How to fund a competitive playing budget – that was the big issue at this year’s annual general meeting, and there was a rather controversial proposal up for discussion. David Reeves reports.
(This article was originally published in the Oxford Utd matchday programme on 29 December 2012)
The Annual General Meeting is the occasion on which, among other things, the Dons Trust Board (DTB) presents to the membership the previous year’s accounts. And at this year’s AGM, held on Thursday 13 December, it was finance that dominated the evening – or at least the question of how a fans-owned club like ours can raise the playing funds to remain competitive in the Football League.
The DTB has been publicising this issue for some time. AFC Wimbledon Chief Executive Erik Samuelson wrote in the Rotherham programme of the challenge that faces us next season of giving Neal Ardley a competitive playing budget without incurring a deficit of £150,000 to £200,000.
The agenda for this AGM had originally included a resolution to offer associate directorships on the Football Club Board (FCB), in return for an annual fee. However, in response to feedback from members, the DTB agreed not to proceed with the resolution but to use the AGM as an opportunity to engage members in a debate around this key question: what can we do to raise new funds to help us be competitive as a league club, while remaining a fans-owned club, as strongly directed by our membership?
Here are some of the main points that were discussed:
Remaining a Football League club is a must – losing that status might imperil our chances of a new stadium in Merton.
- The DTB acknowledged that the idea of associate directorships was “on the edge” of possible funding methods for a fans-owned club. But other clubs, including some fans-owned, found it a valuable source of funds, and if adopted by us these directorships would be designed so that associate directors would have no power in the club, or even the right to vote.
- Some members thought there still was a risk of undue “power and influence”, and unless the role was very clearly defined, it would be difficult to curtail an individual associate director’s influence on the FCB. The DTB’s view was that associate directors would bring valuable skills, experience and contacts into the club. Each potential associate director would be interviewed and recommended by the FCB, and the proposed appointment reviewed and approved by the DTB. And ultimately, if the membership didn’t feel the DTB had got it right, it could use the election process to say so.
- Some members thought that fans should be the focus for renewed fundraising. Once they knew the position, supporters would happily put their hands in their pockets. There was also a suggestion of a “fans’ player”, paid for by supporters.
- The DTB agreed that they needed to engage the fanbase more in the issue, and could usefully build on the example of the new Blue & Yellow Club, which has an annual membership fee of £1,000 and raises funds specifically for players. But it was concerned about having to ask fans to raise considerable additional funds – perhaps around £200,000 – every season.
The DTB came away from the AGM with a clearer understanding of the arguments. They thank the members who attended for their candour, and hope they found the debate equally valuable. The DTB will use the next members’ consultation to get wider opinion on this important issue for our club. But don’t forget: you can have a say only if you are a Dons Trust member. So there’s never been a more important time to join the Trust. Details are here.
The AGM is normally the meeting at which the DTB announce the successful candidates from the board election. This year there were only four nominations for the five vacancies, so there was no election. The meeting ratified the nominations of Matt Breach, Iain McNay, Sean McLaughlin and Kris Stewart.
Simon Bath and Kate Terriere decided not to seek re-election. The Board thanks Simon and Kate for their hard work and contributions during their time on the DTB.