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An update from Mick Buckley as we seek to fill two new roles

25 May 2022

Our interim chair Mick Buckley brings us up to date with all that's been going on during a whirlwind few weeks since the season ended.

Here, he covers everything from our new manager - to the appointment of two new roles that will be fundamental to the structure of our club going forward.

Finding a new manager

Once the season was over, our immediate priority was to appoint a permanent first-team manager. We spent two weeks on the recruitment process, speaking to some really-interesting candidates who all got the potential of the club. But two stood out and, as you all now know, we ended up choosing Johnnie Jackson and Terry Skiverton.

Season ticket renewals

Season ticket sales were launched with a limited-period price freeze for fans renewing their seats for the next campaign. Demand has been strong and the promotional period ends on May 30 so please don't miss out.

New ways to use our stadium

The end of the season gave us the opportunity to open up the stadium and we've had two weeks of corporate, sponsor and community events both inside the arena - and out on the pitch as well. 

The corporate days showcased the attractiveness of our integrated offering to commercial partners, with Amazon using our silver hospitality space to entertain 300 guests in the evening. 

The same space was also used to host a charity dinner for St George's Hospital Trust and an incredible £270,000 was raised for a wonderful cause.

The two weeks culminated in our community fun day, which was primarily organised by The Dons Local Action Group (DLAG), our AFC Wimbledon Foundation and Wimbledon in Sporting History (WiSH). 

Seeing so many enthusiastic family groups arrive at the stadium via the club shop and walk out onto the pitch - many of them first-time visitors - really made me see the potential the club has for further growth. The funds raised for DLAG will further help the community as well. It was a great way to end a season in which we were voted EFL Community Club of the Year.

In terms of the longer-term planning, how is that going and what should we expect?

Part of the brief given to me by the boards was to think about what’s possible in the future and the best structure to deliver it. I started with a blank piece of paper but informed my thinking by listening to people about lessons learned in the past.

We started by looking at each of our areas of activity - for example, football, fan engagement, sponsor partnerships, non-matchday revenues, financial management, community, etc. 

The list of opportunities is long. Although it's still a work in progress, we are increasingly understanding what’s required to give us the financial and football position to be able to challenge for the Championship in five years - which was established as a Dons Trust and club aim last season.

What is the financial requirement to achieve that?

In today’s prices, we would realistically need to double our playing budget which means making an additional £2.2million from our business lines.

And the football prerogative?

We need to continue our emphasis on youth development and continue to develop more great young players. We need to constantly improve our training ground facilities, providing the environment that attracts talent and enabling all our players to fully realise their potential. Crucially, in an ever-competitive market, we will need to recruit well.

What will we need to make all this possible?

Delivering on all these opportunities will require organisation, talent, and focus. For those reasons, we are going to strengthen our business and football capabilities and will shortly begin recruitment for two new roles:

1) On the business side, we will be recruiting a new Managing Director, whose role will be to provide real focus on operating the stadium and driving the business side of the organisation;

2) On the football side, we will be recruiting a new Head of Football Operations who will work alongside the first-team manager and support them in the full recruitment pathway: talent identification, scouting, data benchmarking, agent management and contract negotiation. 

We are looking for real accountability in this area so the final decision about which players are recruited will rest with the first-team manager. 

With a real focus on these business and football areas, and with the right people in the right roles, there is no reason why we can’t achieve our goals of being a sustainable community club and challenging for the Championship.

How is the team shaping up for next season?

In terms of the playing staff, we have most of the players we would like to keep for next season under contract and will make some quick decisions on the others as we want to fully understand our squad requirements.

We have given the management team an indicative working budget which will give us a strong platform to be competitive in League Two. 

Subject to season-ticket sales and sponsorships, which are going well at present, we hope to be able to further strengthen the budget.

Johnnie and Terry have both hit the ground running. They are clearly ambitious and hungry for success and have a list of player targets. Experience shows that these things take time in the summer, but I expect to see progress in this area over the next few weeks. 

The players return for pre-season training on June 20 and we will also be announcing an attractive line up of pre-season friendlies shortly. Further, we will be launching our new kit at Wimbledon's Centre Court shopping precinct on July 3.

What about our volunteers, staff and community work?

These are areas I really want to engage with. It's crucial that our volunteers - and staff - feel valued and appreciated and I want them all to feel a great sense of satisfaction and pride in the contributions they make. This is something I will be prioritizing over the forthcoming weeks.

Similarly, I want to look at ways to strengthen the bonds between the club and the people who represent us out in the community - for example, our Foundation, WiSH and DLAG. We are so proud of what they do but I sense there is room to bring us all closer together and that's also something I will be looking at.

In the meantime, I hope the club staff and volunteers who have worked relentlessly throughout a challenging few months will take a well-deserved holiday and come back fully refreshed for the exciting challenges ahead.

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