Mark Robinson provided a fitting conclusion to our first kit sponsors’ dinner back at Plough Lane with a speech that summed up the importance of this type of event.
After a fantastic evening that involved fans mingling with players and club staff, Robbo said: “We want to grow as a football club, but wherever this journey takes us this type of event must stay – we must keep our soul.”
That was reflected by our midfielder Ethan Chislett, who was enjoying his first kit sponsors’ dinner since joining us last summer.
“It has been fantastic to hear the stories from die-hard Wimbledon fans and this is the first time I’ve been able to this type of event with supporters since I came here," said Ethan. "I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
“Robbo is big on us coming along and interacting with our fans and forming a relationship with them – I think it’s important. Hearing what this club means to the people makes you want to wear the shirt even more.”
Speaking to sponsors about an event that started shortly after our reformation as a club in 2002, Ivor Heller added: “It’s an honour and a privilege to host you at Plough Lane – the first time that we’ve held the kit sponsors’ event here since we moved back home. I want to thank all our sponsors here tonight for sticking behind the club, even though we were unable to hold a dinner last year. We really appreciate it so give yourselves a round of applause!”
The kit sponsors’ dinner was attended by loyal supporters who had backed the club for many years, plus younger fans attending with their parents.
Anuk Teasdale and her daughter Millie sponsor Nik Tzanev and Cheye Alexander. “We’ve always sponsored our goalkeeper since getting involved 14 years ago, so we’ve met some great players over the years, including Rambo, George Long, and James Shea.
“I love this event because you get to talk to the players and get to understand what’s going on for them,” said Anuk. “This is what our club is all about and why the fans-owned model is the best thing ever. My brother Mourad was programme sponsor, so we are carrying on the family link. It’s great to meet new people, as well as some of the old faces. I think this is what the new stadium is all about – the new fans are just as important as those that have always been at the club. I was at an event for WiSH the other day and I met people who had never been to a football game before. They want to come along, and it’s very important that we attract new fans.”
John Mullarkey, who sponsors Ethan Chislett, said: “This is the 11th year that I’ve sponsored a shirt. One year I sponsored Dannie Bulman, and he was quite interesting! He is a good character and he was taking the mickey out of his team-mates, including Jake Reeves, Lyle, and Akinfenwa.
“There are 10 of us in the group, and we put a few pounds in. We are all die hard Wimbledon fans. I won a Season Ticket back in 1974 after I played in a seven-a-side competition at Plough Lane, and I’ve been a supporter since then.
“My son Jake stood on a bale of hay at Sandhurst to watch us back in 2002, and we’ve also got a seat alongside him for his son, so three generations of our family are watching the Dons now.”
Dons supporter Chris Root’s night was certainly an entertaining one as he shared a table with Bayzo!
“I’ve met Bayzo before and he’s a great character – he’s been to a few of our dinners with the Blue & Yellow Club and he’s always very good company. I’ve supported the club over the years in so many ways and I thought it was about time that we got our name in the programme and actually sponsored a player. I’ve been a Wimbledon supporter since 1983.
“We’ve always been a real family club. Back in 1983 when we were at the old Plough Lane if you had a ticket for the North Stand you would have access to Nelson’s Nightclub, where the players always went after the matches. It was like a Players Lounge. Even though we didn’t want to go to Selhurst Park, we had great access to players. We carried that on in our non league days at Kingsmeadow, and we want to maintain that fantastic community spirit we’ve had for so many years.”
Dennis Lowndes, who sponsors Ayoub Assal, said: “This sort of event we need to hold regularly because we want that one club mentality. Whatever happens with this club, we need to work 24-7 to get everyone down – the fans have got to come here and work towards it. If you’ve watched the team on a Saturday, why not come down and use the pub? We want fans to be involved with social events here.”
As Robbo said, it's this type of event that encapsulates all that AFC Wimbledon is about - and long may it continue!