From the Liverpool matchday programme

The following article appeared in the club’s official matchday programme for the game against Liverpool (played on January 5, 2015).

Back in the Third Round, if not in the wider interests

Dons Trust member Charlie Talbot explains how Liverpool’s win the last time they played Wimbledon sparked a chain of events that led to the formation of the trust and AFC Wimbledon.

It is nearly 15 years since the last competitive fixture between Liverpool and Wimbledon, in April 2000, when an Emile Heskey brace secured all three points for the Reds and left the Dons one place above the drop zone.

Quite a lot has happened since then. In fact, without relegation from the Premier League that summer it’s unlikely that Pete Winkleman and Charlie Koppel would have set the Milton Keynes franchising project in motion, so Liverpool’s failure to put away Bradford on the last day of that season could be said to have been the catalyst for the demise of Wimbledon FC. Not that we want today’s visitors to think we bear a grudge about that …

But from that demise came rebirth. The Dons Trust narrowly predates AFC Wimbledon, having been formed originally with the aim of achieving supporter representation on a Wimbledon FC board dominated by the interests of distant, disconnected owners who were hell-bent on moving the club to Milton Keynes. Of course, those owners had no interest in the views of fans and felt no affinity with the community that had spawned, nurtured and supported the team. Since those events of 2002, many Premier League and Championship clubs have been at odds with the interests of their fans, albeit without attempting anything quite as ludicrous as a full-scale relocation.

Less than six months into its existence, the Dons Trust was given a football club to run. Once four men had made some frantic phone calls to the London FA to draw up a checklist and register a name, and one supporters’ association chair had told a packed meeting that he thought it was time to “just watch some football again”, AFC Wimbledon was born.

So what does it mean to be a fans-owned club? The past few weeks have seen a lot of people desperately checking whether they are a still Dons Trust member, not because they wanted to vote or to attend a meeting, but because Dons Trust members and season ticket holders got ticket-buying priority for tonight’s game.

But the Dons Trust is so much more than a supporters’ group. Its board provides oversight and governance for the actions of the Football Club Board. And it proudly remains a one member, one vote organisation. Your membership gives you an important say in safeguarding the future of your football club. So don’t just join for the tickets – join to ensure that your voice can be heard!

We have already achieved so much on the pitch, regaining our Football League place within nine years. Now we are looking to achieve planning approval for our community stadium (read more about the Bring The Dons Home campaign). That’s arguably a more important battle for the club than attempting another famous giant-killing in the FA Cup.

But whatever the result tonight, Wimbledon are back in the Third Round of the FA Cup, nearly 13 years after Wimbledon fans were told by the FA’s own commission not to bother starting a new club when ours was franchised to Milton Keynes. (For any visiting fans who have read this far, we were told that “setting up a new club, as say Wimbledon Town, is not in the wider interests of football”.)

From Sandhurst Town away to renewing our acquaintance with Steven Gerrard (bet he never thought he’d play us again!), it’s been an incredible journey for the Dons Trust so far. But then it’s always been a weird and wonderful world if you come from Wimbledon.

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