We recently published a short article in the programme on stadium sponsors Cherry Red Records and below is a full feature about their music and involvement in football.
Cherry Record Records is a fiercely independent record label that has been based in London since 1978. The company was originally started by Iain McNay (who is also Vice-President of AFC Wimbledon) and began life as a live promotion company in Malvern in Worcestershire in 1971 before migrating into a record label. Early signings included The Runaways, Felt, Dead Kennedys, The Monochrome Set, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt (Everything But The Girl), Kevin Coyne and Eyeless In Gaza.
During the label's 39 years it has had to adapt to prosper and has, in recent years focused more on catalogue re-issues and box sets. It also however releases new albums by such maverick acts as the Fall, Hawkwind, Van der Graaf Generator, Luke Haines, Jah Wobble, Claudia Brücken and The Residents most of whom they have long term relationships with. The label releases around 30 CDs a month and is the most prolific Independent record label in the UK.
Cherry Red has always been an office full of football fans. Many years ago, the staff would wander over to Hyde Park every Wednesday evening where artists and others connected with the company would join in a game of football. Mike Alway, Cherry Red's A&R man at the time would also invite prospective new signings along for a game whether they were any good at football or not. He would say, 'It has got nothing to do with their ability as a footballer. I want to see deeper into their character and their desire to succeed in life. I want artists who sign to Cherry Red to really want success.' So, some careers stalled at an early stage because if they failed to impress Mike on the pitch he often lost interest in them.
For many years the label has been involved at the grass roots level of the game. For a time in the mid 1990's the label was the shirt sponsor for Kingstonian Football Club, which turned into an exciting time because they twice won the FA Trophy at Wembley and got promoted from the Isthmian league to the Football Conference. Around then Cherry Red also started to sponsor various football leagues. First the Chiltonian League, which was in the Oxfordshire area, followed by the Hellenic league and then the Combined Counties league which The Dons used to play in - although not at the time they sponsored the league. We also support the Middlesex Counties League and various niche non-league cup competitions and non-league publications. The managing director of Cherry Red, Adam Velasco, is a big Wycombe Wanderers fan so we have now also started to sponsor their shorts and away shirts.
While Iain has been supporting the Dons all his life, he took on a more active role when AFC Wimbledon started in 2002, and at first the label had an interest in becoming the shirt sponsors. He explained: "When the club started we put in an offer to sponsor the shirts, but Sports Interactive offered more money. We did start off though by sponsoring the Presidents Lounge and after about 3 years we became the stadium sponsor." He also served on the Dons Trust Board for 8 years.
As part of their Football Collectors Series, which has released over 60 CDs of collections of club and country football songs, Cherry Red released a CD of Wimbledon FC related songs called 'Smells Like Team Spirit' in 1998, which included the Vinnie Jones single, 'Woolly Bully' (which Cherry Red had previously released as a single). This was followed by another compilation of AFC Wimbledon songs in 2012 called 'This Is Our Time' to support Niall Cooper's book of the same name also published by Cherry Red.
The office is now based in Chiswick and has around 20 staff. It has recently acquired the back catalogues of high profile artists such as Howard Jones and Kim Wilde as well as more cult artists such as Barclay James Harvest, Be Bop de Luxe, Curved Air and Dinosaur Jr. and will be re-promoting their catalogues next year.
Life at Cherry Red is never dull. There are always new projects on the go and the unpredictable is always just around the corner. A bit like football really.....
Photo (left to right): Iain McNay, Jah Wobble, Neal Ardley and Adam Velasco (Cherry Red MD) at the Cherry Red Records Stadium in 2016.