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Erik's interview: part two

10 June 2013

Planning for next season at Wimbledon

Chief Executive Erik Samuelson provided an insight into work going on behind the scenes at AFC Wimbledon during the close season with an interview for Dons Player.

We today publish part two of Erik’s thoughts on improvements that have to be made at the club – and there’s certainly a lot more to it than bringing in new faces to boost the playing squad.

What has been going on at AFC Wimbledon during the close season?

There has been a lot going on. People outside football imagine that the close season is exactly that and there is not a lot to do, but we have been incredibly busy. We have been dealing with players that Neal wants to bring in and also making sure that the budgets are ready for next season. These are now due to go to the Dons Trust for formal approval later this month. Ivor has been out trying to bring in more sponsorship for the club and he has done a wonderful job. We have also been doing season ticket promotions and we have now sold around 2,450. That is just 200 behind the figure for last season with almost two months until the start of 2013/14. I am really positive that we will match or even exceed last season and one of the key reasons for that is the Nongshim Stand. There is much more demand for seats in there.

We are also making various changes in personnel at the club. Everyone knows that Mike Rayner has left and that we are recruiting a new physio. That will allow Neal to make some changes and he will be making one or two tweaks to the way he does things at the training ground. We will be changing the way certain things are done down there. We are also preparing for the club’s first pre-season tour when we go to Monza and that is an exciting new development for us.

Though the number one priority is improving Neal Ardley’s squad, how mindful are you that the current stadium has to be improved?

I am very mindful of this even though we do not have a major improvement programme during this close season. Before last season we had to build what we now call the Nongshim Stand and the year before we had the security control room, new burger bars and other various things that we needed to do to ensure we entered the Football League. This close season we do not have any major projects, but we do have some serious money to spend. Some of it we are only going to be able to do the essential improvements. We have to make changes to the East Stand, in particular to the way that the barriers operate in the sterile areas. We have to strengthen the walls on the non-covered parts because they are close to being past their sell by date. We also have to strengthen the back of the East Stand.

That is a significant amount of money for something that will not look significantly different, but has to be done. We have also got to the stage where the red boxes at the bottom of each floodlight have become old and rusty. If we do not replace them then we are in danger of having problems with electrical components inside that could lead to floodlight failure. All of this has to be done during the close season.

What changes also have to be made away from the Cherry Red Records Stadium?

There is also substantial funding for the academy at the training ground. We have to be able to provide facilities, such as toilets and refreshments areas for parents watching games that will allow us to pass the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) audit. If we do not pass that then we will not be treated as a category three academy, otherwise we will lose out on Football League funding. If we do not make improvements at a cost of around £50,000 then we will not get the £200,000 that the Football League and Premier League put our way for running a category three academy. Overall, all the improvements we have to make at the ground and training ground will come to around £100,000.

What has happened since the We Are Wimbledon Fund launched is that people have got excited by that and have pumped money into this effort. That is brilliant because all those funds will go towards strengthening the team and securing our League 2 position, which is the most important priority. However, there is a danger that we may lose focus on the need to raise funds in other areas. We have to try and get the balance right and remember that fund raising for other reasons, while not as exciting as helping the team, is required to ensure the survival and success of AFC Wimbledon as a Football League club.

  . Season Tickets . There is still a chance for you to spread the cost of a season ticket across nine months. To view details about how to do this, please view our previous update by clicking on  AFC WimbledonIf you missed part one of Erik’s interview, please click on 

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