Holding the club board to account

Dons Trust Board vice-chair Rob Crane explains how the Dons Trust works with the Football Club Board to keep everything moving along on the correct course.

Most Wimbledon fans, I would hope, know that the Dons Trust is the organisation that owns AFC Wimbledon. But on a day-to-day basis, how does the elected Dons Trust Board hold the (unelected) Football Club Board to account?

Traditionally, the split has been that the DTB looks after the strategic direction of the club, while the FCB looks after the day-to-day operational issues, but it’s not always been as clear-cut as that.

Sometimes there’s been a blurring of those boundaries, with individual DTB members helping with specific operational projects such as the introduction of the club’s customer relationship management (CRM) software a couple of years ago.

Regular meetings

The FCB – currently comprising club chief executive Joe Palmer, commercial director Ivor Heller, operations director David Charles and non-executive director Mick Buckley – meets every other Wednesday morning for a senior management meeting.

Once a month there is a formal club board meeting that is also attended by either the DTB chair (Mark Davis) or its vice-chair (myself).

These meetings cover a fairly broad range of topics – anything do with the accounts, football issues and the new stadium can appear on the agenda. Wally Downes regularly joins these meetings to discuss football issues.

A week after each of those monthly meetings, the DTB hold its monthly meeting. The first part of each of these meetings is attended by Joe Palmer, and other club directors also attend depending on what is on the agenda, so that DTB members can raise any issues with them.

Discussion focuses on a report that gets prepared by the FCB every month and outlines all the major topics that have arisen during that month.

Every three months, the club’s management accounts get sent to the DTB for scrutiny. These accounts show how the club is performing against its budget for the season and are an important way of judging the club’s financial health.

Working together

An example of how the club and the Trust are acting in a more concerted way is with the new stadium project. Since the start of March, a weekly meeting has taken place that brings together representatives of the two boards: Joe and Mick from the FCB, and Mark, myself, Roger Evans, Colin Dipple and Luke Mackenzie from the DTB. We’re also joined at these meetings by our project manager, Joe Giordano.

My perception is that this is really helping to drive the project forward and promote “joined-up thinking” in a way that wouldn’t be possible if it were left to one board or the other to take the lead.

During the recent process of appointing Joe Palmer as chief executive, I was impressed by his emphasis on a “one club” approach. Fan ownership is at the heart of what we are as a club, and, so far as I am concerned, the more we can promote this the better, while at the same time bringing the two strands of the club together.

(This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the game against Wycombe Wanderers, played on 27 April 2019.)