AFC Wimbledon badgeSlowly but surely

Dons Trust Board vice-chair Rob Crane explains why there have been delays in making announcements about the progress of the crowdfunding initiative to help meet the cost of our new stadium.

Welcome back to the Cherry Red Records Stadium for the start of what, all being well, will be our final season here before returning home to Wimbledon – and what an amazing achievement that will be.

In 2002 we were told that AFC Wimbledon would not be “in the wider interests of football”. We were told that aiming to get back to the Football League was being naive. And we were told that returning home to Wimbledon was an impossible dream. It’s sometimes only when I stop, take a step back and reflect that I realise just how far we have come and what we are on the verge of achieving.

In the middle of May this year we received fixed-price costs for the new stadium from Buckingham Group Contracting. That triggered a period of immense activity, activity that will be ongoing as you read this, with the various sources of financing that we had got provisionally lined up (including the crowdfunding) now needing to be nailed down.

On 3 June we held an open meeting to reveal the latest plans and kick-start the pre-registration phase of the crowdfunding – the period during which people could sign up and indicate their willingness to be involved, without any commitment, ahead of the campaign going “live”. Quite justifiably, we received some criticism for not communicating what happened at that meeting more promptly, so let me briefly try to explain why that was.

The fact that the crowdfunding involves issuing more shares in AFCW PLC means that we fell under the constraints of the various pieces of corporate and securities law that relate to share issues, and this has prevented us from being as agile with our communications as we would have liked.

For instance, at one point during the summer I drafted what I thought was, frankly, a fairly run-of-the-mill update for the club’s official website about the progress of work on the stadium, just to let supporters know the state of play. We were told that we couldn’t release that update unless we first shared with the legal experts the detailed contract that lay behind the works, so that they could double-check the accuracy of what we were going to say.

I can see the logic of that: what we say about the stadium is, in a way, part of a “prospectus”, part of a promise that we are holding out to prospective shareholders. It makes sense that everything we say about it is first independently checked to make sure that we aren’t misleading prospective shareholders. But that didn’t make it any less frustrating for us.

The degree of scrutiny was compounded by the sheer volume of material that we were attempting to get signed off, which created something of a logjam. (Even this page, which doesn’t go into very much detail, has had to go through the same checks – hence the “disclaimer” text that we have to reproduce below.)

The crowdfunding should be “live” around the time you read this, accompanied by much more information. Hopefully you are all as excited about the possibilities as I am. We’ve got through that initial sticky patch. The focus now can be on rallying together to achieve what just a few short years ago still seemed an impossible dream.

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This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the pre-season games against Brentford/Bristol City.