Plough Lane AFC Wimbledon FansStrategic Thinking

As we get ever closer to moving into our new home, Matthew Breach, deputy chair of the Dons Trust Board, gives an update on the Board’s plans for refreshing the AFC Wimbledon club strategy.

Why does any football club need a “strategy”, you may well ask? Surely, climbing as high up the league structure and winning as many trophies as possible is a good enough objective? For many clubs and their owners that’s enough, fixated as they are on getting their hands on a share of the riches on offer in the Premier League. But as a members-owned organisation formed because our original club was removed from our community, the Dons Trust has always taken a wider view of what constitutes a strategy. The development of our Academy and Foundation are examples of how that wider view has determined the club’s direction.

The first formal attempt to understand what the DT membership really wants for our club was undertaken in 2010/11. As there were a number of very different factors to take into account, some of which were “mutually contradictory” (for example, promotion was highly desirable, and that might require significant investment, but fan ownership was all-important, so how would we fund promotion …), a novel approach to understanding fans’ priorities was used. Known as consensus voting, this is a process developed by NEF (the New Economic Foundation) to enable members of organisations who have a variety of often conflicting opinions to find common ground and move forward. NEF prepared a survey that presented DT members with six scenarios embodying different combinations of key factors: ambition, funding, ownership, location, transport and support/community. Members were asked to rank the scenarios in order of preference, and the results allowed the DT’s survey team (under NEF guidance) to extract the key priorities in order. The headline results were that the two most important priorities for DT members were to remain a fans-owned club and to look to move back to Wimbledon.

These results, together with a review of the club’s organisation and set-up, led to the development of a strategy during 2011 that was presented to members for approval at that year’s DT AGM. This strategy included a vision statement, a set of values, key aims, and a full set of objectives and actions that were geared towards delivering those aims. Further updates of (in particular) the objectives and actions were done in 2012 and 2013, but by late 2013 the work of the club and the Trust had become increasingly concerned with progressing the new stadium project whilst remaining financially independent – the strategic priority according to members. Because of this, the strategy has been left largely unreviewed during the five years that have passed as we have all been focused on our new home.

“Now that we have some breathing space, this is a perfect time to look to refresh our strategy”

This year we have managed to clear most of the hurdles associated with the new stadium project – the site is now almost completely cleared, and construction should start in the relatively near future. Now that we have some breathing space, this is a perfect time to look to refresh our strategy, given that one of the key priorities for members is now being delivered: the return to Wimbledon. Currently, the Survey Working Group is looking at shortlisting the areas we think should be considered (e.g. ambition, funding, community, ownership, youth policy, wider football governance) for discussion with the club and Trust boards and to get feedback from members. We will then conduct an exercise, similar to the one undertaken in 2010/11, for which we will develop various scenarios for members to rank in a survey. From the results, we will be able to determine their current priorities, and we will then fully update the club’s strategy (vision, values, aims, objectives and actions) and present it to the membership for approval.

Get involved

If you are interested in getting involved with this exercise, or indeed the wider activities of the Survey Working Group, please get in touch with me at matthew.breach@thedonstrust.org and tell me about your interest and background. I’ll also be at the DT Kiosk before the home game against Bradford this Tuesday evening if you would like to discuss any of this with me in person.

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