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Word spreads about the success of our fans-led event

Interviews and pictures from the first close season work weekend

28 May 2019

Around 60 volunteers provided an example of why AFC Wimbledon is so special by chipping in to tidy up the stadium – and another club is aiming to copy the success of our work weekends!

On Saturday and Sunday, long-serving volunteers were joined by young Dons including 18-year-old Henry Dalton-Stone to spruce up the Cherry Red Records Stadium during the close season.

AFC Wimbledon’s ethos has long been the envy of many clubs and certainly our work weekends provide a fine example of why our supporters are so special. For every year since 2004 when a Stadium Management Group was set-up, supporters of all ages have combined to make a difference every summer.

Speaking about this year’s event, Work Weekend Organiser Paul Sparks explained that a member of club staff from Plymouth Argyle had been in touch recently to pick his brains.

“He contacted the club to ask how we did it all, including how we organised the work weekends, and the jobs that supporters carried out,” said Paul. “I spent time on the phone talking to him about what it is we do, how we arrange the working day, and why we do it. He was looking at doing a day of volunteering and he had a list of jobs that needed doing. I basically told him to get hold of his e-mail database and season ticket holders because he would be surprised at the level of expertise that a supporter base has. As with our club, I’m sure they will have a lot of people that will want to help the club that they love. Money saved can go towards the playing budget and that’s always good for supporters to know. I wished him good luck and we will have to see what response that they get.

“I got involved about 10 years ago because I wanted to give something back to the club, but I didn’t want to be doing stuff on a match day, which would involve me missing games. Kudos to people that work behind the turnstiles and do those jobs, but I want to see the game. Giving up four days during the summer to come along and help was a no-brainer for me. I started coming along when Margaret and Tom were in charge, but they handed over the organisational reins to me! I’ve got a database of about 250 people, which includes those that have helped out over the years. I will e-mail everybody and from that I usually get around 40 or 50 people that respond.”

Paul (far right in the above photograph) is pictured on Saturday next to his wife Karen with our Chief Executive Joe Palmer (centre) and Margaret and Tom Adam. Take a look at our gallery above for more pictures from the work weekend.

Eighteen-year-old Henry Dalton-Stone was among those volunteers to offer a helping hand on Saturday, the young Don making time to attend after completing his first year at university.

“I didn’t come to the work weekend last year because I was doing my A-levels," said Henry. "About four years ago I was coming back from football training on the bus and I just remembered seeing on the website that it was clean-up day so I just thought I’d get off and do my bit! The organisers were very happy to see me and I’ve been back every summer since, apart from last year.

“I’m at university in Birmingham, I’m in my first year of studying history. I’ve still made time to come and watch The Dons! I was at Bradford and it was fantastic. It’s special the way that the volunteers help out at this club. It’s amazing and very unique. Not many of my friends can say that they go along to their club and help to clean up the stadium. They laugh at me for supporting a League One club, but they are the ones missing out. We have a special relationship with our club."  

Roger Rogowski, who has supported Wimbledon since the 1970s, said: “I’ve been involved in the work weekends for about 12 or 13 years, I usually do two days every summer, and it’s the least I can do. It’s just about putting something back. I think if everybody at the club could just do one little thing, not necessarily every match day, but once in a while, then that adds up to a huge contribution. Whatever the weather, we always get a good group of people every year turning up to do this. It’s fantastic that people give up their time. Everybody works very hard and the group gets all the work done that’s necessary during the four days. I don’t sit or stand with any of these people at the game, but I recognise them here! Everyone talks to each other to share their experiences of the season because often you haven’t seen them since last year. My support for Wimbledon goes back to 1974 and it will be fantastic to go back to Plough Lane. I’ve not been back since the club’s last game there. I’ve been so tempted to go down and see how the work is going, but I think I will wait for that first game.”

Summing up why supporters give up so much of their time for free, Paul Sparks added: “This event says everything about the club. As I said to the guy at Plymouth, people here love their club and given the opportunity, they will turn up. We’ve found over the years that volunteers will help out in a lot of different ways. If the club puts out an appeal for fans to come along and clear snow off the pitch people will turn up. There is a community spirit as well, the same people turn up each year, but we always welcome new recruits too. They go out to do their jobs and it’s a sense of achievement at the end of the day when they walk away and think that they’ve helped to make it a nice and tidy stadium, which will be ready for the new season.”

The club thanks all of those volunteers that helped out during the Bank Holiday weekend. The next stadium work weekend is on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 June. If you are able to help, whether for a few hours or for a full day, please e-mail or call the office on 020 8547 3528.

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