officially announce the pursuit of MK by WFC was over. That would have been the easy part…

WFC by this stage would have been in administration, or at least close to it, in League One. It might have possibly be in League Two, in the same precarious position. In other words, exactly what Franchise did between 2002 and 2007.

It would have taken on an absolute basket case of an outfit. Initially, moves would have been made to resurrect the youth policy, reserves, hell anything just to get some resemblance of stability going.

There would have been fundraising drives just to start clearing the multi-million pound debts that had been left, though perhaps without the focus of the majority of support that the AFCW era brought too. Lest we forget that a fair number of people were blase (or worse) about the protests in 2002 and would have just reverted back to type by then. If the AFCW era has proved mentally exhausting, the WFC era would have been even more of a strain.

But the club would have eventually stabilised, perhaps as early as 2007. Finally, for everyone concerned, the nightmare would have been over. There would have been the Selhurst problem still to solve, but at least when all was said and done, we could still watch our team in somewhere sort-of-near our local area………………………………………..

Thinking and reading back, if getting AFCW up and running was a mammoth task, taking hold of and stabilising WFC may have been almost impossible. It might have been kinder all round had Koppout and KIR have just pulled the plug on WFC in 2004 – the AFCW experience demonstrates the very real relief of a clean slate.

I did say “might” though, and in all honesty we would have put up with the shit I’ve suggested just to get our club back. One thing I didn’t mention in this article was how vulnerable we would have been to a suggestion that we should move to Dartford instead. Remember that around 2000 there was seemingly a story every week about us getting linked to Dartford or Basingstoke (or indeed, Celtic “buying” our league place) on top of everything else.

Quite simply, we were a collective nervous wreck, and AFCW may have ultimately saved our sanity.

The most startling conclusion is that WFC in 2009/10 wouldn’t have been much worse off league wise than Franchise are right now. Since 2002, they’ve gone into admin, their stolen Championship place very quickly turned into a League Two place, and the move hasn’t quite gone the way they wanted. Not forgetting the fact that they are a lot more hated than their PR machine wants you to believe. This considering all the turmoil that WFC between 2002 and 2009 would have been under.

And who knows, AFCW in 2011 could be in the same place as WFC would have been….