What happened at the Dons Trust AGM

The annual general meeting of the Dons Trust, AFC Wimbledon owner, took place on Wednesday 10 December.

What proved to be a lively – and at times passionate – meeting began with the results of the 2014 Dons Trust Board elections. Candidates elected to the Board were Nigel Higgs, Matthew Breach, Kris Stewart, and Sean McLaughlin. The turnout of 32% was considered disappointing, and DT Chairman Matthew Breach said that the Board would be taking a look at possible reasons for this, and how turnout could be improved for next year.  It was also noted that Iain McNay had not stood for re-election to the DT Board after serving for eight successive years.  Iain was thanked for his significant contribution over that time.

There then followed nine resolutions.  The first two resolutions to be approved were the DT Accounts, and Appointment of Auditor.  Members then briefly discussed the AFCW PLC 2013/14 Annual Report and Accounts, before two resolutions to instruct the DT Board to approve the Accounts and Auditor at the AFCW PLC AGM.  There then followed four further resolutions to instruct the DT Board, with regard to the allotment of shares and disapplication of preemption rights at the AFCW PLC AGM.  These were required to ensure the Trust maintains the required level of ownership of the Club, should we pursue a Community Share issue.  All the resolutions were approved by members present and via proxy.

Resolution 9, originally proposed by a DT member, but brought to the meeting by the DTB, called on the Board to be much more prompt in publishing the minutes of its monthly meetings on the DT website. Several members expressed concern that there were often delays of months before Board minutes were posted online. Matthew Breach apologised on behalf of the Board, explaining that in the past year or so every meeting had discussed matters of great commercial sensitivity concerning the stadium. This had unfortunately created delays in getting draft minutes corrected and finally approved, further complicated by new volunteer minute takers, who inevitably had little prior knowledge of individuals involved, or the background to what were often complex discussions. Members approved the resolution by a large majority, with the Board readily agreeing to a new process whereby minutes of each DTB meeting would be published within 15 –30 days of that meeting and, on any occasion when this target is not met, to make an announcement on the DT website to explain why.

There then followed the AFCW PLC AGM.  After the break, the Board introduced three main items for discussion. The first concerned proposals to improve the organisation of Board business and to bring greater clarity to the relationship between the DTB and the Football Club Board. The intention was to enable the DTB to focus more on strategic and wider campaigning matters, whilst maintaining its primary role of overseeing the FCB and holding it accountable for the running of the Club. Matthew Breach said that the Board would table firm proposals at the next SGM.

The second item – a consultation on the possibility of introducing an Associate Director role to the Club – significantly raised the temperature of the meeting. The proposal had been discussed at the Dons Trust Board.  However the Board had been split on the benefits of this and had consequently decided to raise it as a discussion item at the AGM.  The aim of theproposal was to increase the playing budget by allowing wealthy individuals to become Associate Directors, in return for a significant annual payment to the Club of (say) £50,000-£75,000. These individuals would be able to attend FCB meetings, as well as receiving certain other privileges, but would have no voting rights.

The overwhelming majority of those who spoke to this item were passionately opposed, on the basis that AFC Wimbledon was fundamentally a fans-owned club and that allowing ‘non-fans’ to buy influence was against the values of the Club. However, a few members felt that it was an idea worth considering, with the benefits it would bring to the playing budget. There was also a view expressed that any such proposal should be the subject of consultation with all DT members.

Several Board members expressed their personal views – both in favour of and in opposition to the idea. Matthew Breach said that it had generated a clear split in Board opinion, but it would consider the views expressed by members in any further Board discussions. Matthew also confirmed that any Associate Director proposal would be the subject of a full consultation with all DT members.

Board member Mark Davis introduced the final DTB item, the season ticket pricing survey, Members were encouraged to complete the survey on the DT website, which is open until the end of December. The results would help the Board to consider proposals for future ticket pricing policy, which would be brought back to members in due course.

The last part of the meeting was an opportunity for the Football Club and Dons Trust boards to provide business updates, answer questions and be quizzed on matters uppermost in members’ minds.  Firstly, Matthew Breach said that, as part of the preparation for the Club’s planned move back to Merton, the Board anticipated a likely need to ask members to approve restricted actions. Club Chief Executive Erik Samuelson then gave an update on progress towards the new stadium, in particular the next steps following the submission of the planning application to Merton Council. He also answered questions about the future of Kingsmeadow, artificial pitches, safe standing and arrangements for the FA Cup tie against Liverpool.