The Dons Trust board knows that many members are unsure where we currently stand with regard to representing our history at our new stadium. This follows regrettable inactivity by the board since this issue was discussed at April’s SGM.
As well as issuing this update, we are now advertising for a volunteer facilitator to take the lead on discussions to ensure that we end up with a museum at our new stadium that we can all be proud of.
For the avoidance of doubt, WISH are not yet partnered with the Dons Trust or the club.
In September last year, the Trust board was approached by a group of collectors who had over a number of years been collecting Wimbledon memorabilia and were now planning on forming an umbrella organisation called Wimbledon in Sporting History (WISH). The individual collectors were, they said, prepared to donate their collections and bring them under one roof provided the safety of the artefacts could be assured.
The embryonic WISH organisation sounded out the Trust board about the possibility of WISH displaying the unified collection in any museum at the club’s new stadium. Their proposal was to establish a charitable foundation that could possibly help the club by underpinning the museum and conducting history tours, etc.
Two representatives of WISH attended the December 2018 Trust board meeting and presented a broad outline of their idea. You can read a summary of the discussion in the minutes of the December 2018 board meeting. It was agreed that the group should return to the Trust board in March/April 2019 with more details so that the board could consider next steps. This would also give board members elected in December a chance to ask any questions they might have.
In early 2019, WISH published recruitment leaflets that said they were already ‘partnered’ with the club and the Trust. These were noticed by some Dons Trust members who in response submitted a members’ motion to the April SGM. They were concerned that any organisation working with the club and Trust on a museum should fall under the democratic control of the Trust, amongst other measures.
At the SGM, the members agreed to withdraw the motion. A discussion about the issue took place, summarised in the draft minutes of the April SGM. It was agreed that the Dons Trust board would set up a working group to bring together all sides.
However, since then the Dons Trust board has failed to establish a working group. Until very recently, the Dons Trust had no further official contact with either WISH or the members who submitted the motion.
During a conference call two weeks before its official August meeting, Trust board members agreed that they did not collectively have the capacity to take the lead on these discussions and should instead advertise for a volunteer to facilitate the discussions. This decision was ratified at the August board meeting.
In the meantime, WISH had been progressing with work to get themselves up and running. The Trust’s advert for a volunteer was about to be uploaded to the Trust website when WISH sent a draft service level agreement through to the Trust and the club. This prompted Trust board member Rob Crane to attend a WISH meeting held before the Accrington Stanley match to ‘fact find’ their latest state of play ahead of uploading the volunteer advert.
“I’ve now had a bit of contact with both WISH and the members who submitted the members’ motion in April,” Rob said. “My assessment is that actually the two sides aren’t that far apart. For example, WISH have said that they are willing to adapt their constitution to mirror that of the Foundation.
“The Foundation is an independent charity but the Trust retains ultimate control through its ability to nominate sufficient trustees to take control of it, if the need were to arise. A set-up like that might be ideal for any organisation running a museum at our new stadium, provided everyone was happy with it.
“But we’re conscious that there are no doubt a whole load of finer details that people would like to be tidied up before they feel entirely comfortable with the idea, and some Trust board members have questions of their own that they haven’t been able to officially raise since April.
“Despite that, we still don’t have the capacity to take the lead on this ourselves, so we’re going to go ahead and place the advert for a volunteer. Hopefully we can then crack on and get any museum set up and running soon after we move into the new stadium.”
Rob added: “Our history is something precious to all of us who went through events in 2002. The articles that were returned to Merton Council through the accord negotiated between that club in Milton Keynes and WISA are especially treasured. We need to be sensitive to any perception that anyone is trying to ‘own’ our history, no matter how misconceived those perceptions may be.
“There is the potential here to set up a vibrant museum that includes not just those items from the accord and items already in the club’s own possession, but also the items belonging to WISH, if we all emerge satisfied with the proposed set-up.”
WISH have been frustrated by the lack of action by the Trust board since April. As mentioned earlier, they have been getting themselves established and have indicated that, while they are willing to adapt their constitution to come under ultimate Trust control, they are going to press ahead with setting up as an independent organisation in the meantime.
The Dons Trust board has already wasted too much time and we now need to move quickly.
Do you have an interest in our club’s history? Are you good at facilitating discussions between different points of view and bringing people to a mutually agreed position?
If you do, please check out the advert elsewhere on this website. [This page was updated to remove the link to the advert after the opportunity closed on Wednesday 2 October.]