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Boost to playing budget

17 September 2014

Chief Executive on finance and the youth system

In last night’s matchday programme Erik Samuelson thanked fans for their response to Mike Richardson’s generous fundraising offer.

Wimbledon's Chief Executive also talked about the importance of the club's youth system. The picture above shows (left to right) Mark Robinson (Academy Head of Coaching), Erik, Under-18 players Callum Overton and Ollie Haines and Youth and Community Director Nigel Higgs. 

Erik's full article is reproduced below.   

Earlier this year, Mike Richardson proposed a fundraising initiative in which he very generously offered to match every pound donated by fans, up to a maximum of £100,000. We launched it by emailing or writing to every season ticket holder, Dons Trust member, and shareholder and to every other fan on our contacts databases. The response was staggering. The simplest way for me to explain it is to quote from the follow-up email we recently sent out on Mike’s behalf:

Dear AFC Wimbledon fan,

Some time ago I wrote to you with an idea for raising funds to help Neal to strengthen the team. It was quite simple – I undertook to match every £1 that was donated, up to a maximum on my part of £100,000.

I am now writing to you to feed back the result. Taking together the donations, the new direct debit contributions to the We Are Wimbledon Fund and an increased sponsorship by Cherry Red Records (thanks to fellow vice president Iain McNay), you raised a fantastic £72,500. In the light of that, I decided that I would contribute the full £100,000, making a total of £172,500.

I think this is an extraordinary achievement, and the club has assured me that it has delivered on its promise that every penny we raise this way would be put into the players’ wages budget. I think you can see from the quality of our squad for this season that you made a difference.

I am delighted with this overall result, and I know that Neal and the club are too. On behalf of all of us, very many thanks.

Our budget, as reported back to us by the Football League, was £977,000 (slightly less than our calculations, for reasons that are too complicated to go into here).To put this into context, last season’s average budget for a League Two club was £1,288,000, taking into account wages, National Insurance, transfer fees and signing-on fees.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but £977,000 puts us 20th in the wages league table. We’ve not yet received the equivalent analysis for this season, but if we add the extra £172,500 to last season’s budget we would move up to 16th or 17th in the table. It’s not as simple as that, of course, as other teams are seeking to increase their spending following, for example, a change of ownership or promotion. But it’s a guide, and it allows us to conclude that every season we’ve been in the League we’ve outperformed our position in the wages table (if we ignore last season’s points deduction).

A football club needs to be ambitious, and our ambitions are very high – we have set our sights on a new stadium, sufficient to support us in the Championship and maybe beyond. But first, an essential part of gaining a new stadium is that we at least maintain our League status. So this initiative by Mike is very timely, and the response by you, the fans, has been marvellous: we’ve seen the immediate effect in the strengthening of our first-team squad.

The outline budget for a new stadium shows that we will be able to afford a marked increase in our playing budget. But on a parallel track it is essential that we also continue to develop our own, homegrown young players – it’s in the Wimbledon tradition, and it’s the best way to ensure that we continue to overperform compared with our budget. This season we’ve seen further progress with Academy graduates appearing in the first team in competitive games, and hopefully this trend will continue.

I’ve mentioned before the importance of our Under-21 squad in this development process, and they’ve now played the first of their games in the Final Third Development League, gaining a creditable draw at Leyton Orient. The team will be playing AFC Bournemouth in the Under-21 Premier League Cup here at The Cherry Red Records Stadium on Tuesday 23 September, with a 2.00 pm kick-off. If you can make it, they will be pleased to have your support.

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