Graham StaceyDons Trust Programme notes – Gillingham 30/7/22

You know what we did last summer?

The Dons Trust Board’s Graham Stacey takes a look at what has been happening behind the scenes over the summer break.

While the club has been keeping busy – new management, new players and all that fun stuff – I think it’s fair to say the DTB have been finding things to do over the summer, too.

Things kicked off back in June with a DTB ‘away day’. The branding was rubbish – it was held at Plough Lane so very much a ‘home day’ – but the idea was sound, and it was an opportunity for the board to meet up, mostly in person, and go into detail on projects that just can’t be covered in enough depth at a regular monthly meet. 

Graham Stacey

One of the first items on the agenda was Mick Buckley’s presentation to the board on what the club leadership should look like. Very long story short, we used to have a CEO but now we are looking at an MD running the business side of the club, and a Head of Football Operations (a HoFO) overseeing the football side, such as player recruitment. You may have seen Mick talk about these, and CVs are being sifted as we speak

Much of the rest of the day was spent chewing the fat over how to make the club’s operational structure more efficient. Not that long ago we moved to a two-board make-up, which made sense while we were trying to refinance the stadium loan. The PLC was awoken from slumber to become the operational board, with the DTB becoming more the oversight board it was always supposed to be.

But, in my mind at least, the set-up hasn’t been working. I think people want more accountability, for a start. And the fact we so often get asked who is responsible for what tells me the set-up isn’t anywhere near clear enough.  

As an example, many will recall the change in the debenture process announced on July 18. The DTB was suddenly inundated, and I feel it worth clarifying that it was a club decision ratified by the operational board, the PLC. Quite aside from whether the decision or the announcement were handled optimally, the fact that fans assumed it was a DTB decision is a bit of an indicator that the set-up hasn’t been communicated well, and/or that it doesn’t make obvious sense, perhaps. (As it was, the DTB picked it up it, asked the PLC/club to revisit the policy and a change was made). 

So this potential restructure is designed to alleviate any confusion, but also make the set-up more effective. We don’t want the DTB so far removed that we are having to react and firefight. We do want accountability and decisiveness. It’s a balancing act. 

The Dons Trust AFC Wimbledon Club Owners

In basic terms, the vision, the mission and the direction of travel and objectives is DTB. And the hiring of staff, setting budgets and approving spending to meet that vision is PLC.

But we have a long way to go. As one glance at social media tells you that among our fanbase that is far from clear. We need to sharpen up that accountability.

And restructure is a big thing. We’re currently working on firming up a few bits of comms and a schedule of consultations which should take us through to the AGM in December, which feels like it would be an appropriate time and place to ratify any changes that come about. It may sound like a long way off but this is a crucial, sizeable project and one we must not get wrong, so expect to hear more sooner rather than later.

So In short, things – important things – have been happening, albeit it might seem like baby steps til now…

One last thing worth mentioning is the playing budget – we are regularly asked what it is and how it is calculated. Well, we have described it as competitive, the PLC minutes state we are expecting play-offs or promotion’ and I can tell you it’s more than we have ever had in L2 before – and indeed bigger than we started off last season with. 

As for how we get there – it all starts the previous season. Much (around £500k in central payments this year, for a start) depends on what division we are going to be in. So we have rough calculations which Tom Mak (the club’s Finance Controller) will then start firming up. These will be based on ST sales, projected attendances (and the accompanying F&B sales), stadium income, player sales etc. The boards will then start discussing the figures and look at where we can perhaps bring some more in and make some decisions on which options to pursue and include. 

Once the transfer window closes I very much hope we are able to produce a laymans guide to the finalised playing budget – showing you exactly what is included to get to that final magic numberI think we would all love to do this much earlier of course, but it’s not something I think we should be furnishing agents with while there’s business still to be done. In short, if that sort of thing floats your boat as it does mine, watch this space…