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Let's be united, not divided

Chief Executive Joe Palmer's most recent programme notes

16 December 2019

As the club and the Dons Trust weigh up some newly suggested financing options for the new stadium, Chief Executive Joe Palmer says that it will be essential to reach a consensus in what is a very short time span.

For those supporters that missed Joe's programme notes on Saturday, his page is reproduced in full below.

I realise there’s only one topic of conversation at the moment. Our club is at a crossroads and everyone has an opinion over which way we should turn. There are several options before us – and now I want to add another.

The fact so many supporters attended Monday’s special general meeting said it all. Yes, it was blunt; yes, it was impassioned, but it was also extremely dignified and respectful.

There was no ugliness or hysteria in the room and, for that, I am extremely grateful to everyone who attended and also our Dons Trust chair, Mark Davis, who had the hard task of delivering the narrative of our current situation to those in the room and the 600+ streaming online at home.

Mark mapped out the options facing the club, including, of course, the opportunity to accept external investment to help raise the £11m we need to complete our new stadium at Plough Lane.

This was, and is, the most controversial choice before us because it cuts to the core of who we are, and where we’ve come from. For many, remaining a fans’-owned club is sacrosanct. If that means we only have the funding to play non-League football, then so be it.

For others, outside investment might take Wimbledon further up the leagues. A fan-owned club can’t possibly afford that, they'd argue. Restructuring our club so new investors bring in new money is a price worth paying – even if that means losing some control.

Ideally, we would have more time to go through a strategic process of defining what the club’s clear objective is, going through a democratic process to set our goal. I’ve never known a club with a broader range of views on what it should be, from non league, right through to Premiership aspirations and it’s key that we find one common goal, then the pathway for getting there is clearer to understand.

It’s a tough dilemma and the supporter base is clearly pretty divided. There was, however, one over-riding message which came across loud and clear.

Those who spoke were adamant our fans would welcome another chance to raise the funds themselves. To chase down all the possibilities for fan, internal and debt funding first – which we’re doing with help from members.

This was a remarkable statement in itself, one that instantly underlined what this club means to you. That fans might be willing to dig deep into their pockets - just weeks after our crowdfunding campaign and only days before Christmas - is a phenomenal credit to everyone.

Whilst it’s a monumental task, there’s little doubt it could be a good solution if it can be done without exposing us too much financially, so we absolutely have to give it a chance. Mention was made of launching a new Dons Trust Bond and there are other options as well, such as a 20-year seat debenture. We might even be able to run two separate schemes like these in parallel.

We’re now looking into the viability of these ideas and seeking external professional guidance to see whether we can get workable solutions in place in time. I must stress, however, that we have to be able to commit to our stadium constructors by the end of January. The clock is very much against us, but we will give it every chance we can.

Finally, I’d like to clear up some misconceptions about my own role in this debate. Some of the conspiracy theories circulating online were akin to Lord Voldemort – a dark force desperately trying to steer the club into the hands of outside investors.

That’s not me at all. I joined Wimbledon fully aware it was a fans’-owned club. There was never the slightest inkling that might change. In fact, it was largely why I wanted the job.

My main motivation was the prospect of being the person that oversaw the club moving back to Wimbledon and getting promotion back to the Championship - achieving that as a fans’-owned club is a greater challenge and admittedly the bit that fed my ego.

That desire’s still there - and it won’t go away, no matter which route we take. In the meantime, I have to remain agnostic: my role is to develop a strategy that delivers whatever target you – our owners – want for this club.

But please remember, it’s what unites us – not divides us – that matters the most. Everybody wants the best for AFC Wimbledon; it’s how we get there that’s hard to fathom. Our strongest bond will always remain intact, unbreakable and powerful. We’ll stay proud of our club; we’ll share the same dreams; we’ll cheer our team on.

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