To provide further clarification on the stadium finance question that the Dons Trust Board has shared with members, the club has decided to issue the following statement:
AFC Wimbledon is a fans-owned club currently facing some crucial decisions that will ultimately dictate its future and where it wants to be.
Various options lie ahead but, of paramount importance to the club, is the cherished principle that you – our fans – will dictate what course of action we take next.
Accordingly, and in the true spirit of a democratically-run organisation like ours, the Dons Trust - the fans’ governing body - will have an opportunity to debate these options at a forthcoming special meeting on December 9.
The options cover a broad spectrum of issues, but most specifically the new stadium currently being built in Plough Lane – and how we make sure that our club is on a solid financial footing that leaves us with a realistic playing budget that matches our ambitions.
As most of you have seen, our stadium is already taking shape. While we are totally committed to completing the project, we are also about to reach a point of no return. Our constructors need a financial commitment from us by January to enable them to complete the final phases and instruct their own sub-contractors.
As it stands at the moment, we are unable to make that commitment. Because of unforeseen planning delays and increased building costs, we will need to raise a further £11million to complete the stadium as we all want it to be, with income-generating conference and banqueting facilities, an additional 5000 covered seats through semi-permanent stands and a showpiece fans’ zone, etc.
The options we want to have open dialogue with members on:
1. Do we try to borrow all of the money that we need – either on a short or long-term basis? If we take this route, we almost certainly face very high repayments which will leave us with a playing budget barely capable of surviving in League Two. There are some sustainable loan options, but we are not guaranteed to get one, nor may we be able to borrow that much money anyway;
2. Do we simply build what we can afford - the main West Stand and abandon the other three for now? Even if we did this, the main stand would be a basic shell, without any of the new revenue streams such as conference and banqueting, club shop or hospitality facilities that we badly need to bolster our playing budget. We could add these facilities in the future – if we can get the money and if the level of football we are competing in at the time will sustain them;
3. Do we accept offers of investment from some private investors, who we got to know during our crowdfunding campaign? This would give us the majority of the money we need to build the stadium we all want – and leave us with a realistic playing budget to compete in League One on top. While these investors universally agree the Dons Trust must retain 100 per cent control over our ‘crown jewels’ – i.e. any future decisions to relocate or rename our club and most importantly that the Dons Trust would have veto over any sale of the land, ground or Stadium – they would also expect a substantial say in how our business is run. Ultimately, that would entail the Dons Trust owning a smaller stake in the club and having a more independent board with both investor and Dons Trust representation.
So, this is where we currently stand.
The choice is yours – which is exactly how it should be. Over the coming weeks we will map out in more detail the consequences of each of the options and do all we can to answer your questions.