One of the jobs that falls to Dons Trust Board members is to represent the Trust at a few away games each season – and that can be quite interesting, as board member Roger Evans explains.
Whenever the Dons play an away game, the club we are visiting provides hospitality and match tickets for our directors and their guests. This is usually for about ten people. The Dons Trust Board (DTB) is given either one or two places, the number depending partly on how many are made available to us. We do, of course, reciprocate when we are playing at home.
The DTB has a rota for duties to be undertaken during the season, and one of them is to be present in the opposition club’s boardroom at away games. In practice, we do this about six times a season (and for two clubs we do not take up the offer). This pre-match “duty” includes lunchtime hospitality, about 90 minutes before kick-off, and this often gives us the chance to chat with the other club’s directors and their guests. The guests often include playing legends from that club. Several clubs are owned by local business people, but some owners are from overseas. There is usually a dress code of jacket and tie – though we are less prescriptive when we are hosting, smart casual being the order of the day.
“Almost without exception, the hosting club knows something of the history of AFC Wimbledon and is extremely complimentary about what we have achieved and how our club is run.”
Although dressing up for away games is not every DTB member’s cup of tea, these visits do give us an opportunity to promote our club. Almost without exception, the hosting club knows something of the history of AFC Wimbledon and is extremely complimentary about what we have achieved and how our club is run. Rarely do they know the full story, though, so these are golden opportunities to inform them and to “sell” AFC Wimbledon.
One of my favourite clubs to visit is Bradford City, who have a number of “club ambassadors”. From the moment we arrive they look after us well, and there is a welcoming speech as we sit down for lunch. Sheffield United provided a memorable day a couple of seasons ago when a group of former Wimbledon FC players and Dave Bassett organised a reunion at Bramall Lane, next to the directors’ box. And it’s not unusual for a former player of ours to turn up in the boardroom – sometimes they are working for the opposition!
When I first started attending away matches as a Dons Trust representative, I expected other clubs’ directors’ areas to be grand. A few are, for example at ex-Premiership clubs, but more often than not they are modest – and a few are even less glamorous than ours. Sometimes, during and after the match, it can be difficult to keep your emotions under control – depending, of course, on the result (that was certainly the case up at Accrington Stanley when we won the second leg of the play-off semi-final). And after the game and a post-match cup of tea, we say our farewells and it’s back to the train or the car.
As you may well imagine, there are stories to be told, and many of them, for diplomatic reasons, shouldn’t be divulged. I can mention a couple, though. One season we had an early kick-off on a bank holiday. The opposition chairman was unaware of this and turned up at half-time. At one match I arrived with an overnight bag. A steward mistook me for an official photographer, but only after I found myself being ushered into the press area did his mistake become clear!
These are tremendous opportunities to spread the message of our great club, and as a member of the DTB it is a privilege to be able to do so. Come on you Dons!