Dons Trust Board chair Matt Breach reports on a difficult issue affecting our club and how the board, with your help, proposes to tackle it.
Fans of AFC Wimbledon – and Wimbledon FC – have always prided themselves on supporting a family club, one with values steeped in the local community, open and welcoming to all. The fact that we also own our club has served to strengthen that sense of community and shared values. It is little wonder that Niall Couper called his first book The Spirit of Wimbledon!
Equally, we also all share a responsibility to safeguard the well-deserved reputation we have, both in and around our local area and across the wider footballing world. That reputation was not gained overnight, but unfortunately it can be lost in an instant.
In the Burton Albion matchday programme last month, under the headline “Throwing Away a Reputation”, AFC Wimbledon Chief Executive Erik Samuelson talked about the issues the club had to deal with following two incidents of individual fan behaviour at home games and the possibility of FA sanctions. Fortunately for us, the FA decided to take no action. At the Chesterfield away game, just a week after Erik’s piece appeared, the behaviour of a number of Wimbledon fans was, in the words of some our own fans, “alcohol-fuelled”. That may have led to more robust stewarding than we would normally expect. And at the Aldershot game last week, fans expressed concern at inappropriate chanting by some of our supporters, both in the ground and at Aldershot station.
At our March meeting, the Dons Trust Board discussed with the Football Club Board how we can best encourage and support our fans in ensuring that the lively, inclusive atmosphere we all want at home and away matches is maintained within the spirit and values of our club. The DTB unanimously supports a plan proposed by the FCB that will help to preserve our reputation as a family-friendly club.
First, we want to encourage our fans not to tolerate inappropriate behaviour by a minority. We are confident that the vast majority of you already feel this way, but we want everyone to know that you have the full support of both boards in this.
Second, we also recognise – and very much appreciate – that self-policing by some supporters when fellow fans occasionally step out of line has always taken place, and we know how successful this can be. So we will continue to encourage self-policing by fans, supported at home matches by well-briefed, sympathetic and supportive stewards. Of course, we understand that some fans will naturally feel more comfortable about doing this than others, but you have the Dons Trust Board’s full support should you feel it necessary.
The image of our wonderful club is in our hands; together we can ensure that it remains the envy of the football world.
Let the Dons Trust Board know what you think:
• Email the DT Board at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Post a comment on the Dons Trust website
A Wimbledon youth club / youth social evenings / youth forum may help to engage with some of the younger supporters, including those that may have been involved with the events that have been talked about.
If and when they are more involved in such a way, perhaps invited guests could meet with them, this could sell the value of representing the club passionately but positively – underpinning the damage that can be done through poor behaviour.
Guests for example, could include, of course players and management – highlighting the direct value to the team;
older supporters, who could give a respected history – highlighting the inheritance that younger supporters are gaining
Youth team players – peers highlighting the importance of accepting responsibility
When older supporters are involved in bringing the clubs reputation into disrepute, there could be a process for someone who has been banned, to regain access to match days. For example, a set number of hours voluntary work at the club / attending a workshop similar to the youth ‘forum’ above – eg. meeting with older supporters etc.
The aim would be for all supporters to feel they are part owners in this unique club of ours, and how that means abiding by a shared set of broad principles.
This would come under, I imagine the community and volunteer structure – that I believe is due to be evaluated / designed.
I would imagine that the players / managers views would have the most kudos amongst supporters. Perhaps there should be some personal comments from them in the program, on the website – should high profile incidents occur.