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Erik's programme article

12 March 2014

Chief Executive talks about season ticket survey

The following article by Chief Executive Erik Samuelson appeared in the programme for the home game versus Chesterfield on Tuesday 11 March. Because it is of wider interest, we are re-publishing it here.

A couple of years ago the Dons Trust carried out an exercise to establish the main concerns of members and fans. The result that emerged was unequivocal – the top priority was to retain ownership of the club by the fans, and the second priority was to return to Merton. I expect the Trust will repeat the exercise from time to time, but until they do (and I am pretty confident that if they did, the results would be the same), those conclusions will continue to form the cornerstones of our aims and policies.

From time to time I receive approaches from people purporting to want to buy the club. They could be hoaxes or scams, but even so I always respond politely. I tell them that I’ll refer their enquiry to the Dons Trust Board, and that while investment might be welcome, they should be aware of the conclusions of that consultation.

The most recent of these approaches came a couple of months ago. The offer was to buy the club, build a much bigger stadium and get us into the Premier League – quickly. I explained about the fans’ consultation and the conversation died away, amicably. I have no idea whether it was a hoax or not, but sweetening the deal by offering me the role of president (move over, Dickie!) made me think it might well be. However, in many ways it doesn’t matter, because it serves to highlight an issue I want to talk about today.

In the final email sign-off this would-be buyer said, “The idea is to make money, Erik.” Our members have turned their backs on that idea if it means losing control of the club. These days every season brings more overseas owners with no knowledge of, or regard for, the history and culture of the UK game – as an example, witness the recent drive to establish feeder clubs. So we continue to plough (no pun intended) our own furrow, without the massive input of cash and other resources that might become available if the Trust agreed to sell control.

Right now we are operating in two directions, which we are keeping separate. On the one hand, we are going about raising finance to pay for a hoped-for new stadium; on the other, we need to continue to increase our “business as usual” income for the current stadium and team in the face of rising general costs (i.e. for areas other than the first team). The Commercial Department has done a great job again this year, and their work has been supplemented by the terrific efforts of the Blue & Yellow Club, the We Are Wimbledon Fund, and some very generous donations by Mike Richardson. But we need more.

By now, I expect you’ve worked out where I am going. The Football Club Board considers that maintaining our current League Two status is crucial – everyone has seen how hard it is to get back from the Conference. To do this, we need to at least maintain our current spending on the team and, ideally, to increase it. So we are looking at what levels to set ticket prices next season.

At a recent meeting of the Football Club Board, we discussed the fact that we feel we don’t really understand what resources might be available to us from members and fans. We decided to learn more by launching a very short and to-the-point survey aimed at a sample of season ticket holders, with a request for speedy replies. This isn’t “We are putting prices up” but “How would you feel about us putting prices up by a specified amount that would make a difference?”

Trust members may recall that some time ago the Dons Trust Board undertook to carry out a consultation about prices generally. That process has begun, but it is more thorough and will take some time. In the meantime, if you are asked for your views, please do let us know what you think, as soon as you can. This is about the bigger picture, not short-term objectives or recent results. Over to you …

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