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Erik on the managerial recruitment process

More detail from our Chief Executive about the appointment of Wally Downes

10 December 2018

In his programme notes on Saturday, our Chief Executive Erik Samuelson provided more detail about the recruitment process that was utilised to appoint Wally Downes as AFC Wimbledon's new manager.

For those that may have missed it in Saturday's programme, this is republished in full below:

I want to talk about about the recruitment process we went through to appoint Wally Downes and Glyn Hodges as our new management team, as it has drawn a lot of comment from a wide range of fans and external commentators.

Twenty-two days elapsed from the date of Neal leaving to when we announced Wally's appointment. There has been criticism that this period was too long – although, interestingly, when we appointed Neal six years ago, the equivalent process took 21 days. A significant difference between this time and last is that when we appointed Neal, very few fans got wind of his appointment before we announced it, whereas this time there was a leak some time before we had completed our process. This must have made fans feel that it was dragging on, but we were simply conducting a thorough process, which is our job.

A leak puts us in an invidious position because it would have been wrong for us to comment publicly on any of the candidates, as that would have created confusion and uncertainty among the other candidates. So the leak was incredibly unprofessional, as well as very frustrating for all concerned because at the time we couldn't say anything useful by way of explanation. I don't know how the leak(s) occurred, and there are a number of ways such things can emerge unintentionally. However, the two boards involved in the process (the Football Club and Dons Trust Boards) are on notice from their respective chairs that such things will not be tolerated.

In our announcement of the appointment on the official website we referred to the inappropriate use of social media, which we were bound to investigate in depth – something we did with Wally's knowledge. We spoke to, among others, Kick It Out, the EFL and the FA, all of which took time. To make it more frustrating, the press have been presenting it as if Kick It Out came to this afresh when they commented on the appointment, whereas it was us who approached them for guidance and advice.

The time it took us to carry out the investigation, and to keep the Dons Trust Board briefed and seek their advice and confirmation, prolonged the process by a few days, so I'm pleased that despite all the complications it still only took us one day longer than when we appointed Neal. It may still have been longer than everyone would have liked, but faster isn't always better, and it was helpful to have to respond to the challenges and hear the advice of the Dons Trust Board as we worked towards our conclusions.

I've previously mentioned that a major difference from when we appointed Neal was that this time nearly every applicant had an agent. Another major difference was the number of emails we received from fans. Of these, about 60 asked us either to appoint Wally, or to get a move on, or both. About a dozen raised questions about some tweets. This isn't an avalanche of emails, but it is very unusual to get as many, and it illustrates the depth of feeling among some fans. And, of course, for each one who writes there are an unknown number who feel just as strongly but don't write.

The tone of the emails varied. Some were courteous, some were angry, some were rude or abusive, and a very small number contained threats of an indistinct nature. (I gather there were rather more aggressive comments on social media, but I didn't see them because I withdrew from social media a few months ago as it was taking up too much of my time.) I make a point of replying to every email I receive, though it can take time. If you are still awaiting a reply from me, please be patient – I will respond in time (but I won't be replying to the threatening emails).

I've gone into some detail about this because, although we all want to put this process behind us, I believe that we should be as open as we can about what we are doing and how we are doing it, all within the constraints imposed by the overriding need to respect the privacy of the candidates.

I will conclude that we shouldn't let any of this cloud the end result. We have appointed as manager a man we believe can retain our League One status, so let's all pull together to do whatever we can to support Wally, Glyn and the rest of the management team in achieving that target.


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