As part of the process of consultation concerning the level of ownership of AFC Wimbledon by The Dons Trust, we have compiled an FAQ.
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Q: What is the purpose of this consultation?
A: We want to have a more detailed conversation about the management of debt than our normal processes (SGMs, AGMs, online, matchday) allow. Democratic ownership of the club isn’t just about an event – e.g. putting a series of options to a vote. It’s about a conversation – dialogue – among members and between members and us as the board. This is especially important when it comes to critical issues such as how we manage our debt, and how that affects the level of our majority ownership of the shares in the club.
Q: Why now?
A: The first set of Plough Lane Bonds mature in spring 2025. The club has exciting plans to drive revenues forward over the coming years, but with all the other calls on cash – not least the playing budget! – we won’t be able to repay all of our debt just from that. So that we can make plans for future years, we need to understand all the options that might be available to us in this process.
Q: When does the consultation start and when will it finish?
A: It’s already started – we’ve invited people to write in to join in some sessions we’re planning in July and September. After those sessions and further consultation, your board will report back to you in good time to feed a discussion with members at the autumn members’ meeting.
Q: How are we consulting with members beyond the specific sessions in July and September?
A: We will be running a survey of all members after the sessions. All this information will help us to create a thorough overview of all the issues for our members to discuss at our autumn members’ meeting.
Q: So, what will be shared with members after the events in July and September?
A: We will share a summary of the consultation and the board’s proposals for next steps. This will need to include as much information as possible about our financial position and the legal and financial consequences of any decisions members might be asked to make.
Q: Will there be a vote on any changes?
A: If the consultation results in the board’s suggesting any changes to our ownership structure, that would be decided by a vote of members. Anything which might affect our restricted actions (for example, reducing our ownership below 75%+1) would require very strong support from members, according to those very specific rules.
Q: What is the role of the DT and role of ECF in the consultation?
A: Kevin Rye from the DTB is running the project. ECF are providing advice and signing off on the processes, for example the processes related to selection of participants.
Q: Who are ECF?
A. ECF regularly convene demographically representative panels for projects using random selection processes. They also specialise in developing workshop sessions that provide individuals and groups with the opportunity to contribute to discussion in a constructive and collaborative manner. They are members of the Consultation Institute and the International Association of Public Participation. They have advised Crystal Palace FC in the recent past. Their Director, Olly Deed, is also a Director of Hadley FC which is part fan owned.
Q: What documentation/information will be provided to DT members to help facilitate the consultation?
A: We will have briefings created in-house (and signed off by ECF.) Either Graeme Price or Michele Little will be present at each of the three sessions to provide technical insights and information as required. The chairs of the sessions – who will not be DTB members – will be there to guide the process, but not to provide any technical expertise or specific views.
Q: How are the focus groups being picked?
A: The aim is to get a wide sample from a cross-section of our membership. Depending on who and how many express an interest, we may need to seek out people from specific groups to ensure good coverage. All of this will be done under the advice of ECF.