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Club News

Joe’s Christmas message to our fans

24 December 2020

Chief Executive Joe Palmer has sent a Christmas message to our supporters at the end of a year that included the undoubted highlight of our new stadium hosting its first match.

However, Joe said there was 'something irreplaceable' missing on that opening night back at the club's spiritual home - our supporters.

Joe's full message is below.

"I'm pretty sure everyone can't wait to see the back of 2020. Covid has disrupted all our lives and for some the anguish will not easily fade away. My thoughts go out especially to everyone who has lost family and friends because of this damned pandemic. Their losses, and the incredible courage and commitment shown 24/7 by NHS front-line workers puts football into perspective.

"Summing up this tumultuous year in the life of AFC Wimbledon is incredibly difficult when Covid has dominated everything. We have so much to celebrate - but how can we celebrate when so many people are struggling and the country remains, to all intents and purposes, in lockdown?

"Nothing encapsulated this dilemma more than the night when we finally played our first game inside our new Plough Lane home. It was a phenomenal milestone in our club's incredible history and it represented so much. Our new home isn't just a new stadium - it's a beacon, a statement that there is an alternative way to own and run football clubs. In short, Plough Lane is living, breathing proof that fan power works and the spirit of real supporters can never be broken. And yet. There was something irreplaceable missing that night. The West Stand shone majestically, the new pitch looked fit for a Champions League final but the empty terraces brought us all back to reality.

"The very people who should have been there, the people who had made this impossible dream happen and deserved - more than anybody else - to be there, were missing. Covid had slammed the doors shut, our fans weren't allowed to witness the one event they had been waiting nearly 30 years to see. All we could do was place their cardboard cutouts in the North Stand; at least they were there in spirit. It wasn't fair, it wasn't right, it wasn't how we'd all imagined it would be. But the enormity of the game, its significance and its prominence in our club's history can't be diminished. I sincerely hope all those wonderful people who weren't there that night were nonetheless immensely proud of what they'd achieved.

"Their blood, sweat and tears are the single biggest reason we are now back in our spiritual home. The pioneers who launched AFC Wimbledon, the club executives who attended endless planning meetings, the staff - past and present - who went the extra miles and all the supporters who dug deep to raise funds when we needed them most. These are our heroes and I promise that we will have the party everyone deserves, and the homecoming we all imagined, once Covid is kicked into touch and we can all watch football safely again, side by side.

"While the pandemic has undoubtedly blighted our lives, it has also seen our fans react in ways that remind us of the core values at the very heart of our club. We talk about being a "community" club and if anyone has any doubts about what that means, they only have to look at the Dons Local Action Group and the AFC Wimbledon Foundation. Together, they are a shining example of how our club can make a huge difference in our community. Returning to Wimbledon isn't just about playing football in our homeland; it's also about being a positive force for good.

"Which brings me to the future. Building Plough Lane and staging games doesn't mean the job's done. We now have to make our new home work. That means maximising the income potential the stadium gives us. At Kingsmeadow, these opportunities simply didn't exist but that's not the case now. Our stadium presents us with so many new revenue-raising options. We have the biggest hospitality venue in the borough, capable of hosting corporate and private functions, whilst our lounges and executive boxes equip the club like never before. 

"The Foundation has bold plans that will get  our neighbours and the wider community involved in stadium events - and not just sports-related activities. And it doesn’t end there, our transition into a true force in football and the community is only just beginning. Our own pub, a new shop, possible ground sharing, a five a side pitch, a museum and several other exciting projects that we hope to be announcing in the new year, all add up to making us significantly more self sufficient and to firmly state that we want to achieve more, much more.

"So let's the slam the door on everything that's been ill about 2020, grasp the positives - made all the more precious in the face of Covid - and start shaping a brand new future in our brand new ground. I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and let's hope the New Year finally brings an end to the coronavirus curse. I can't wait for the day when we can all be reunited in the one place that matters most: home."

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