Roger Evans looks back at the challenges that he and his fellow Dons Trust Board members have faced since he was first elected at the end of 2013.
After six years as a Dons Trust Board (DTB) member I have, with regret, decided not to stand for re-election. It has, however, led me to reflect on the progress, trials and tribulations the DTB has faced – and dealt with remarkably well – during that period.
In January 2014, AFC Wimbledon were in the lower half of League Two. The club had one of the lowest budgets in the League, and the Dons Trust members were deciding whether we should move back to Merton. A lot has happened since then.
Enjoyable cup ties
On the football front we were promoted to League One, and are now in our fourth season at that level. We have enjoyed cup ties against Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United (twice). We have come up against teams which ten years ago we could only have dreamt of playing; visits to the Stadium of Light, Ewood Park, Portman Road are memorable.
Since 2014, I have played an active role in the stadium development, notably with planning, contracting and raising funds. It has been highly challenging and has placed a huge demand on my time, but has nevertheless been both exhilarating and rewarding.
In December 2015, Merton Council’s Planning Committee approved our Section 106 application to build a new stadium in Plough Lane. The subsequent processes of planning and arranging funding for the ground have, inevitably perhaps, been a roller-coaster ride.
In April 2016, the Mayor of London unexpectedly called in our planning application. The delay took up valuable time and cost us a considerable amount of money.
Back in Two Ticks
I was delighted to play an active part in the Back in Two Ticks campaign, which ended with Dons Trust members voting, overwhelmingly and twice, to sell our ground, and approving a share issue, both decisions raising funds towards building the new stadium.
Only two of the current DTB complement of nine were board members when I joined. The replacement of all four existing board members who stood for re-election last year was a major upheaval and brought new, but different, skills to the DTB.
We appointed a new chief executive, with Erik standing down after giving such dedicated service to the club. We have also replaced our manager.
Looking ahead, what do I see as the challenges? Finance will be a major one. The running costs for the new stadium will be much higher, and that will most likely be coupled with loan repayments arising from our initial borrowing.
For 2019/20 we have our second-highest playing budget ever, yet it probably ranks in the bottom four in League One. Even maintaining that budget will be very difficult.
The Dons Trust will also need to ensure that the current club structure is right for meeting future challenges and demands. Communication is key.
Social media opportunities now are so different from what they were in 2014. We need to do all we can to utilise these opportunities and meet demands. At the same time, we all need to be realistic about the resources we can devote to this.
The last six years have been exhilarating, and I have enjoyed the privilege of DTB membership.
I would strongly encourage you to stand for election, particularly if you have leadership skills and can give the time. You will not regret it if you succeed!
(This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the game against Shrewsbury Town, played on Saturday 14 September 2019.)