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Overcoming the odds in true Wimbledon style

A summary of an eventful year for our WiSH volunteers

30 December 2021

Creating a museum at the stadium that truly reflects the ‘Greatest Story in Football’ has been a real challenge for everyone involved with WiSH (Wimbledon in Sporting History).

As 2021 nears its conclusion we caught up with Managing Director Michael Padmanathan, who reflected upon a trying, but ultimately triumphant year, for the ongoing project.

Michael’s summary of the year is published below.  

In the summer of 2021 the nation was gripped by Euro fever as England chased glory and just down the road Novak Djokovic was creating history at the All England Club, but there was a very different challenge closer to home! After being given the green light to open up a museum to celebrate Wimbledon’s rich footballing heritage, we inherited a room with no electricity, no flooring, no memorabilia - and no funding to transform it!

WiSH volunteer.jpg  

Thankfully, WiSH was set up over two years earlier with the foundations in place to build a fit and proper home for the club’s heritage. A team had been recruited and processes had started to be put in place to help facilitate the realisation of a number of plans to highlight our amazing history.

With over £1m worth of memorabilia donated, £5,000 raised through founding memberships, and a team of committed volunteers ready for action, WiSH was well placed to get ‘The Greatest Story’ exhibition open by the end of the summer. However, to achieve what we have in such a short space of time is a tribute to everyone involved. Against the odds, we opened on time, raised over £40,000 for the oral memory project, £12,000 for the Stadium Timeline Crowdfunder, and launched our first set of stadium tours.

In addition, we created our first merchandising with a timely framed Christmas present of a painting of our new stadium by a local artist. For each project, WiSH built new organisational and administrative processes and capability to ensure we could deliver on these ambitious plans.

Michael P at stadium opening.jpg

The final quarter of 2021 was treated as a pre-season in the same way as a team just promoted to a higher level. What worked in 2021 will not work necessarily in 2022. We need to work on a number of areas of organisation and business planning to help ensure we deliver on a range of exciting heritage projects for the New Year.  The team was increased from 24 to 30 and we have started getting our house in order from finance processes to documented inventories for donated /loaned items, which are displayed in The Greatest Story room and in display cabinets elsewhere in the stadium.

The first quarter of 2022 will be focused on building our two-year business plan and we will then aim to resource the plan with new signings to the WiSH team. So please e-mail us if you wish to be a part of something special. We already have an incredible team in place.  By the end of this year our 30 volunteers will have contributed 7,700 hours for free! This is the equivalent to four full-time people working for free and not claiming back any personal expenses. This is all effort and expense provided by WiSH to enrich our new home in Plough Lane with historical celebration. In turn, this ensures that the club’s resources can be focused on other crucial budgets for the playing and business success of AFC Wimbledon. 

I would like to thank all my WiSH colleagues for their incredible commitment and hard work over this past amazing year, as well as the club, the first teams, the Academy, the DTB, The Foundation and our numerous partners who all played a valuable part in our journey. We will always remember 2021 as the year when large crowds returned to Plough Lane for the first time in over three decades and WiSH created something that Wimbledon has never had before – its very own special space to tell The Greatest Story in Football.  The year 2022 promises to be another exciting one for telling that story in new and exciting ways.  Watch this space – and Happy New Year!

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