Andy SilvesterManifesto Andy Silvester

Proposers: Joe Roberts and Nic Webb

Finally, we are back in Wimbledon. It’s now time for us to ensure we become part of the fabric of Wimbledon, a successful, well-run business in the heart of the community. 

This season, with fans still banned from attending games, I’ve watched a number of our games on a laptop with friends in the Alexandra pub in Wimbledon. It’s been remarkable the number of people who have toddled over to ask what game we’re watching – and seemingly have no idea we exist. 

The work of all of those to get us to this point cannot be understated. 

To get a football ground built in Wimbledon, in a (for now!) mid-table position in League One, is an extraordinary achievement. Even when the outlook looks darkest, Dons fans spoke to Dons fans and built the Plough Lane Bond. When 2020 got weird, the Dons Local Action Group sprung into life – the perfect embodiment of what the club is about and why yellow and blue runs a little thicker through the blood of Wimbledon fans than other fans sometimes appreciate. 

We now need to build on that – putting the framework in place to ensure the club is well-run and secure for generations to come. 

That means becoming a more outward-facing organisation, engaging with our ‘new’ community in SW19 and nearby, and ensuring that all who come to the club as new or occasional fans become the season ticket holders, sponsors and evangelists of the future.

I spend my life scrutinising businesses as Deputy Editor of the business newspaper City A.M. The most successful companies are those that never become complacent, relentlessly  focus on their competitive advantage and are never shy of new ideas. 

We can only secure everything we have achieved so far by constantly striving to improve, on everything from our marketing communications to the matchday experience. By ensuring that we are as professional off the park as we (hope) we are on. 

The report into the club’s corporate governance from Imperial College’s Business School told us, to a degree, what many of us knew. The club’s governance structure “hasn’t evolved” since semi-professional ranks. A lack of “key performance indicators that align with club’s mid and long-term strategy.” A clear undercurrent that we are at a vital point in our history, building on the work of those who have got us here. 

It is not harsh to say that we need to adjust to our new role in the sporting world – and crucially it does not mean giving up on what makes us special: our competitive advantage.

We have an extraordinary story, an inspiring history, and an army of committed volunteers. We are blessed with a local catchment area that includes hundreds of thousands of families, with a new ground and a blank canvas upon which to build. The Dons Trust is a unique and special offering, and we shouldn’t be shy of bringing people into the club and the Trust. 

The question is now how we capitalise on that to ensure the club is no longer looking at playing budgets with trepidation. 

On the board, I would focus on three things:

  • Ensuring that our governance structure fits with the requirements of a million-pound turnover business, and that the board adequately monitors the performance of those in executive roles to ensure that clear KPIs are regularly met
  • Dramatically increasing our visibility in the community as we return to Plough Lane, capitalising on the club’s unique story to draw in those who believe football is all about £60 tickets and multi-millionaires
  • Making the new matchday experience a winning proposition to new and lapsed fans, particularly amongst young families, and capitalising on the community spirit at the heart of our club and embodied so wonderfully by the Dons Local Action Group.

As a journalist, I will also push for our communications with fans, local and national media to improve. Across the world, our return to Plough Lane should be news. 

My focus will be largely on evolution, not revolution. But the board must also be bold where it’s necessary to capitalise on a vital period for the club, marking our return home to the community that we have been detached from for so long.