SUMMARY OF THE COMMISSION’S DECISION
The Commission has found this to be a complex and difficult decision to reach.
Feelings have run high on all sides. Whichever decision we came to many would find
it hard to understand and would be disappointed. We regret this. Nevertheless we
determined to decide the case on its merits and on our assessment of all the evidence
before us in its various forms. The balancing exercise has not been an easy one to
perform. WFC itself recognises that a move to Milton Keynes does not represent an
ideal solution to its serious difficulties.
Perhaps because of the nature of this application and the fundamental points for
football it raises, involving competing commercial and football issues, we have been
unable to reach a unanimous decision. This decision is therefore given by a majority,
both of whom have reached a clear view.
We are acutely conscious of the impact and implications of this decision, and bore
these considerations well in mind in arriving at it.
Our decision is that, in light of its exceptional circumstances, WFC should be
given approval to relocate to Milton Keynes. We suggest some important steps
which the Football League, WFC and MKSC must take to preserve the integrity and
identity of WFC.
We find the cherished and fundamental principles of football in this country in
relation to the pyramid structure and promotion and relegation on sporting criteria
alone, admirable. Likewise we respect, value and would seek to uphold the
community basis of football clubs.
We do not wish to see clubs attempting to circumvent the pyramid structure by
ditching their communities and metamorphosising in new, more attractive areas. Nor
do we wish, any more than the football authorities or supporters, for franchise football
to arrive on these shores. We believe that giving WFC permission in this exceptional
case will have neither of these consequences.
1221322-2 Page 2
We cannot conceive of another club in WFC’s league position (or which is
comparable to WFC) which meets the following criteria. The stark facts which make
WFC unique are:
(a) WFC has had no stadium of its own, and has been a secondary tenant, for
some 11 years and its shareholders are not prepared to continue to finance its
operation in its present financial circumstances.
(b) WFC needs to relocate to have a commercially viable future or, given the level
of losses it will continue to sustain, it will go into liquidation. There is no
viable South London alternative.
(c) Milton Keynes provides a suitable and deserving opportunity in its own right
where none exists in South London.
(d) WFC’s links or roots in its community are of a nature that can be and are
agreed should be retained by WFC and MKSC, albeit in a new location. The
Football League can ensure these links are put in place and preserved.
1221322-2 Page 3
Background
1. Wimbledon Football Club (WFC or the Club) was originally formed in 1889
as Wimbledon Old Centrals, playing on Wimbledon Common. It joined the Athenian
League in 1919, having moved to a site in Plough Lane in 1912. It played its home
games at Plough Lane for almost 80 years until 1991. Plough Lane is in Merton BC.
The site was not converted to meet the requirements of the Taylor Report following
the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 and in particular the requirement that clubs in the
top two divisions should play in all-seater stadia, subsequently implemented by the
Football Licensing Authority.
2. Since the 1991/1992 season WFC has played its homes games at Selhurst Park
in Croydon BC, Crystal Palace’s home ground, which is about five miles from Plough
Lane. It obtained the permission of the Football League to do so. It appears that
permission was given on the basis that the move was temporary and that WFC would
still be within its “conurbation”1
. It is now therefore over ten years since WFC last
played its home matches at Plough Lane, its original home for most of the last
century, and over ten years since it has not had its own home stadium.
3. Having played in the Athenian, Southern and Isthmian Leagues, in 1977 WFC
was elected to the Football League. It gained promotion to the Third Division in
1979. Working its way up through sporting merit and endeavour, WFC has been an
example to all as to the footballing success that can be achieved by a relatively
“small” club. Its name is indeed synonymous with “Giant Killing”. Twice having
been relegated to Division Four it nevertheless remarkably rose to the Third Division
in 1983, the Second Division in 1984, and up to the old First Division in 1986.
Memorably it won the FA Cup in this, the most famous period in the Club’s history,
beating Liverpool 1-0 in 1988. It was one of the clubs which started out in the FA
Premier League in 1992. It stayed in the FA Premier League until 2000 when it was
relegated, gradually in the preceding two seasons slipping into lower finishing
positions and it is now in Football League Division 1.
1 Witness Statement of John David Dent, 20 December 2001, paragraph 10.
1221322-2 Page 4
Selhurst Park
4. The decision to move from Plough Lane to Selhurst Park in 1991 was
influenced by WFC’s then Chairman Mr Sam Hammam. He owned 95% of the
shares of WFC. Merton had sold the freehold of the site at Plough Lane to WFC in
1959, subject to a pre-emption to re-acquire it and a covenant relating to use. The site
at Plough Lane needed considerable modernisation. Mr Hammam invested heavily in
the Club as it was achieving its phenomenal success in the 1980’s. WFC was
considerably financially indebted to him and/or his companies. In 1984 the Board
agreed to repay some of the accrued debt by transferring the site at Plough Lane to a
company controlled by Mr Hammam, which it then leased back to the Club. There
were no Rules or Regulations of the Football League, or indeed the Football
Association, which prevented an outright transfer of freehold ownership of a club’s
ground to another entity, albeit controlled/owned by its Chairman. We understand
there are no such rules even now. We understand that there are about 10 (out of 72)
Football League clubs which do not own their own stadium.2
5. Merton subsequently agreed with Mr Hammam to waive its covenant relating
to re-acquisition and he successfully, through another company he owned/controlled,
Rudgwick Limited, acquired the land for £3m and applied for a change of use.
Rudgwick Limited sold the site to Safeway Plc in 1994.3
 The Club’s move to play its
home matches at Selhurst Park in 1991 was by then looking less temporary.
Investors
6. In 1997 Mr Hammam sold 80% of his shares to a Norwegian Company AKER
RGI. Under the deal Mr Hammam retained management control. The price was
approximately £25 million.
7. Since then the Club has of course been relegated and recently finished ninth in
Football League Division 1.
2 We would say in passing that we believe the football authorities should take a close look at
whether they should monitor the ownership of land on which stadia are built and perhaps this land
should be held on trust for the clubs so that it cannot be used as an asset by owners/investors to
dispose of at will.
1221322-2 Page 5
8. In April 2000 Mr Hammam sold his remaining interest to Farian Ltd for
approximately £1.5m, a company in which Mr Charles Koppel is a shareholder and
Mr Matthias Hauger is another. On 18 April 2000 both of these gentlemen joined the
Board.
9. It is fair to note that both sets of investors, the Norwegians and Mr Koppel and
Mr Hauger were fully aware on entering into the respective transactions that a new
stadium would have to be found for the Club in due course and that it would need
considerable investment. When Mr Koppel and Mr Hauger came in in April 2000,
WFC was about to suffer relegation but it carried an FA Premier League club cost
base and nursed FA Premier League ambitions. Both attended the hearing. Mr
Koppel was appointed Vice Chairman immediately, and became Chairman in 2001.
Mr Hauger is on the Board. Mr Koppel has been very actively involved in the day to
day management of the Club including its administration, player issues, and in
particular in its attempts to find a new stadium.
Milton Keynes
10. In August 2000 Mr Peter Winkelman of the Milton Keynes Stadium
Consortium (MKSC) approached Mr Koppel. MKSC is a group of local business
people who together with stakeholders and community groups are working to secure
the provision of professional football in Milton Keynes.4
 MKSC was building a
major development in the Denbigh area of Milton Keynes, which is near Bletchley.
That included a modern, state of the art, 28,000 all-seater stadium. The stadium could
be expanded to 45,000 seats. Milton Keynes, Mr Winkelman told Mr Koppel, was a
dynamic young city, which merited having a football club. Milton Keynes, WFC and
football in general would benefit. Mr Koppel met with Mr Winkelman, leading
members of Milton Keynes Council and others to take matters forward. Heads of
terms were finally agreed in July 2001.

3 With nearly all the considerable proceeds (we are told £8.5m) going to Mr Hammam.
4 Statement of Peter Winkelman 20 November 2001, paragraph 6.
1221322-2 Page 6
Finding a new stadium
11. It had been both a preoccupation and a priority for Mr Koppel to find the Club
a home stadium since he arrived in April 2000. In an appendix to his Statement of
21 November 2001 Mr Koppel sets out in detail the extensive efforts carried out to
search for a site for a new stadium under both his and under previous management,
and the advice received. Despite these efforts, for reasons we give later no sensible
prospect has materialised.
12. No other club of the 92 professional clubs is a secondary tenant in WFC’s
position. The colours, branding and traditions at Selhurst Park remain that of Crystal
Palace FC. Crystal Palace FC also currently play in Football League Division 1. The
clubs are direct competitors. WFC feels like a visitor at its home games. Deloitte and
Touche estimate that WFC loses £3-4 million each season in revenue from not
owning its own stadium5
. Apart from the financial disadvantages to not owning its
own stadium, WFC, Mr Koppel believes, is disadvantaged from a footballing point of
view. Indeed WFC was one of only two teams in Division 1 to win more games away
than at home last season. The fan base suffers: there has been a steady decline in
home attendances (9% over the year) against a general trend of rising attendances in
Division 1. WFC’s average gates fall well below those of their rivals. In 2001 it
finished 8th and, in 2002, 9th in Division 1. It is hard to build a following of fans in
these circumstances.
13. Selhurst Park is owned by Altonwood Ltd and leased back to Crystal Palace
FC, under a similar arrangement to that effected by Mr Hammam in relation to Plough
Lane, only in this instance Mr Ron Noades, a former owner of WFC, currently
Chairman of Brentford FC, owns/controls Altonwood Ltd.
14. WFC has a sub lease from Crystal Palace, which terminates on 31 May 2005.
15. Under the terms of the sub lease 10% of gate receipts (including revenue from
season tickets and executive boxes) is paid to Altonwood Ltd by way of rent. WFC
pays 50% of all expenses accrued in the maintenance and operation of the stadium.
5 Expert Report, 20 November 2001, paragraph 33; and Supplementary Report,
14 January 2002, paragraph 6.
1221322-2 Page 7
Commercial opportunities for WFC in this arrangement are limited. No branding can
take place in the hospitality and entertainment areas. WFC’s image is not projected.
WFC fans struggle to find any sense of belonging at Crystal Palace and the home
following has declined.
16. WFC ticket prices are frozen at not less than 20% below Crystal Palace FC
prices to prevent undercutting. Concessions from the sale of food and drink for
football and other hospitality/functions all go to Altonwood Ltd. Advertising revenue
is curtailed and WFC cannot exploit rights in the stands, enclosures, suites, lounges
and bars. Corporate boxes remain branded by Crystal Palace FC and its corporate
sponsors. Merchandise sales are held back by the location of the WFC shop, which is
in a less prominent position than the Crystal Palace shop. Moreover WFC is
concerned as to the potentially onerous terms Altonwood Ltd and Crystal Palace FC
may seek to achieve in relation to the renewal of the lease, should they be prepared to
renew it in May 2005.
17. For all these reasons WFC considers it imperative that a new home stadium
for WFC is secured, and one which would be ready reasonably quickly i.e. in the next
2-3 years. The following criteria have been determined by WFC and its investors and
influence their choices:
(a) The site has to be large enough to accommodate a stadium of 20,000 people6
;
(b) The owners have to be ready and willing to sell;
6 The average home attendances for the FAPL for the 2001/2 season and Football League Division 1 were 34,093 and
15,222 respectively. The Division 1 attendees for the 2001/2 Season are set out below. WFC’s average home
attendance at Selhurst Park for the 2001/2 season was 6,832.
Club Ground Avg Club Ground Avg
Barnsley Oakwell 12,967 Nottm Forest The City Ground 21,931
Birmingham St Andrews 22,080 Portsmouth Fratton Park 16,117
Bradford Valley Parade 15,471 Preston Deepdale 14,492
Burnley Turf Moor 15,023 Rotherham Millmoor 6,994
Coventry Highfield Road 17,294 Sheff United Bramall Lane 15,789
Crewe Gresty Road 6,807 Sheff Wed Hillsborough 19,963
Crystal Palace Selhurst Park 17,880 Stockport Edgeley Park 6,063
Gillingham Priestfield Stadium 8,662 Walsall Bescot Stadium 6,951
Grimsby Blundell Park 6,092 Watford Vicarage Road 14,970
Man City Maine Road 32,777 West Brom The Hawthorns 19,918
Millwall The Den 13,009 Wimbledon Selhurst Park 6,832
Norwich Carrow Road 18,416 Wolves Molineux 22,910
1221322-2 Page 8
(c) The site has to have suitable rail and road infrastructure;
(d) Planning permission must be probable;
(e) It must be available by 2005 (at the latest) when the current site lease at
Selhurst Park expires;
and last but certainly not least from WFC’s shareholders’ point of view
(f) The total cost of the procurement and development must be “affordable”
which in reality equates to substantial funding from outside sources, and in
particular by enabling development. WFC cannot raise the funds itself.
18. Mr Koppel refers to vigorous efforts over many years to identify a site in
reasonable proximity to the old Plough Lane site, which have all come to nothing.
19. In the early part of last year WFC concluded that the MKSC proposal they had
been exploring represented the best option. The potential fan base is huge. 8 million
people live within one hour’s drive, and 2.2 million within half an hour’s drive.
Milton Keynes is said to have the largest population in Europe without a professional
football team. The stadium site is easily accessible. 55 acres as a site is available at
Denbigh, with minimal land acquisition cost. 18 acres could be given to enabling
development to support the stadium construction costs. There were no foreseeable
regulatory problems. There would be no significant capital cost to the Club. There is
a serious group of commercial and retail partners. All this has been confirmed to us
by Mr Peter Winkelman of MKSC.
20. It would be one of the biggest and most difficult decisions in the long history
of the Club. At a Board Meeting in July 2001, after much discussion, it was resolved
that the Club should indeed pursue the Milton Keynes option and agree the heads of
an agreement with MKSC. Most Board members felt the Club had no choice. Some,
including the longest serving members, dissented. The most difficult issue was,
obviously, how to win the hearts and minds of WFC’s fans to this proposal and to
make it possible for them to continue to support and identify with the Club.
1221322-2 Page 9
21. The Board immediately agreed to subsidised travel and season tickets and to
set up consultation measures relating to the design of the stadium at Milton Keynes to
properly reflect the history and traditions of WFC. WFC reached agreement in
principle with MKSC. There was then the question of approval of the move from the
Football League.
The application to the Football League
22. The Club had once before, in 1997 under Mr Hammam’s chairmanship, flirted
with a possibility of relocation considerably farther afield than Milton Keynes,
namely Dublin. The plan floundered when the Football Association of Ireland
blocked it, but the Norwegians who invested in the Club at that time were led to
believe (rightly or wrongly) that the English football authorities would not pose a
problem.
23. By a letter dated 2 August 2001 WFC made a formal application for the
Football League’s approval of the move to Milton Keynes. Mr Koppel expressed an
intention for the Club to be playing in the new stadium as soon as the 2003/4 season,
subject to the necessary planning and regulatory consents. He wrote to the Chief
Executive at the Football League, Mr David Burns. His letter states:
“Dear David
I am hereby writing to inform you that Wimbledon Football Club has signed
an agreement to move to a new home ground in Milton Keynes and is herewith
formally applying for your approval of the proposed move. Subject to the
necessary planning and regulatory consents being obtained, we intend to be
playing in our new stadium ideally in the 2003/2004 season. I would like to
take this opportunity to explain why we have taken this decision.
The first thing I would like to stress is that this is about ensuring the survival
of the club. We are not looking to set a trend but to find a home where we can
establish roots and build a platform for the future. We have not made this
decision lightly.
Wimbledon is in a unique position. We are ambitious, but we are the largest
club in the country without a home. It is now ten years since we left our
original ground in Plough Lane, a site that is owned by a supermarket chain
and is not available to us. Despite having worked closely with the local
council over time it is agreed that there are no viable alternatives for us to
return to the Royal Borough of Merton. It has also become very clear that in
1221322-2 Page 10
order to guarantee the survival of the club we need to find an urgent solution
to a problem that we inherited.
Since we took control of the club, we have once again looked at all options
available to us and as you are no doubt aware, there are limited options for
stadia development in today’s environment. The move to Milton Keynes
represents the only realistic solution for Wimbledon Football Club, which is
immediate and welcoming.
As a result of this move, we, together with our partners in Milton Keynes, will
be investing in a new stadium with an initial capacity of 28,000 with the
potential of increasing to 45,000. Milton Keynes is currently 20 miles from
the nearest League club and 50 miles from the nearest Premiership club and
we believe that over time it will become a strong football community in its own
right.
We know that we are taking a risk moving to a new home, but we genuinely
believe that this is the only way we can give Wimbledon a long-term,
sustainable future. Of course, we understand that the move will be an
emotional issue for our supporters and that many people will be disappointed.
Whilst our attendances in the Premiership were satisfactory our own
supporter base has remained small, the effects of which are clearly shown now
that we are in Division 1. Clearly, being homeless has not allowed us to build
a long-term sustainable supporter base. We will of course work closely with
supporter groups to ensure that we do as much as possible to allow them to
continue to support Wimbledon Football Club. We also fully intend to meet
all our commitments to our local Community, Youth and Academy
programmes.
We recognize that this is a unique solution to a unique problem. We
appreciate that a significant amount of debate amongst all interested parties
will be generated, which we are taking very seriously. However, we have
made a commitment to the club, its staff, players and supporters to ensure that
the future of Wimbledon Football Club is protected and we have made this
difficult decision with all stakeholders in mind.
I hope I have given you a sense of why we are seeking your approval for this
move and we herewith would like to seek your permission to make a formal
presentation to the Football League Board on 16 August 2001. I look forward
to discussing this in greater detail with you as soon as possible.
We have also written to the Football Association and the FA Premier League
regarding this matter.”
24. The Football League Board met on 16 August 2001. The Board unanimously
rejected WFC’s application. WFC contended that the decision taken was unfair,
unlawful, and procedurally flawed.

The Arbitration Panel - January 2002
25. The Club and the Football League entered into an ad hoc submission to
arbitration in accordance with Rule K of the Football Association Rules. David Dein,
Vice Chairman of the Football Association, Douglas Craig OBE and Charles
Hollander QC as Chairman were appointed and proceeded to consider the matter.
They were presented with extensive written evidence from both parties. They heard
oral submissions and evidence from Mr Charles Koppel, Mr David Burns of the
Football League and Councillor Andrew Judge of Merton BC, over two days on 21
and 22 January 2002. The parties were each represented by Leading Counsel. They
unanimously decided that the decision taken had not been properly taken in the legal
sense, and that the procedures had not been fair.
26. They, of course, left open the question of whether permission should be given
or not. That remained a decision for the Football League Board to whom they
remitted the matter on 29 January 2002.
27. The Panel in paragraph 54 of its Award makes it clear that in its view The
Football League Board “…. decided the application, not on its merits, but on the basis
of an inflexible view or policy that the rule should not be used to sanction a move of
such a distance”.
28. The Panel also made it clear at paragraph 4(b) that “…. We say nothing as to
what the final decision ultimately ought to be. It would be inappropriate for us to
express any view at all on that”.
29. Nevertheless the reasoning of the distinguished Arbitration Panel, and in
particular that set out at paragraphs 57 – 60 of the Award makes a number of points
which are relevant for us to consider:
57. It seems to us this is a decision of great complexity. We recognise the
strength of the concerns of the League: as to the future of football in the
community, the pyramid structure, the fans, and worries as to “franchise
football.” We recognise that the League may not share WFC’s view that its
position is quite as unique as was suggested to us, and that they may not see
WFC’s financial concerns in quite the same way as do WFC. However, their
Mission Statement makes clear that the League should aim to “facilitate
financial success, stability and development of professional football clubs.”
1221322-2 Page 12
They must also surely recognise that the position of WFC is at least in many
ways exceptional. No one else shares a ground as a secondary tenant. WFC
are already outside Merton. They enjoy less local loyalty than most clubs.
They have a small fan base much of which does not come from Wimbledon.
The relevance of the financial position is not merely that it is very bad, but
that prospects of improvement without a move of ground look distinctly poor
at present. It should be in the interests of football as a whole that major new
stadia are encouraged where there is an untapped demand for major league
football, such as in new towns. It is true that a route does exist through the
pyramid structure to achieve this, but it is a somewhat tortuous one.
58. The position in Merton also seems to us important, a matter to which
the Board seem to have given precious little consideration so far. If it looks
realistic for a new stadium to be built, for example, at Plough Lane, the
balance of the argument might change. That needs assessment. If WFC can
move within Merton, the case for Milton Keynes, with all its potential
concerns, may be much weaker. Will the optimism attractively expressed to us
by Councillor Judge prove justified? Have WFC exhausted all their options?
We would have thought that the position should be investigated urgently in
some detail. Mr Judge suggested that Merton might well be prepared to
contribute financially to a feasibility study. We have in mind that under its
agreement with Milton Keynes, the parties have rights to terminate after 31
August 2002. The matter needs to be considered urgently, but there should be
time for some sort of feasibility study.
59. If, on the other hand, development in Merton seems impractical the
League may have to consider issues of real difficulty. Is it better for WFC to
go into administration (if the League consider that is likely to be the
consequence) than to permit a move to Milton Keynes? Will the interests of
the fans and the community opposed to the move be served if the club is
liquidated? Are the concerns of the League as to the opening of the floodgates
such as to justify refusing what may be shown to be a genuinely exceptional
case? Can WFC work with the League to minimise the potential problems? Is
the principle better preserved by making deserving exceptions?
60. We do not seek to suggest the answers to any of these questions. They
are matters for the League not us. They require, if we may say so, anxious
and detailed consideration. But what is not sufficient is to dismiss the
application on the basis that 60 miles is a bridge too far without weighing the
competing arguments.
30. Whilst the merits are of course solely for us, these comments are from three
experienced and distinguished people immersed in football commerce, policy and
procedures. They heard and considered a large volume of evidence and submissions,
and we believe it is appropriate to give appropriate weight to their comments in all the
circumstances of this case.
1221322-2 Page 13
The referral to an FA Commission of Inquiry
31. The Football League Board met on 17 April 2002 to reconsider the decision
concerning WFC’s application to relocate.
32. On 23 April 2002 Mr Nick Craig, in-house solicitor at the Football League,
wrote to Mr Nic Coward, Company Secretary at the Football Association, as follows:
“Dear Nic,
Wimbledon Football Club
I write further to the meeting of the Board of the Football League on the 17th
April 2002.
The Board was asked by Wimbledon FC to reconsider its decision to re-hear
Wimbledon’s application to relocate to Milton Keynes.
Having considered the issues, the Board was very cognisant of the fact that
football’s rules restricting relocations of clubs are based on sporting
imperatives that form part of the fabric of the game in this country, affecting
not just Wimbledon FC, or even the League’s other member clubs, but also the
interests of clubs above and below those clubs in football’s pyramid, as well
as fans and other stakeholders in the game generally. I am sure that you do
not need me to repeat those arguments in this letter.
The Board felt that, in all the circumstances, the matter should be considered
by a Commission appointed by the Football Association, to ensure that
Wimbledon’s claim that its case is exceptional and will not create a damaging
precedent may be assessed in the context of an Inquiry with a sufficiently
broad and all-inclusive focus, taking into account the views of all interested
parties. Accordingly, this letter constitutes a referral of the application to the
FA under Regulation 76.1 of the Football League Regulations.
I would be grateful if you could constitute a Commission as soon as possible
since the issues that need to be resolved are of pressing importance both to
Wimbledon FC and its supporters.
Whilst I appreciate that it is ultimately for the Commission appointed to
determine its own procedure, I can confirm that the League and Wimbledon
FC spent a good deal of time and effort working out a procedure that was
mutually agreed to be fair and appropriate for the resolution of the
application. Once the Commission has been appointed, and should you so
request, we will send you this procedure, all of which has been agreed save
that the club had made various representations regarding point nine of that
procedure.
1221322-2 Page 14
Please note that as the application was originally intended to be heard by the
Board, there is no provision within the current draft procedure for
submissions to be made by the League. For the avoidance of doubt I confirm
that the League does wish to make submissions on behalf of its members to the
Commission, to ensure that the interests of those members can be taken into
account by the Commission. It will be an easy task to amend the draft
procedure to take this into account.”
The FA Commission of Inquiry Hearing
33. Under FA Rule F6, the FA appointed a Commission of Inquiry to hear and
resolve the Club’s application. WFC needed a decision on their proposal by the end
of May at the latest, and preferably earlier as their end of year accounts needed to be
signed off, and because of their perilous financial position, which appears to be
worsening by the day.
34. On 2 May 2002, the FA appointed Mr Raj Parker (Partner, Freshfields
Bruckhaus Deringer) as Chairman of the Commission. On 3 May 2002, the FA
appointed Mr Alan Turvey (FA Council member, member of FA Disciplinary and
Membership Committees and Chairman of the Ryman League) and Mr Steven Stride
(Operations Director, Aston Villa FC) to the Commission. As the Participants in the
hearing under the FA Rule F, WFC and the Football League were notified and they
did not object to these appointments. All three Commission members are independent
and impartial concerning the issues in this case and the Participants, and one way or
another bring experience of football matters to bear on the questions raised.
35. The Terms of Reference and Procedure of the Commission are set out at
Schedule 1. These were agreed by the Club. The Football League did not raise any
objection to them and was satisfied with their content.
36. The FA released a press announcement on 10 May 2002 inviting any
interested persons to make written submissions to the Commission, via the FA. A
copy of the announcement is attached at Schedule 2.
37. Prior to and during the hearing, the Commission received written submissions
from the following:
q The Club;
1221322-2 Page 15
q The FA;
q The London Borough of Merton Council;
q The Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA);
q The Dons Trust; and
q Other interested persons.
38. The details of these submissions are attached at Schedule 3.
39. On 17 May 2002, the Commission received from Drivers Jonas a “Feasibility
Report on the construction of a stadium at Plough Lane, Wimbledon” (the DJFS).
This study had been jointly commissioned (and paid for) by WFC and Merton BC, as
recommended by the Arbitration Panel. Both WFC and Merton BC made written
(and oral) submissions to the Commission in relation to the DJFS.
40. The Commission also received the materials which the Arbitration Panel had
seen, including submissions and evidence from:
q The Club;
q The Football League;
q The Football Association;
q The FA Premier League;
q The Football Conference Ltd;
q The Scottish Football League;
q Milton Keynes City FC;
q The Football Supporters Association;
q WISA; and
q The London Borough of Merton.
1221322-2 Page 16
41. The details of these materials are attached at Schedule 4.
42. Counsel instructed by Olswang, appeared for the Club. Whilst the Football
League had had similar external lawyer firepower before the Arbitration Panel, it
decided not to engage external lawyers for the Commission hearing, taking the view
that its objections had been clearly set out in the written material.
43. The hearing commenced on 14 May 2002 at the offices of Freshfields
Bruckhaus Deringer, 65 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1HS.
44. The Commission sat on four days, namely: 14-16 May 2002 and 22 May
2002.
45. On 14 May 2002, having heard counsel for the Club, the Commission made
some directions regarding attendance at the hearing and disclosure of submissions and
evidence.
46. Put shortly these directions amounted to this. The Club and the Football
League, as the Participants under FA Rule F, were entitled to see all written materials
submitted to the Commission by any other person. However no material put forward
by the Club or the Football League or by any other person was to be shown to any
person who was not a Participant. In addition, only the Club and the Football League
were permitted to attend and participate in the hearing. However, to the extent
necessary or desirable, the Commission could invite others to attend.
47. In order to provide the supporters with sufficient material on which to
properly base their argument, the Club agreed at the Commission Chairman’s
suggestion, to prepare a document which set out the gist of their submission to the
Commission, taking out confidential material. This was made available to Mr Kris
Stewart (Chair, WISA) on the condition that Lovells (for WISA) and Mr Stewart
undertook not to distribute the document or disclose its contents to any other person,
save any person agreed to by the Club. It was also made available to Ms Louise
Carton-Kelly (Chair, the Dons Trust) on the same conditions.
48. In the result, the following “non Participants” also attended to make oral
submissions and/or give evidence:
1221322-2 Page 17
q Ms Louise Carton-Kelly (Chair, the Dons Trust);
q Mr Kris Stewart (Chair, WISA);
q Mr Nicholas Coward (Company Secretary, the FA);
q Mr Peter Winkelman (Chairman, MKSC); and
q Mr Steve Clark (Head of Planning and Public Protection, Merton BC).
49. Mr Koppel also gave evidence.
50. Both the Football League and WFC representatives present were permitted to
ask questions of those who attended.
Objections to WFC’s proposal to play home matches at Milton Keynes
51. The proposal has met with considerable opposition, and not just from the
WFC fans one might think would be opposed “root and branch” to such a move.
Respected football writers in our national press were generally supportive of the
Football League’s decision last August.
52. A Parliamentary All Party Committee (chaired by Alan Keen MP of the All
Party Football Group) which comprises 150 members in the House of Commons and
the House of Lords is opposed to the proposal.
53. Merton BC is opposed to the move and believe a stadium can be built in
Merton for WFC.
54. And of course the Football Association, the Football League, the FA Premier
League and the Football Conference Ltd have all provided statements which stress:
the identification of clubs with community; the sacrosanct nature of the pyramid
system based on sporting merit (English football does not allow a franchise system)
and the precedent or floodgates argument, which all weigh against permission being
granted for a move of this nature and distance.
55. Notwithstanding Mr Koppel’s efforts to liaise with and consult with the
supporters, which have involved many meetings and other communications, a section
1221322-2 Page 18
of WFC fans have been consistently hostile to the move and vigorous in their
opposition to it. Mr Koppel has been subjected to some unpleasant personal abuse.
56. Indeed most of the hundreds (over 600) of communications we have received
have argued against the proposal. They have generally been from individual WFC
fans.
57. Supporters’ associations and individual fans from many other clubs and
people from as far afield as the United States, Australia (Wimbledon Supporters
Downunder), Russia and Norway have also expressed similar views.
The fans
58. We set out below in Schedule 5 extracts from just one letter received which,
we believe, encapsulates the main arguments.
59. We also set out at Schedule 6 the transcript of a handwritten letter which a
WFC fan, who has been persuaded that WFC should relocate to Milton Keynes, sent
to Mr Koppel.
60. WFC has a loyal and dedicated fan base organised into three main
associations: WISA, the Dons Trust and the Official Wimbledon Fans Forum. Doing
our best to summarise their arguments, we have set these out at Schedule 7.
61. There is an underlying thread which runs through some of these points. There
is scepticism of WFC’s attempts to find a new stadium closer to home and the
viability of the Milton Keynes project for WFC. There is some cynicism concerning
the shareholders’ true motives and how the Club comes to be in the predicament it is
in. And there is disbelief at how bad the financial position and implications are for
WFC.
62. Whether or not this scepticism and cynicism is well founded, we can only
judge on the evidence we have considered. Whether the move (if allowed) is a
successful one for the Club, only time will tell.
1221322-2 Page 19
63. Judging from the evidence of Mr Koppel, Deloitte & Touche and those
involved in Milton Keynes, almost all of which the Football League do not challenge,
but some of which is challenged by others, including Merton BC, we have no reason
to share the fans’ scepticism or cynicism.
64. A further point which several WFC fans were keen to stress is that WFC is, by
its nature, a small, community-based club and that the owners do not have a right to
expect it to attract a large following or to be a successful, profit-making vehicle. This
raises an interesting question: is every football club entitled to aspire to the upper
echelons of sustainable FA Premier League success, or must each simply accept the
limitations – whether geographical, demographic, historical or otherwise – which
circumstances impose on it? We do not answer that question in this decision.
65. We heard both Mr Kris Stewart (Chair, WISA) and Ms Louise Carton-Kelly
(Chair, the Dons Trust) in person. It was clear from their evidence that they care
passionately about WFC. WISA is the campaigning arm of the WFC supporters,
whereas the Dons Trust is the fund-raising arm.
66. Perhaps the most important point put forward by WFC’s fans is that the Club
would die as WFC upon a relocation to Milton Keynes. Indeed when Mr Stewart
was, in effect, asked by counsel for the Club, to choose between life for the Club in
Milton Keynes, or death in Merton, he replied that he regarded both as death. Instead
he hoped to resurrect the Club and start at the bottom of the pyramid. He would of
course be free to do that if the circumstances so arose.
67. The amounts of money the Dons Trust had raised (approximately £70,000)
and according to Ms Carton-Kelly could reasonably hope to raise, could not, on a
realistic analysis pay for the administration fees necessary to stave off liquidation
whilst a stadium in South London was found/built, even were that achievable. Crystal
Palace supporters managed to raise the largest amount - £1 million of any supporter
organisation7
 but that does not begin to address the scale of WFC’s financial
problems.
7 Deloitte & Touche statement, 14 January 2002, paragraph 16.
1221322-2 Page 20
The football authorities
68. The Football League, having referred the matter to an FA Commission under
Rule 76.1 of its Rules took a neutral stance at the hearing, relying on the written
material they had put in for the Arbitration Panel. Mr Nick Craig, in-house solicitor,
did however represent the League's interests and was most helpful when he attended.
We have to rely primarily on the written submissions put forward to the Arbitration
Panel by the Football League to determine the detailed arguments, and on the
evidence put forward to the Arbitration Panel for the facts and the views of the
Football League’s witnesses.
69. We also thought it appropriate that a representative of the Football Association
should attend to answer questions, and Mr Nic Coward, Company Secretary, duly did
so. This is because of the fundamental issues of principle for the game, which the
application had raised. Mr Coward also put in a further statement to assist us, and
gave helpful and clear evidence on these difficult issues of principle. He was
however admittedly in no position to give evidence which went directly to the merits,
since he did not have all the facts, the matter having been given to the Commission to
determine on the evidence.
70. Taken together, the football authorities’ arguments and evidence amount to
this:
q In order to protect certain fundamental features of English football, consent is
needed to relocate a home stadium. The Football League correctly applied
over-arching points of principle to refuse consent.
q This move would entail the disappearance of WFC as a club. It would lose its
identity, but not its position in the League structure.
q This would mean it would drive a coach and horses through the pyramid
structure, whose sole criterion of success is sporting merit on the field of play,
with promotion (or relegation) depending purely on sporting endeavour. As a
new club it would start life close to the top. Milton Keynes would gain a club
in Division 1 and Wimbledon would lose one.
1221322-2 Page 21
q To permit this would herald, or risk heralding, a franchise system for football
whereby the investors in football could relocate clubs at will in search of a
bigger or easier market, better demographics, larger public subsidies and the
like.
q This in turn would dramatically change the defining characteristics of the
English domestic game where clubs are identified with the locality or
community built up over time and cannot ordinarily be moved by owners and
investors who seek to maximise returns on investment, to the detriment of the
communities which loyally follow football clubs. Local community links with
football clubs are part of the social fabric of life in England.
q The only way such a move of this nature and distance could be approved, to
be fair to all other clubs and without fundamentally undermining the integrity
of these principles, would be for WFC to relaunch itself and start at a lower
level in the pyramid.
71. The Football League had allowed temporary relocations for good reasons
outside "conurbations" in respect of certain clubs8
 where it was intended the club
would return, but there has been no previous occasion on which the Football League
had granted permission to a club to relocate permanently to a ground outside its
“conurbation”. By contrast the Scottish Football League had allowed Meadowbank
Thistle to relocate from a stadium in Central Edinburgh to a new town approximately
18 miles away, and to change its name to Livingston in 1996. Remarkably,
Livingston is now competing at the same level as Rangers and Celtic. When it was
Meadowbank Thistle it was in the bottom division of the Scottish Football League,
struggling financially and only attracting 300 fans to home games. According to the
Secretary of the Scottish Football League, Mr Peter Donald9
:
 “The Management Committee of the Scottish Football League granted the
application because it was felt that existing supporters of Meadowbank Thistle
who wanted to support the Club would be able to travel relatively easily to
Livingston (it is served by excellent transport links) and the relocation would
8 Bristol Rovers, Chester City, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Charlton.
9 Statement of 21 December 2001, paragraph 10.
1221322-2 Page 22
improve the long-term viability of the Club and enhance Scottish Football
generally.”
72. Important principles unquestionably underpin the requirement for the Football
League’s consent: maintaining links between club and community; the undesirability
of opening the floodgates to investors to relocate at will, engendering unsavoury
bidding wars between competing local authorities who seek to import clubs; and the
necessity of preserving the sanctity of the pyramid structure to prevent new clubs
emerging out of the ashes of old clubs to effectively leap over other clubs who do not
employ such measures.
73. Mr Nic Coward put it like this in his statement of 13 May 2002:
Ground Move Rules
15. The competition rules of each of the FA Premier League, The Football
League and The Football Conference contain rules giving the organiser right
of approval over any proposed change of home ground by a member club. The
FA regards such rules as appropriate to enable the competition organiser to
ensure that any such move does not harm the framework of football in
England:
15.1 Supporters and communities as stakeholders in football and football
clubs.
As the Preamble in the FA Handbook 2001-2002 states (at p6): ‘Football in
England is part of the fabric of life. It provides a sense of belonging for
millions of people, touching their lives in a way that no other institution can,
inspiring passion and commitment’. This sense of belonging means that
football clubs are not regarded by The FA solely in the same terms as would
other ordinary businesses. Although legal ownership resides in the club's
shareholders, it is the view of The FA that other stakeholders include the
supporters of the club, as well as the community in which it has grown and for
which it provides a focal point for civic pride10. This relationship is
considered of significant importance to football, helping to build up a sense of
identity on which the essence of football competition in England is based, and
also is the bedrock of the value of the football club ‘brand’ upon which club
owners are able to base their commercial programmes.
15.2 The integrity of the pyramid system
10 A similar notion underlies the ‘listing’ of the FA Cup Final along with other major sports
events under the Broadcasting Act, the purpose and effect of which is to guarantee public
access to those events through exposure on free-to-air, widely available television stations.
See for instance the Football Task Force Report to Government on Commercial Issues.
1221322-2 Page 23
15.2.1 As noted above, the estimated 43,000 clubs in English football
play in different competitions and span a huge range of
abilities and resources. However, they are all inextricably
linked together by the system of promotion and relegation that
runs unbroken between every competition from the bottom of
the league system, the “grass-roots” of football, right up to the
pinnacle of the game, the FA Premier League. They may also
play against each other in knock out competitions - locally or
nationally.
15.2.2 This link through the mechanism of promotion and relegation is
one of the fundamental organisational principles of the English
system. (See generally Regulations for the Establishment and
Operation of the National League Association, FA Handbook p
162 ff).
15.2.3 Theoretically, any club may rise up through the pyramid and
get to the pinnacle, because (apart from objectively justifiable
criteria such as ground grading requirements) the sole
criterion for promotion is sporting merit, success on the
playing field, not financial or other non-sporting criteria.
15.2.4 The link it provides between all levels of the game is
fundamental to the FA’s vision of football as part of the fabric
of English life, to be enjoyed by all both at an active
participatory level and (at the elite level) as a commercial
product. Other aspects of the game also reflect this link, such
as the payments that are made by The FA Premier League to
The Football League and the Football Foundation, and the
rules that prevent the live broadcast of professional matches on
a Saturday afternoon, even when the matches are sold out, in
order to ensure more active participation in amateur Saturday
afternoon competitions.
15.2.5 As a result, the FA is concerned that there be no circumvention
or other undermining of the league system, or of the mechanism
for advancement up the pyramid by means of sporting success
only. This means, for example, that the right that a club has
earned by its sporting success to play at a particular level of
the pyramid is not an asset that may be traded to a third party
like other assets.
15.2.6 I would refer the Commission, in this regard, to the rules of
various competitions that apply upon the insolvency of member
clubs, which I understand were presented to the original
Arbitration Tribunal by other witnesses in this matter. Those
rules apply to prevent the administrator of the club selling the
right to play in the competition to the highest bidder. The same
1221322-2 Page 24
principle also applies, however, as explained below, in the
context of ground moves.
The Club Academy System
16. The concept of the Club Academy System ("the Academy System”) is
that it should compliment the work of the club in the “Football in the
Community Scheme". A key component of both the ethos of the Academy
System and its regulations is that the main Academy site is within 1.5 hour’s
travelling distance of the club’s main stadium. This regulation protects the
best interests of the development of the individual player, thus ensuring that
players are developed within their own locality and that clubs are precluded
from signing players who live outside 1.5 hour’s travelling distance of the
Academy. Any variation of this requires the prior approval of The FA and the
respective League.
17. The FA is concerned that the Academy System regulations are not
circumvented by any club. That is to say, a club could not move away from the
locality in which its Academy is established, nor could a club establish an
Academy in a location to which it is not a natural resident.
Conclusion
18. English football is not organised on the basis of a franchise system in
which different communities may bid for clubs competing in competitions. If a
move effectively involved a break of the links with the community with which
the club is traditionally associated, and a move to an entirely new community,
with an intent to put down new roots and reinvent the club with a new identity
and a new set of allegiances, and yet the club did not want to relinquish its
place in the pyramid, go down to a lower level and work its way back up, the
FA believes that allowing such a move would have a fundamental impact on
the organisational framework of the game.
The Club’s case
74. This can be summarised as follows:
q WFC is in an exceptional position. It has not had a home stadium of its own
since 1991. It has been outside Merton (and in Croydon) since then (with the
consent of the Football League). It is unlike any other of the 92 League clubs
as a secondary tenant and shares its ground with a competitor. This is wholly
unsatisfactory. Moreover it has a very small support base within Merton. The
vast majority of WFC’s fans do not come from Merton. Less than 20% of the
3,400 season ticket holders live in Merton. The Club does not have firm and
extensive roots within the conurbation from which it takes its name.
1221322-2 Page 25
q Moreover it is in a unique financial position. It is, according to Deloitte &
Touche who have submitted expert reports both to the Arbitration Panel and to
this Commission, estimated to be losing more than £20,000 per day, £150,000
per week, £8.2 million per year11. Its shareholders have put in £6.7 million of
funds during the course of last year to keep the Club going. They have
invested a further £3.8 million this year. Losses for the season which has just
ended and the next two seasons are expected to reach £33 million. These are
losses the shareholders cannot be expected to maintain or sustain. Further
funds of £2.5 million will be required until the end of the Club's financial year
(June 2002) if the Club is to stave off insolvency. A combination of the ITV
Digital collapse and WFC’s loss of the FA Premier League parachute payment
will result in a loss of revenue of £7 million (a staggering two-thirds of the
Club’s income) for next season.
q Deloitte & Touche who are widely regarded to be among the foremost experts
in the field of football club finance, say this places WFC in a unique financial
position, quite apart from its (enduring) lack of home ground.
q WFC’s 2000/2001 operating loss was greater, at £10.8 million, than all but
two of the other 91 professional clubs in England. Their overall revenues are
poor compared to other clubs in a similar position. The two clubs whose
operating losses were greater are Blackburn Rovers and Fulham who were
also in Division 1 that season. Deloitte & Touche disclose in their
Supplementary Statement dated 13 May 2002 that these two clubs have had
the financial legacy of Mr Jack Walker and Mr Mohammed Al Fayed as
benefactors and have each received considerable investment of £80- £100
million. They continue to enjoy substantial financial support going forward.
WFC has also received lesser but nevertheless significant funds from its
present shareholders, who now say if the Club is not able to identify a viable
stadium in order to develop and compete equally with other clubs like Fulham
and Blackburn and which gives it a future, it will be forced into liquidation.
Both Fulham and Blackburn, to achieve their success, paid the players’ wages
11 Supplementary Report from Deloitte & Touche, 13 May 2002, paragraph 3c)ii)

and sustained the operating losses necessary to achieve promotion back to the
Premier League in May 2001. WFC has similar ambitions.
q Deloitte & Touche goon to say as to the future financial outlook for the
Club12:
“…
The financial outlook for Wimbledon beyond the 2001/02 season.
On the basis of present trading figures and assuming that the Club remains in
Division One, in my opinion Wimbledon’s aggregate operating losses before
amortisation of player registrations could be in excess of £33 million over the
three seasons 2001/02 to 2003/04.13 My loss estimate for this period is
greater than the £22 million set out in paragraph 18 of my report dated 20
November 2001 due to the Club’s poorer trading results for 2001/02 and
different assumptions regarding broadcasting monies.
In the 2002/03 season, Wimbledon will no longer receive parachute payments
from the FA Premier League. In 2001/02, parachute payments of £5.1 million
represented almost half of the Club’s total (estimated) revenue.
In the 2002/03 season, Wimbledon is unlikely to receive as much from The
Football League as in 2001/02 in relation to broadcasting monies. In 2001/02
Wimbledon received a total of £2.7 million in relation to ‘standard payments’
and ‘additional payments’ from The Football League, representing onequarter
of the Club’s total (estimated) revenue.
The ‘loss’ of the parachute payment on its own would be a significant and
fundamental deterioration in the operating and financial position of the Club.
I expect the operating and financial position of the Club to worsen further by
a reduction in monies from the Football League due to the situation regarding
broadcasting monies. If the Club also suffers a reduction in broadcasting
revenue in 2002/03 of, say, £1.9 million, the combined reduction is
approximately £7 million. All other things being equal, that is a reduction of
almost two-thirds of total revenue for Wimbledon compared to 2001/02 and
this position is compounded by the absence of compensating match day and
commercial revenue to the same degree as other clubs due to their lack of
ownership and control over the stadium where they play.
12 Supplemental Expert’s Report, 13 May 2002, paragraphs 9-13.
13 My estimates of Wimbledon’s operating losses before amortisation of player registrations for
2001/02 to 2003/04 are based on management’s forecast for 2001/02 and some broad assumptions
regarding revenues and costs for 2002/03 and 2003/04. These assumptions include that the Club
remains in Division One each season, broadcasting revenue of £0.8 million per season, revenue
other than broadcasting inflated at 5% per annum and wages and salaries reduced by 11% per
annum using 2001/02 as a base.
1221322-2 Page 27
As far as I am aware, no English professional football club has ever suffered a
reduction in revenue by as much as two-thirds from one season to the next,
including those clubs who have suffered relegation.”
q Those who object to the relocation do not properly take into account the dire
financial position of the Club.
q The move to Milton Keynes is WFC's last chance of financial survival. If it is
allowed to move it may then look with some optimism at its future and is
expected to develop to its true potential and compete equally with other clubs
of its standing and with the hope of promotion and further success. If it is not
it will not simply drop down the divisions, it will go into liquidation. The
shareholders would not provide further finance, and the Directors would be
forced to put WFC into an insolvency procedure. Since there are no assets to
fund an administration the Club would go into immediate liquidation. No-one
would be likely to fund the heavy losses with no prospect of recovering any
financial outlay and so it is highly unlikely that the Club would be taken over.
q Deloitte & Touche recommend a stadium with a capacity of 20,000-25,000
which the Club, through Mr Koppel, says is an entirely reasonable size for
WFC’s ambitions.
q There is no other available site in Merton or anywhere else in South London.
Those who object to the relocation wrongly assume that there is a viable
alternative in South London. Despite extensive searches and enquiries no
suitable alternative option exists. The Club's criteria for the new stadium are
entirely reasonable and necessary if it is to survive.
q Even if every planning and regulatory hurdle was overcome a Plough Lane
redevelopment is not achievable on financial grounds.
q By contrast a move to Milton Keynes would benefit WFC Milton Keynes and
football in general. The fan base would increase. Milton Keynes has the
largest growing local economy in the UK. It has the largest population in
Europe without a professional football team. There is no Football League team
for 20 miles and no FA Premier League team for 50 miles. The proposed site
1221322-2 Page 28
has excellent road and rail infrastructure. Moreover it is to be almost entirely
funded by enabling development.
q Measures could be taken, and indeed the Board and shareholders of WFC wish
to take such measures, to preserve WFC’s identity in Milton Keynes relating
to its traditions, history, colours, name, strip, stadium design and the like and
its fans will be offered subsidised travel and tickets. A Club museum is
proposed. Links could be kept with the residents of Merton and those in South
London who are WFC fans.
q WFC intends to work with the fans to win them over and communicate with
them to preserve the Club’s identity and meet their concerns as to travel. A
glossy brochure has been produced which makes the case. Season ticket
holders who actually live in Merton already make the trip to Croydon for
home matches and other South London residents will be offered subsidised
transport and season tickets and a train which takes approximately one hour
from Wimbledon will be laid on. Most fans spend over an hour getting to see
matches in big towns/cities.
q Infinitely more harm would be caused to football if WFC went out of
business. Everyone would suffer, most of all WFC's true fans. It would be
replaced in Football League Division 1 by a different team altogether.
q A proportionate exercise of discretion by this Commission would allow the
relocation in WFC's exceptional circumstances. Refusal of permission would
not be necessary to protect the legitimate concerns of the Football League, and
would result in the demise of WFC which would simply cease to exist, with all
the adverse implications of a liquidation. Such a decision would be wholly
disproportionate.
75. Mr Peter Winkelman, Chairman of the MKSC, attended to give evidence. His
background is in the music industry. His other main interest is football. His energy
and commitment to the project were self-evident. His enthusiasm for the project and
it has to be said for Milton Keynes itself, was almost infectious, and obviously
genuine.
1221322-2 Page 29
76. MKSC is made up of various partners from local government, commerce and
industry (including retail and hotel groups), community groups, parish councils and
the like. Mr Winkelman spoke with passion of the benefits for the area, and for
football in general, of having a team of the stature of WFC in the new stadium which
will be ready for the start of the 2004/5 season. It will be owned by WFC and paid
for by commercial and retail enabling development. He believes that with over
40,000 school children in the area WFC will be fantastic news.
77. He is an advocate for retaining the identity of WFC and would work with the
Football League and WFC to achieve this, if we gave permission for the relocation.
He talked of renaming the area “Wimbledon Park” or renaming roads and of the
similarities between the new town of Milton Keynes (now almost 30 years old) and
WFC.
78. MKSC would obtain a stake in WFC if the plan went ahead and he personally
was passionately committed (whilst promoting all that was good about Milton
Keynes) to maintaining WFC’s links to its history, traditions and community. He was
happy with all the practical suggestions we put in this regard relating to name, strip,
branding and the like. He believes the vast majority of WFC fans will travel and will
feel at home in the “National Bowl”.
79. We found him to be a passionate and frank witness, who is genuinely
concerned to promote the interests of Milton Keynes and WFC.
Merton: viability of Plough Lane
80. The opportunities for developing a new stadium in an urban environment
appear to be limited. The Arbitration Panel, as did we, had written statements from
the leader of Merton, Councillor Andrew Judge. They also heard from him in person.
We received a further written statement from Councillor Judge dated 10 May 2002.
1221322-2 Page 30
81. Councillor Judge, anticipating the receipt of the DJFS which was not received
until a week later, stated that a stadium at Plough Lane is feasible in technical,
planning and financial terms “if there is a will for the Club to pursue this option.”14
82. We received the DJFS from Drivers Jonas on 17 May 2002. Drivers Jonas has
advised many football clubs on the development of new football stadia,15. It has acted
in relation to feasibility advice in connection with new stadia for various clubs.16 It
has taken the expert advice of individuals in Drivers Jonas specialising in town
planning, property development and transportation. The DJFS is helpful,
comprehensive and objective in its assessment.
83. The basis of the report is the feasibility of constructing a 20,000 capacity
stadium at Plough Lane (the Club’s former home). He does not deal with any other
potential South London site.
84. The report deals with: land procurement and cost; physical viability;
transport, development cost; regulatory viability; commercial viability and timing.
85. The summary conclusions are:
9. Summary
9.1.1 The land required for the construction of a stadium and limited
enabling developments could be acquired however, this land is
valuable for other uses which could achieve planning consent and
would therefore be costly.
9.1.2 A compact 20,000 capacity stadium could be constructed on the
Plough Lane site which would comply with prevailing regulations with
regard to comfort and safety.
9.1.3 The electricity pylon would have to be relocated to make way for the
stadium. National Grid have been unable to confirm the technical
feasibility of the suggested alternative location for the pylon in the time
allowed for completion of this report. The cost of relocating the Pylon
would have to be borne by the stadium development.
14 Statement of 10 May 2002, paragraph 8-1.
15 Including Middlesbrough FC, Sunderland AFC, Stoke City FC and Southampton FC.
16 Everton FC, Gillingham, Bristol (City and Rovers) and Swindon Town.
1221322-2 Page 31
9.1.4 The suggested stadium footprint would not affect the River Wandle.
9.1.5 It is physically possible to relocate the traveller’s site in order to make
way for the stadium. There are no alternative sites in Merton.
9.1.6 There is limited potential for the stadium to be extended to a capacity
of circa 25,000 however, the cost of extension would be high.
9.1.7 The stadium could be constructed in phases however, a phased
approach would add to the overall construction cost. As a large
proportion of the development cost relates to land assembly and site
preparation a phased approach would only result in a modest
reduction in the initial development cost.
9.1.8 Once a 20,000 stadium footprint is positioned on the site and the
travellers have been relocated, there remains some limited potential
for enabling developments.
9.1.9 A new stadium at Plough Lane would be sustainable in terms of
transport. Access by public transport is good and supporters could be
encouraged to make greater use of public transport by adoption of a
green travel plan.
9.1.10 The cost of developing a new stadium at Plough Lane is higher than
that for other recent new stadia primarily due to the high cost of the
land required.
9.1.11 It is considered that planning consent could be achieved for a stadium
at Plough Lane however, this would be a lengthy process as a public
inquiry would be likely.
9.1.12 There is clearly demand from rugby clubs for use of a shared stadium
however, the rental and capital contributions available are modest.
9.1.13 It is unlikely that the stadium development would be attractive to a
commercial property developer however, a partnership between
football, rugby and the local authority could provide a feasible
development model.
9.1.14 The development appraisal indicates that the return that could be
achieved on the considerable capital investment would be very modest.
9.1.15 The projected income from season ticket sales were the Club to remain
in the first division would be inadequate to service the debt required to
build a new stadium.
9.1.16 The low risk development programme for the development indicates a
duration of five and a half years for completion of the development.
10. Conclusion
1221322-2 Page 32
10.1.1 Although it is physically possible to construct a 20,000 stadium on the
Plough Lane site, the existing high value of the site and the resulting
funding gap would make the project unsustainable financially.
10.1.2 A stadium development would be extremely ambitious and the risks
would be high.
86. Mr Steve Clark and Mr Andrew Butler attended from Merton BC who also put
in written material in response to the DJFS. Their position was essentially this:
(a) A 20,000 seater stadium on the Plough Lane site is technically feasible, and
local transport infrastructure could be enhanced to provide the necessary
services. Mr Clark accepted 20,000 was a reasonable capacity for a club like
WFC to propose and was the agreed basis for the DJFS.
(b) The timing could be reduced, and planning issues would not present serious
difficulties or delay.
(c) They had some comments as to how the acknowledged funding gap of at least
£27.6 m could be met. (It may be the funding gap is more than £27.6 m as the
DJFS assumes land sales of £2.17 m – but in the scheme of things that is
neither here nor there). Mr Clark is not a financial expert. The suggestion as
to revenue from a hotel, a petrol filling station, the Dons Trust and shareholder
contributions are, on analysis, not seriously viable to meet the funds required.
The site is 6 acres and a DeVere hotel may sit on 4.5 acres which would not be
practical. The Dons Trust have raised £70,000. There is no hard financial
data on the filling station.
87. It seems to us that there are the following serious, and we would suggest
insurmountable, obstacles, in practical terms to Plough Lane.
(a) Safeway Plc indicate that they would only sell the site for £12 –13 m, not
£7.53 m as indicated in the DJFS.
(b) Notwithstanding Mr Clark’s optimism, there is a real risk the Minister would
call in the application for many reasons, even if Merton and Greater London
Authority support is given, because there will be serious local objections. The
ward in which Plough Lane is situated is also Conservative and the
1221322-2 Page 33
Councillors may well object. That would at the very least delay the process
for 12 – 18 months. The DJFS agrees (paragraph 6.8.5). If there were to be a
mixed use development (to avoid these planning problems) the land
procurement costs would go up.
(c) The total development period would be six years (with the consequent
financial pressure from the £22 m loan necessary to fund construction on top
of WFC’s existing financial pressures thus increasing the real funding gap).
Moreover the Selhurst Park lease would expire well before Plough Lane was
finished (2005 against 2008). WFC’s estimated loss of revenue from not
having its own stadium would persist for many more years. Milton Keynes
can be ready four years earlier.
(d) WFC could not find a commercial lender for £27 m let alone service the
interest payments. Most of WFC’s gate receipts would go to service the debt,
not to run the Club which would run up further losses. WFC income is £1.46
m from gate receipts a year. The DJFS make no provision for the repayment
of the capital loan even if commercially available. The shareholders are not
prepared to put this sort of money in on the basis of the timing, the planning
issues and the uncertainty of the project identified by DJFS in their
conclusion. We accept that is a reasonable attitude in the circumstances.
(e) The site acquisition costs, clearance costs and fees and construction costs
would be the same even if it were desirable to have a 10 – 15,000 seater
stadium. In fact it is not desirable or reasonable for WFC because the average
capacity in Division One is 22,000 and the average gate 15,000. The potential
income lost would be disproportionate to the capital cost.
88. We do not consider, taking into account all the detailed findings of Drivers
Jonas's comprehensive study, that a Plough Lane redevelopment for WFC is a
practical option. It is risky, ambitious and financially unsustainable. There are also
other difficulties identified such as matters relating to land procurement, the price of
the site and planning permission.
1221322-2 Page 34
89. But by far the biggest hurdles it seems to us are the identified funding gap in
excess of £27 million and timing (it could take 6 years).
90. We take the view that it would not be reasonable to expect the Board or the
shareholders to support a return to Plough Lane in these circumstances. There is no
other viable option to safeguard the survival of the Club on the material before us
other than Milton Keynes.
91. On analysis, notwithstanding the considerable efforts of Merton BC to bring
WFC back home to Plough Lane, we have concluded that the only possible site (after
extensive research) identified as a possibility by the parties and the Arbitration Panel
is not viable and is in any event unsustainable financially.
Approach to exercise of discretion
92. The relevant Rules of the Football League are as follows:
q Under Regulation 8 of the Regulations of the League, a club must comply
with the criteria set out in Appendix I.
q Appendix I, part 3A, paragraphs 2 to 4 state:
“2 Ground Sharing
Ground sharing will only be approved at the discretion of the Board. The
Board will not generally approve any ground sharing arrangement where the
club plays its matches outside the conurbation, as defined by the Board, from
which the club takes its name or with which it is otherwise traditionally
associated.
3 Location of Ground
The location of the ground, in its relation to the conurbation, as defined by the
Board, from which the club takes its name or with which it is otherwise
traditionally associated, must meet with the approval of the Board.
4 New Stadium
The club must disclose, as soon as practicable, plans and details of any
proposed future move to new stadium. The location of the proposed new
stadium must meet with the approval of the Board.”
q Regulation 13.1 states:
1221322-2 Page 35
“Registration of Ground
Each Club shall register its ground with the Executive and no Club shall
remove to another ground without first obtaining the consent of the Board”.
93. We have not found the Football League Rules easy to interpret and apply.
They seem to have been amended relatively recently.
94. It is however tolerably clear that the rules do not impose an absolute
prohibition against relocation, but rather provide that the Football League Board may
in its discretion approve of a move to a location outside a club’s “… conurbation …
from which it takes its name or with which it is otherwise traditionally associated.”
95. We have no difficulty in endorsing the view that the Football League’s
permission is required for a move from Plough Lane, Merton to Milton Keynes, some
60 road miles away. Whatever Mr Burns may have accepted in cross-examination
before the Arbitration Panel, we do not accept Milton Keynes is within WFC’s
“conurbation” for the purposes of the Football League Rules.
96. The question is, given that such a discretion exists in the Rules, how is it to be
exercised in WFC’s case?
97. We accept that consistent with legal authority we have to act proportionately
in coming to a decision. The correct test we ask ourselves is: are the legitimate
concerns and interests put forward by the Football League such that it is necessary to
decline permission to WFC? Put another way, do the facts of this case make this an
exceptional case for which approval should be given?
98. The role of this FA Commission is to make such a judgment in place of the
Football League Board. In doing so we apply the Football League Rules and
Regulations17. We also have certain powers conferred on us by the FA Rules, most
notably FA Rule F.
99. We must be careful not to “… blindly follow a policy laid down in advance”
to quote Professor Wade, 8th edition Administrative Law at p. 328 and must properly
17 Football League Regulation 76.3.
1221322-2 Page 36
exercise the discretion given to us by carefully considering the facts, and by balancing
the various competing interests and arguments. The fact that permission has not been
granted for a move of this nature before now is not a sufficient reason in itself to
refuse permission in this case. Neither is it a legitimate argument to say that such a
move would always offend the football principles of pyramid structure and should
consequently always be refused.
100. The Football League Mission Statement in its Handbook states in material
terms:
CUSTOMER CHARTER
The Football League is committed to providing excellent service. This Charter sets
out the League’s policies.
MISSION STATEMENT
The role of The Football League is to provide a national membership organisation
and structure for professional football through which The Football League can
facilitate financial success, stability and development of professional football clubs,
administer and regulate the professional game and promote the values and
contribution of the professional game to our national life.
In fulfilling this role, The Football League’s objectives will be to:
1. Represent the interests of its members;
2. Maximise the income generated collectively to support a healthy and
sustainable level of professional football throughout the country;
3. Regulate and administer the game to protect the reputation, credibility and
image of professional football;
4. Provide leadership in developing new initiatives and responding to external
changes which affect the future direction of professional football;
5. Promote an understanding of the sporting and business needs of its members;
6. Represent The Football League on developments in football, sports generally,
and other issues which have a potential impact on the professional game;
1221322-2 Page 37
7. Enhance and promote the place of football in our national heritage and
culture, and in the pursuit of sporting and civic values.
101. As to the policy of the football authorities, it is interesting to note in passing
that Mr Peter Leaver QC, Chief Executive and General Counsel of the FA Premier
League in a letter dated 18 April 1997 (when the Norwegian shareholders were
contemplating their investment) wrote to Mr Sam Hammam in respect of the Dublin
proposal:
S Hammam Esq
Owner
Wimbledon FS
Selhurst Park Stadium
London
SE25 6PY
Dear Sam
I am writing to confirm that The Clubs resolved that there was no objection by
them to Wimbledon’s application to play its home matches in Dublin. It was
agreed by the Clubs that although the decision was for the Board, the Board
would not have to refer back to the Clubs before making that decision.
However, before it gave its consent under rule B28, the Board would have to
be satisfied that:
a) Wimbledon had obtained all necessary consents and approvals
b) All legal issues had been resolved to its satisfaction
I think that you will recall that it was mentioned that one of the issues which
the Board will have to be satisfied about was the policing of any stadium in
Dublin. We would want our standards to apply if those standards were more
stringent than the Irish standards. Obviously, if Irish standards were more
stringent than ours, we would want to consider that fact as well. There will, of
course, be a number of issues about which we will want to be satisfied, not all
of which can be identified at the present time.
I do not in any way want you to read into what I have said that there are any
problems. The application that was placed before the Clubs was not objected
to by any of them.
102. After the Football Association of Ireland had said they would not countenance
such a move the then Chief Executive of the Football Association, Mr Graham Kelly,
also wrote on 19 May 1998 to Mr Hammam in these terms:
Dear Sam,
1221322-2 Page 38
Thank you for your letter of 8th May with its enclosures.
As we indicated to you previously, we considered this at our meeting of the
Executive Committee yesterday.
We had a full discussion of your case which you presented to us and the
Committee was most anxious to find a means of helping Wimbledon find a
solution to its current lack of a permanent home. I am enclosing a copy of the
minute from the meeting which summarises the discussions and the conclusion
of the Committee.
I am sorry that this is a disappointing outcome for you. I know that you are
aware that we are bound by the principle of the “Comite des nations”. In this
regard, I hope that you will understand that it would not be appropriate for
The Football Association to accompany Wimbledon to a meeting with FIFA.
With kind regards.
Minute
“The Committee reiterated therefore that The Football Association would
continue to respect the views of its sister Association in this respect and would
not undertake any action in this matter unless and until the Football
Association of Ireland removed its objections.”18
103. The Commission has found this to be a complex and difficult decision to
reach. Feelings have run high on all sides. Whichever decision we came to many
would find it hard to understand and would be disappointed. We regret this.
Nevertheless we determined to decide the case on its merits and on our assessment of
all the evidence before us in its various forms. The balancing exercise has not been
an easy one to perform. WFC itself recognises that a move to Milton Keynes does not
represent an ideal solution to its serious difficulties.
104. Perhaps because of the nature of this application and the fundamental points
for football it raises, involving competing commercial and football issues, we have
been unable to reach a unanimous decision. This decision is therefore given by a
majority, both of whom have reached a clear view.
1221322-2 Page 39
105. We are acutely conscious of the impact and implications of this decision, and
bore these considerations well in mind in arriving at it.
The decision
106. Our decision is that WFC should be given approval to relocate to Milton
Keynes. We suggest some important steps which the Football League, WFC and
MKSC must take to preserve the integrity and identity of WFC.
107. We find the cherished and fundamental principles of football in this country in
relation to the pyramid structure and promotion and relegation on sporting criteria
alone, admirable. Likewise we respect, value and would seek to uphold the
community basis of football clubs.
108. We do not wish to see clubs attempting to circumvent the pyramid structure by
ditching their communities and metamorphosising in new, more attractive areas. Nor
do we wish, any more than the football authorities or supporters, for franchise football
to arrive on these shores. We believe that giving WFC permission in this exceptional
case will have neither of these consequences.
109. We do not believe, with all due respect, that the Club’s links with the
community around the Plough Lane site or in Merton are so profound, or the roots go
so deep, that they will not survive a necessary transplant to ensure WFC’s survival.
What is unusual about WFC fans is that they do not seem to come from a single
geographical area. Indeed, the vast majority of WFC fans do not live in Merton or
Wimbledon. 20% of current season ticket holders live in Merton and 10% in
Wimbledon. We do not accept that WFC will die if the Club relocates. The Club has
been in Croydon for 11 years (almost half its Football League history). There is no
stadium which is a focus for the community in Merton, and has not been for 11 years.
As Mr Koppel, who we found to be a careful and frank witness, put it, were WFC to
reach an FA Cup Final in the next few years, people would not be saying it was the
first time the Club had got there. Its relatively low Merton resident supporters base

18 We understand that the FAPL had by that stage reconsidered the matter at a meeting in March
1998 when at least two clubs had expressed concern at the principle of allowing a club to relocate
to a different country (Witness Statement of Mike Foster, 21 December 2001, paragraph 13).
1221322-2 Page 40
and its time at Selhurst Park do not suggest it is the “heart and soul” of its community
as it is. It has extreme competition from both of its nearest neighbours, Fulham and
Chelsea, for “casual” supporters and for the next generation of supporters.
110. Mr Koppel has made it clear to us and publicly that WFC is committed to
taking practical steps in relation to transport and maintaining WFC’s identity, and to
continuing its academy and community schemes. It is committed to its name,
Wimbledon FC, its colours, its traditions. It is committed to retaining its identity.19 It
is committed to providing facilities for its South London fans to make the journey to
Milton Keynes.
111. We cannot predict the future. What we can do is to give WFC an opportunity
to make good these commitments and to survive. We hope and anticipate that its fans
will continue to support WFC, and that WFC will attract new fans to a new home.
112. However, we recommend that the Football League agrees to measures with
WFC and MKSC to ensure that it retains the essential identity of WFC and also
ensures that WFC takes reasonable steps to help WFC fans travel and watch WFC in
Milton Keynes. Mr Winkelman was also, whilst understandably excited about the
prospects for Milton Keynes, enthusiastic about retaining WFC’s identity and image.
We believe that it can be fairly stated that finding WFC a home in Milton Keynes will
add considerable value to a large community starved of First Division Football, whilst
at the same time that community (70% of whom are from London) will add value to
WFC.
113. These measures would cover, in no particular order, and without being
prescriptive, (and these are essentially matters for the Football League rather than
ourselves) matters relating to:
q Continuity of:
· Club name and nickname
· Club logo
19 Second Witness Statement of Charles Koppel, 15 January 2002.

· Club colours
· Club playing strip and other merchandise
· Players
· Staff
· Shareholders
· Directors
· Academy
· Community schemes
· Club website(s)
· Club shop in Wimbledon;
q Subsidised/free travel to matches between Wimbledon and Milton Keynes (we
are told that trains can be chartered by the Club: the journey time is
approximately one hour);
q Discounted tickets for existing fans at the new stadium in Milton Keynes;
q A ticket outlet in Merton;
q Continued communication with existing fans;
q Local press (Merton) coverage of WFC and its results;
q Promotional material regarding maintenance of identity as WFC;
q Club museum at the new stadium in Milton Keynes;
q Stadium branding at the new stadium in Milton Keynes; and
q Re-naming of local areas/streets in Milton Keynes to associate with WFC.
114. We consider these measures vital to ensuring WFC’s identity and they should
be agreed to and put in place as soon as possible. The Football League will then be
able to monitor and approve the process of maintaining links.
1221322-2 Page 42
115. Even if WFC’s relocation to Milton Keynes does make inroads into the
pyramid structure (which, in the Club’s exceptional circumstances, we believe it does
not), we are of the view that the pyramid structure is better served by giving WFC the
opportunity to survive, albeit in a new conurbation (whilst taking the appropriate steps
to maintain its links with its existing fans and the Merton community), rather than
condemning it to liquidation and extinction in Merton.
116. There is no doubt that WFC has got to its current League position through
sporting merit and achievement, in accordance with the fundamental principles of the
pyramid structure. In the event that WFC were to go into liquidation, player
registration would revert to the Football League and another club, most probably
Brentford FC would take WFC’s place in Division 1 for next season, and not on its
own sporting merit but as a result of WFC’s predicament.
117. The permission given in this case should be confined to WFC’s exceptional
facts. We do not believe that it will create a general precedent for other cases or that
it will open the floodgates to franchise football. Most professional clubs own their
own stadia and have strong fanbases within their immediate areas. We believe that
supporters will be able to keep faith with the permanence of their teams and the
communities they are from.
118. We cannot conceive of another club in WFC’s league position (or which is
comparable to WFC) which meets the following criteria. The stark facts which make
WFC unique are:
(a) WFC has had no stadium of its own, and has been a secondary tenant, for
some 11 years and its shareholders are not prepared to continue to finance its
operation in its present financial circumstances.
(b) WFC needs to relocate to have a commercially viable future or, given the level
of losses it will continue to sustain, it will go into liquidation. There is no
viable South London alternative.
(c) Milton Keynes provides a suitable and deserving opportunity in its own right
where none exists in South London.
1221322-2 Page 43
(d) WFC’s links or roots in its community are of a nature that can be and are
agreed should be retained by WFC and MKSC, albeit in a new location. The
Football League can ensure these links are put in place and preserved.
119. The current financial outlook for many clubs in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 of the
Football League is distinctly bleak. They are caught in a player wages spiral that
seems to be out of control. Changes to the transfer system are such that they can no
longer sell star players to survive. As we decide this case, Football League clubs are
going into administration. There is a chasm which has developed between even
Division 1 clubs and FA Premier League clubs as a result of the BskyB deal. The
collapse of ITV Digital and the drying up of the transfer market have contributed to
the crisis. Many clubs, especially in the Football League, rely on wealthy benefactors
who are prepared to sustain them financially. In the current financial climate,
professional clubs need to encourage investors.
120. We believe that in the current financial climate the football authorities need to
apply a flexible and supportive approach to the financial plight of clubs. To facilitate
financial success, stability and development it is necessary to take a flexible and
progressive view of policy considerations and apply them to the currently bleak
financial world the clubs inhabit.
121. WFC shareholders have made it perfectly clear they will be forced to close the
Club down if they see no sound financial future for the Club. The liquidation of WFC
is not likely to serve anyone’s interests, least of all its players, supporters and staff.
The community schemes would close down, the academy programmes would die with
the Club. No substantial funding is available to support the Club at Selhurst Park, to
finance the construction of a stadium at Plough Lane or even support WFC through an
administration process under the insolvency legislation. It would simply go into
liquidation, and cease to exist.
122. Even if liquidation was somehow avoided now, the Club would be consigned
to bump along a financial tightrope with no stadium of its own from which to
develop.
1221322-2 Page 44
123. The WFC Board and shareholders quite understandably wish to put the Club
on a more solid financial footing, provide it with a proper stadium and build a team
and a Club for the future. They should be allowed an opportunity to do so.
124. By granting permission to WFC in its exceptional circumstances, we believe
that the Club is being given an opportunity first, in the short-term, of financial
survival, and thereafter, in the long-term, of achieving a sustainable commercial
position commensurate with its sporting success and endeavour.
125. We make no general observations as to whether all clubs have a right to aspire
to the upper echelons of sustainable FA Premier League success, irrespective of their
geographical, demographic or historical circumstances.
126. In reaching our decision we accept that football clubs, even in today’s
financially driven environment for competitive professional football, are not simply
businesses driven by balance sheet and profit and loss account considerations. There
are a number of key stakeholders involved who are recognised by the football
authorities and the government. Most important are the supporters and they have
legitimate concerns for the continued existence of a community-based club, and bring
their own special brand of consumer loyalty.
127. The interests of the fans are important. But the interests of most WFC fans
will not necessarily be served by a decision which results in the demise of WFC.
128. Furthermore, resurrecting the Club from its ashes as, say, “Wimbledon Town”
is, with respect to those supporters who would rather that happened so that they could
go back to the position the Club started in 113 years ago, not in the wider interests of
football.
129. To refuse permission we believe would be stretching the over-arching football
principles too far, and would be more than is reasonably necessary to reflect the
concerns of the Football League or the other football authorities. These principles
which are a fundamental feature of the English game will not be violated by
permission being granted in this case, which we regard as unique and unquestionably
deserving.
1221322-2 Page 45
130. We are most grateful to all who took the time to present their points of view to
us with great care and effectiveness: to WFC; the Football League; the Football
Association; the Supporters’ Associations; Merton BC; to Counsel and solicitors; and
to the numerous individuals who communicated with us.
1221322-2 Page 46
SCHEDULE 1
APPLICATION BY WIMBLEDON FOOTBALL CLUB LIMITED TO THE
COMMISSION APPOINTED BY THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION FOR
PERMISSION FOR THE CLUB TO HAVE ITS HOME GROUND IN
MILTON KEYNES
TERMS OF REFERENCE AND PROCEDURE
Jurisdiction of the Football Association
1. On 2 August 2001, Wimbledon Football Club (the Club) made an application
to the Board of the Football League for permission to move its ground from Selhurst
Park to Milton Keynes. The application was refused. By an Arbitration Award dated
29 January 2002, the matter was remitted back to the Football League.
2. By a letter dated 23 April 2002, the Football League referred the application to
the Football Association (the FA) under Rule 76.1 of the Football League Rules.
The Commission
3. Under FA Rule F6, the FA appointed a Commission of Inquiry (the
Commission) on 2 May 2002, comprising the following persons, to hear and resolve
this matter:
· Mr Raj Parker (Chairman) (Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer)
· Mr Alan Turvey (FA Council Member)
· Mr Steve Stride (Operations Director, Aston Villa FC)
4. Under Football League Rule 76.1 and 76.3, the matter has been referred to the
FA, and the Commission of Inquiry having been appointed by the FA now have the
power to exercise the powers conferred on the Football League Board by the relevant
Rules and Regulations of the Football League: in particular the power to approve
(and, if so, on terms as may be appropriate) or reject the Club’s application under, and
in accordance with, Rules 13.1 and Appendix 1 Part 3 of the Football League Rules.
The Arbitration Panel’s Award
5. The Commission shall take due account of, but shall not be bound by, any
findings of fact made by the Arbitration Panel (Mr Charles Hollander QC, Mr David
Dein and Mr Douglas Craig OBE) which adjudicated on 29 January 2002 in relation
to this matter.
Submissions and Evidence
6. The Commission, through its Chairman, has indicated to the FA that all
interested persons (including the FA itself) should have the opportunity to make
representations and to give evidence in support of their case.
1221322-2 Page 47
8. The Commission proposes to base its consideration of this matter primarily on
the extensive submissions and supporting material provided to the Arbitration Panel.
Subject to Clauses 9 and 10, if any person wishes to submit further argument,
evidence or relevant material, this must be received by the Commission by 5.00 p.m.
on Monday, 13 May 2002. (The FA released a press announcement on 10 May
inviting any persons to make submissions in writing to the Commission, via the FA,
by 5.00 p.m. on Monday, 13 May 2002.)
9. Any evidence, argument or relevant material which cannot reasonably be
submitted to the Commission prior to the deadline set out in Clause 8, may be
accepted by the Commission prior to or during the hearing, if it is submitted as soon
as it is reasonably available.
10. The Commission understands that the “feasibility study” of the Plough Lane
site which has been commissioned (in accordance with the recommendation set out in
paragraph 58 of the Award of the Arbitration Panel, dated 29 January 2002) will not
be completed until Friday, 17 May 2002. The Commission proposes to receive the
feasibility study on 17 May 2002 and may subsequently take submissions (which may
be oral or written, as the Commission so directs) relating to the feasibility study.
11(a). The Club and the Football League, as Participants under FA Rule F, shall be
entitled to see all written materials submitted to the Commission by any other person.
Subject to Clause 11(b), no material put forward by the Club or the Football League
or any other person shall be shown to any other person.
11(b). The Club will prepare a document by lunchtime on Wednesday, 15 May 2002
setting out the gist of its submission to the Commission. This document will be made
available to Lovells, Mr Kris Stewart (Chairman, WISA) and Ms Louise Carton-Kelly
(Chair, the Dons Trust) on the condition that Lovells, Mr Stewart and Ms CartonKelly
undertake not to distribute the document or disclose its contents to any other
person, save any person who it is agreed by the Club in advance shall be entitled to
see the document.
12(a). Subject to Clauses 12(b) and 16, only the Club and the Football League will
be permitted to attend and participate in the hearing. No other person may attend,
unless the Commission invites them to do so.
12(b). The Commission may permit other persons to attend the hearing if, in the
Commission’s view, this would aid the resolution of the matter. If so, notice of the
this will be given to the Club and the Football League, who will be permitted to attend
and ask questions of the person attending.
The Hearing
13. The hearing before the Commission will be held at Freshfields Bruckhaus
Deringer, 65 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1HS and will commence at 10.00 a.m. on 14
May 2002. It will not be a public hearing, and attendance at the hearing will be
governed by Clauses 12(a), 12(b) and 16.
1221322-2 Page 48
14. Any application by a person for legal representation at the hearing shall be
made in advance to the Commission by 5.00pm on Monday, 13 May 2002.
15. The hearing will adopt an inquisitorial approach and will not be bound by, or
follow, the rules of evidence.
16. The Commission reserves the right to request the attendance of any relevant
individual at the hearing, where it reasonably considers that such attendance would
aid the resolution of the matter. If so, notice of this will be given to the Club and the
Football League, who will be permitted to attend and ask questions of the person
attending.
Decision of the Commission
17. The decision of the Commission can be reached by a majority in number.
18. The Commission shall produce its written decision as soon as reasonably
practicable after the conclusion of the hearing, and in any event by 31 May 2002.
19. The Commission shall give written reasons for its decision.
20. It is agreed that the decision of the Commission shall be final and binding,
subject to the review jurisdiction of the court.
Publicity
21. There will be no publicity whatsoever regarding the members of the
Commission or the location of any hearings until the Commission has given its
decision.
22. When the Commission gives its decision, any statement in relation to it shall
be subject to the approval of the Club and the Football Association.
23. The publishing of any report prepared by the Commission is a matter for the
Chief Executive of the FA under FA Rule F9.
SIGNED by
____________________________________ Date _____________________
[Print name: office: ]
for and on behalf of Wimbledon Football Club Limited
1221322-2 Page 49
SCHEDULE 2
1221322-2 Page 50
SCHEDULE 3
DOCUMENTATION SUBMITTED TO THE COMMISSION
1. The Club
q Submission Statement for the Commission, provided on 13 May 2002
q The Witness Statement of Charles Richard Koppel for the Commission, dated
12 May 2002
q The Supplemental Expert’s Report from Deloitte & Touche for the
Commission, dated 13 May 2002
q The Supplemental Expert’s Report from FDP Savill's for the Commission,
dated 10 May 2002
q The Witness Statement of Isobel Rosemary Wilson (leader of Milton Keynes
Council, with effect from 21 May 2002), dated 13 May 2002
q Letter of 18 April 1997 from Mr Peter Leaver QC, Chief Executive and
General Counsel of the FA Premier League, to Mr Sam Hammam
q Letter of 19 May 1998 from Mr Graham Kelly, Chief Executive of the FA, to
Mr Sam Hammam
q Letters of 7 August and 18 September 2001 from Mr Nic Coward, Company
Secretary of the FA, to Mr Charles Koppel
q Note of a meeting of 16 October 1978 between Mr Fernley Rose of the Milton
Keynes Development Corporation, Mr Alan Hardacre, General Secretary of
the Football League and Mr George Readle, Deputy Secretary of the Football
League
q Comments on an article by Edward Gibbes in the Wimbledon Guardian
headed “Mystery Surrounds Plans for MK football stadium”, dated 20 May
2002
1221322-2 Page 51
q Comments on Drivers Jonas Feasibility Report, dated 21 May 2002
q Document headed “Why Plough Lane remains an impractical option for the
Club”, dated 21 May 2002
q Comments on stadium capacity, dated 21 May 2002
q Document headed “Factors to be weighed in granting permission”, dated 21
May 2002
q Letter of 22 May 2002 from Safeway Plc, to Mr Charles Koppel
2. The Football Association
q Witness statement of Nicholas Coward (Company Secretary, the Football
Association), dated 13 May 2002.
3. The London Borough of Merton Council
q Second Supplementary Witness Statement of Councillor Andrew Judge
(Leader, London Borough of Merton Council), dated 10 May 2002
q Comments on Drivers Jonas Feasibility Report, dated 22 May 2002
4. The Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA)
q Supplemental Statement of Kris Stewart (Chair, WISA) on behalf of WISA,
dated 13 May 2002.
5. The Dons Trust
q Written submission of Louise Carton-Kelly (Chair, the Dons Trust) on behalf
of the Dons Trust, dated 13 May 2002;
q Spreadsheet showing an estimate of projected Profit and Loss Account
Summary and Analysis for the Club (2002 – 2005), dated 15 May 2002
6. The Drivers Jonas Feasibility Study, dated 17 May 2002
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7. Other submissions
q The Commission received approximately 650 letters, emails and faxes on this
matter.
q Many of these were from fans of the Club (including members of WISA, the
Dons Trust and the Official Wimbledon Fans Forum).
q Other persons who made submissions included:
o The House of Commons All Party Football Group;
o Supporters of other clubs (and several Supporters’ Associations);
o Other clubs, including: Brentford Football Club Limited,
Northampton Town Football Club Limited, Rushden & Diamonds
Football Club Limited;
o Overseas residents, including: the United States, Australia (Wimbledon
Supporters Downunder), Russia and Norway; and
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SCHEDULE 4
DOCUMENTATION SUBMITTED TO THE ARBITRATION PANEL
1. The Club
q The Club’s Points of Claim, served on 21 November 2001
q The Club’s Opening Submissions, dated 21 January 2002
q The Club’s evidence, including:
o Witness Statement of Charles Richard Koppel (Chairman, the Club),
dated 21 November 2001;
o Witness Statement from Deloitte & Touche dated 20 November 2001;
o Witness Statement from FPDSavill's dated 20 November 2001 ;
o Witness Statement of Peter John Winkelman (Chairman, Milton
Keynes Stadium Consortium), dated 20 November 2001;
o Witness Statement of Norman Leslie Miles (Leader, Milton Keynes
Council), dated 21 November 2001;
o Second Witness Statement of Charles Richard Koppel, dated 15
January 2002;
o Supplemental Expert Report from Deloitte & Touche dated 14 January
2002; and
o Supplemental Expert Report from FDP Savill's dated 15 January 2002.
q The Arbitration Award, dated 29 January 2002
q The Club’s Business Plan (dated August 2001)
q The contractual documents between the Club and the Milton Keynes Stadium
Corporation (undated)
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q A video tape regarding the proposed stadium in Milton Keynes, accompanying
the Witness Statement of Peter John Winkelman, dated 20 November 2001
2. The Football League
q Response to Points of Claim, dated 21 December 2001
q Summary Response to Points of Claim, served on 18 January 2002
q The Football League Limited’s Opening submissions (undated)
q The Football League’s evidence, including:
o Witness statement of David Campbell Burns (Chief Executive, the
Football League), dated 20 December 2001;
o Witness statement of John David Dent (Former Company Secretary,
the Football League), dated 20 December 2001;
o Witness statement of Nicholas Ian Coward (Company Secretary, the
Football Association), dated 21 December 2001;
o Witness statement of Michael Foster (Company Secretary, the Football
Association Premier League Limited), dated 21 December 2001;
o Witness statement of John Anthony Moules (Chief Executive, the
Football Conference), dated 19 December 2001;
o Witness statement of Peter Donald (Secretary, the Scottish Football
League), dated 21 December 2001;
o Witness statement of Robin Flight (Chairman, Milton Keynes City
Football Club), dated 20 December 2001;
o Witness statement of Andrew Judge (Councillor, London Borough of
Merton; Leader, Merton Council), dated 20 December 2001;
o Witness statement of David Boyle (Vice Chairman, the Football
Supporters’ Association) dated 20 December 2001; and

o Witness statement of Kris Stewart (Chair, WISA), dated 21 December
2001.
1221322-2 Page 56
SCHEDULE 5
A FAN’S LETTER OPPOSING THE RELOCATION
Dear Sirs
Re Wimbledon FC application to move to Milton Keynes
I have lived in Wimbledon for over 30 years and throughout that time have followed
the fortune of the Dons. I saw them play as amateurs in the Isthmian League and as
professionals in the Premier League and I was present at Wembley when they won
the Amateur Cup and the FA Cup. This is a unique record in the history of football
and Wimbledon are recognised throughout the game as an inspiration to every small
club with the ambition to match their extraordinary achievement.
Now all this in jeopardy and I am writing to you in the hope you and your colleagues
will reject the plan to move to Milton Keynes. To this end I would make the following
points:
THE OWNERS
No one made them buy Wimbledon. They brought the Club, initially, in anticipation
of making millions by moving to Dublin. That was turned down and now they have
come up with Milton Keynes as another means of recouping their investment. They
are not football people. In fact, the principal shareholder has not been to a game for
two seasons. All he wants is his money back. But why should you bail him out?
THE GROUND
Wimbledon did not have a ground of its own when the Norwegians bought the club so
they always knew this was a potential problem. They pledged to built a new stadium
in or close to the borough and could have done so on the actual site of the old ground
of Plough Lane if they had been prepared to make the investment (as Al Fayed has
done for Fulham). But Milton Keynes is a more attractive commercial project.
Actually it’s brilliant. Unless, of course, you’re a Wimbledon supporter.
ALTERNATIVES
Firstly, the club does have a ground – Selhurst Part. No one is making the club
leave. In fact, it still has a lease which can be renewed. That isn’t perfect but it is
where we play at present. There are other possibilities but the owners don’t pursue
them. Our small gates mean we could even go to a non-league ground like Sutton or
Kingstonian (which Ron Noades wants to use for Brentford so he wants us out of the
area and is therefore supporting Milton Keynes).
MERTON COUNCIL
There was a time when the club was a victim of party politics but it wasn’t the
council’s fault that the club chose to leave the borough. Also, one shouldn’t lose
1221322-2 Page 57
sight of the fact that it is not the council’s responsibility to find the club a ground.
Despite this, the council have never been as supportive as they are now and they
cannot be used as an excuse for relocating to Milton Keynes.
THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
The owners compounded the club’s problems by sacking Sam Hammam and
appointing a chairman with no experience and little knowledge of the English game.
This chairman then dismissed the club’s chief executive, David Barnard, one of the
most respected figures in the game and he has just sacked the manager Terry Burton
who would almost certainly have taken the club to the play-offs had the chairman not
loaned or sold four key players to our promotion rivals.
THE BOARD
It has never been disclosed how the board voted on Milton Keynes but on the basis
that the decision would have been described as unanimous had it been so – and that
hasn’t been the case – it can be reasonably assumed that it wasn’t unanimous.
Certainly three of the longest serving directors have never denied not voting for
Milton Keynes. They were on the board before the chairman and any of the
Norwegian appointed directors and are steeped in the club’s traditions. You should
establish their views – if they are allowed to give them.
MILTON KEYNES
Wimbledon has no future at Milton Keynes. It will cease to exist. The name may
survive for a while but the heart and soul of the club – the supporters– will be lost for
ever. To all intents and purposes it will die and if that happens I believe that will
represent one of the greatest betrayals in the history of football.
THE FUTURE
That, of course, is for you to determine but please understand that the vast majority
of supporters would prefer to see the club budget to play in a lower division - even a
lower league – rather than be moved away from South London.
YOUR DECISION
I believe it comes down to one key issue: if you make a purely commercial decision
you will say yes to Milton Keynes. But if you are football people and care about
preserving a century old club, they you will say no. I trust you will prove to be
football people.
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SCHEDULE 6
A FAN’S LETTER IN SUPPORT OF THE RELOCATION
Mr Charles R Koppell
Wimbledon F.C. Ltd
Selhurst Park Stadium
London
SE25 6PY
Monday 27th August 2001
A SUPPORTER FOR MILTON KEYNES
Dear Mr Koppel
I have been a supporter of Wimbledon FC since 1976. I was upset when we moved
from Plough Lane to Selhurst Park but on reflection it saved the Club.
I have been protesting against the move to Milton Keynes with letters to the FA board
members and joining in protest marches and attending WISA meetings.
After giving the Milton Keynes proposal a lot of thought and after reading your
programme notes in the Norwich Programme plus reading your thoughts in the last
two editions of the Wimbledon News I have come to the conclusion my heart was
ruling my head and that the survival of the Club is the most important thing and
therefore I felt I needed to write to you to confirm you will receive my support for this
move and that I will try to undo (in my small part) what I did, by writing to the FA
again to explain this is a very emotive issue to supporters and that like me on
reflection I have come to see the move is a must!
You mentioned for the first time in the Norwich Programme the debate on how the
Club should pay for a new stadium.
I believe it is not fair to expect Mr Rokke or Mr Gjelsten to fork out 30 million pounds
+ to purchase a new stadium when they have already spent 30 million on purchasing
the Club already.
I also believe Merton Council is two faced! They did confirm to you and in public
that the Greyhound Stadium was the only option and the recent views of Mr Judge are
out of order.
I am a member of WISA and during the last three meetings no mention on a realistic
option was mentioned apart from Plough Lane (which we do not own). Also they
1221322-2 Page 59
never discuss how the new stadium would be financed. I am not going to knock these
people because they are very loyal to the Club and like me it is their life.
However, the game against Norwich attracted a crowd of 6,084 with at least a
thousand from Norwich.
The people of Wimbledon do not deserve a football club and the apathy they show to
the Club is unbelievable. I drive two hours to get to every home game and have been
doing so for as long as I can remember.
The stadium plans for Milton Keynes look fantastic and with the hotel and other retail
projects which would help to finance the project is going to underwrite the Club’s
future.
After time I believe Wimbledon back in the Premiership and in the stadium will be
playing to full houses, as the potential for a fan base is there. I urge you to fight the
F.A. and take whatever action you can to turn Milton Keynes from just an idea to
reality.
I also urge you to keep pushing the financial problems as one of the main reasons to
move to Milton Keynes because it is true.
If Wimbledon wants to reach the Premiership again and to stay there then this can
only be achieved with a move to Milton Keynes.
We could have a ten thousand seater stadium in Wimbledon playing Third Division
football or be in liquidation in two years time or go to Milton Keynes.
I’m sure WISA members would take the first option but I would much prefer to sit in
the state of the art stadium watching us play Man Utd in front of a full house than
Rochdale in front of 3,000 people. I have heard many people supporting your views
in Crystals and the local pubs and despite the press coverage which is mainly anti
MK, many Dons fans are for your proposal but of course are less vocal then WISA!
Can you beat the F.A.? If you cannot do this by verbal persuasion are you intending
to take legal action?
In the forthcoming Portsmouth Programme do you intend to dedicate some space to
Milton Keynes and sell it to the fans. Explain the financial problems of the Club and
show pictures of the new stadium? WISA will not like it but they are not buying the
programme anyway.
If you cannot persuade the F.A. or lost a court case would changing the Club’s name
to MK Dons overcome the F.A.’s obstacle (Meadowbank Thistle changed to
Livingston without losing its league standing and has been a great success.)
Don’t get me wrong, I would hate to lose the name because of the history and
tradition associated with it but I do wonder if Wimbledon Town deserves to have a
football club.
1221322-2 Page 60
Good luck with your attempts to save my Club. Please try to ignore the abuse you are
currently receiving.
I and many others are aware that you have the Club’s best interest at heart.
Kind regards
1221322-2 Page 61
SCHEDULE 7
SUMMARY OF THE FANS’ SUBMISSIONS
General
q If the Club relocates there is no way that any true fan would continue to support
the Club. Without a loyal fan base, no club can survive. Without fans there
wouldn’t be a club - without fans there wouldn’t be any TV revenue – without
fans, football would cease to exist.
q At a time when the Nationwide League is facing a massive financial crisis owing
to the ITV Digital fiasco, clubs should be moving closer to their communities,
not away from them. Who else is going to support them at crunch time?
q As recent events in Scotland have shown, the game needs the “smaller clubs” too
– Rangers and Celtic need someone to play apart from each other.
q No one buys football clubs to make money. Of course owners must limit the
amount spent and must find ways to bring money in, but clubs are not get-richquick
schemes and we should not let them be treated as such.
q What is a football club – is it just another business, to be operated solely with a
view to profit – or is it something more: does it add value to the value of the
community which it represents?
q It is a sign of the times when hardworking, loyal fans with ten times more of the
Club’s history than all of the directors put together are made to take a back seat
and watch while their football club is being destroyed.
q If the owners had wanted to run a club in Milton Keynes they could have bought
one there. In reality they were buying a league position to do with it what they
liked.
q The FA owes no obligation to any club to help ensure that it maximises its
profits.
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q Football has no obligation to reward businessmen who make poor investments in
the game. They were aware that the club had no ground of its own and a
comparatively small fan base (no smaller than 40-50 other Football League
clubs) and presumably were aware of the rules regarding promotion and
relegation when they bought the Club. To allow them to disregard these rules
simply because they feel the Club will be more profitable will do a massive
disservice to the game, which must in these troubled times strengthen, rather
than weaken, community ties.
q Allowing the move would make it almost impossible for another club to repeat
the fairytale success of the Club. They would become prey to the highest bidder
from any larger town or city which wanted instant success.
q Many aspects of a club come and go e.g. the Chairman, manager, players etc.
The one constant is the fans. There are not many fans, but they are passionate
and love the Club.
q Football is about clubs as representatives of their local areas with all the
connotations that this brings. What it appears to have become in some areas is
an excuse for big businesses to muscle in on a moneymaking opportunity and
take away the community feeling which pervades at all of the best clubs, be they
at Premiership or non-League level.
q How could it be just to penalise a club and its supporters for being successful?
Where would the Club be without its supporters? They were there in the days
before big television money and were responsible for much of the income of the
Club.
q The model of reliance on wealthy patrons has proved to be imprudent, and the
supposed security they offer illusory.
q American style franchising only benefits one group of people: the money men.
q Local MP, Roger Casale, also supports a return to Merton.
q Wimbledon Speedway has recently returned to Plough Lane.
1221322-2 Page 63
q The Club’s fans have conducted peaceful protests (compare this to the violence
seen at other clubs).
q If the proposed relocation is allowed, the fans propose to explore the possibility
of taking legal action against the Club, the Football League and the Football
Association.
Milton Keynes
q Since a fan base takes decades to develop in a locality, there is no evidence that
people in Milton Keynes would watch the Club play.
q The owners only want to move in order to secure a property deal which is part of
the proposed stadium complex. Football is being used as an “enabler” for this
development – a “bribe” to Milton Keynes.
q If Milton Keynes Council wishes for League status, they should invest in Milton
Keynes City. They have no right to expect a shortcut.
q The Milton Keynes consortium which is behind the proposed move should
perhaps back the local Milton Keynes team and lead them up through the leagues
the way that the Club did back in 1977.
q There is no publicly available evidence that the Milton Keynes Stadium
Consortium actually exists.
q Milton Keynes has a poor record of support for local sports. In recent months
the ice hockey team has folded. Would the residents of Milton Keynes turn out
to support the Club through the bad times?
q There is not a great wish in the Milton Keynes area to have Wimbledon. The
town is already well served by Watford, Luton Town, Northampton and Rushden
& Diamonds (all within 30 minutes drive of the city) and the major London
teams attract substantial followings to their home games. Fans do not usually
change established allegiances.
1221322-2 Page 64
q The silence from supporters in Milton Keynes and the fact that in 20 years their
own club has failed to rise further than the 10th level of the football pyramid
suggests that if there were any demand for a decent club in Milton Keynes surely
some local entrepreneurs would have invested in their local club.
q It is not true that Milton Keynes has a bigger catchment area than Merton. In
any case, the size of a city does not guarantee regular attendance.
q The proposed site at Milton Keynes does not have planning permission for use as
a stadium. There is no guarantee that if the Club were allowed to move to
Milton Keynes, the new stadium would actually be built.
Nature of the Club
q It is far better that the Club, whatever little money it may have, stays in the
Merton area, even if that means it remains in the lower divisions or even falls
further divisions. At least it will remain as the Club. The Club is and will
always remain a small club. There is nothing wrong with that. The proposed
relocation to Milton Keynes is seeking to create a big club, not to save a small
one.
q The fans are not of the opinion that a club in Milton Keynes is better than no
club at all.
q Many of the Club’s supporters remember the days at Plough Lane watching
non-league football with passion and loyalty equal to that which they showed
when the Club was playing the likes of Manchester United. It really doesn’t
matter which league the team plays in. What does matter is where those games
are played.
q The Club is not a Manchester United or Arsenal or Chelsea. People do not
choose to support the Club because it is a big club with dreams and expectations
of cup and European glory (although that would be nice.) The fan base of the
Club comes from people with connections to the Club or the locality.
1221322-2 Page 65
q The Club will never attract big gates (not outside the Premiership anyway) for
the reason that it is not a big club and does not have the history or a football
following catchment area on which to draw. The owners of the Club want to
own something different – a big, glamorous club which makes lots of money,
which was not what they bought.
q The Club is not a profit-making business. It never has been.
Financial
q The Club’s owners made a catastrophically bad financial decision when they
agreed to pay then owner Sam Hammam a figure around £28 million for a club
that had neither a stadium nor a training ground.
q If a locality can’t support a club financially then it is time for that club to scale
back its operations, perhaps sell off the best players, get relegated and
consolidate at a lower level. It is not time to move.
q Almost without exception, clubs relegated from the Premiership suffer
difficulties, having committed themselves to high players’ salaries and operating
costs on the back of expected high revenues. The Club itself is no exception to
this. This should not therefore be a deciding factor in their application to go to
Milton Keynes. Other clubs have gone on to restructure their finances and
emerged as better, leaner businesses.
q As football is placed in more danger after the collapse of ITV Digital, it is the
fans who remain the most loyal lifeblood of the sport. One positive issue to
emerge from the ITV Digital crisis is that clubs now have to realise that their fan
base is their major source of income, and budget accordingly.
q If the current owners feel that they cannot run the Club other than by changing
its identity and jettisoning its existing support, they should let others take over
that responsibility – the inflated price they mistakenly paid for the Club should
not be a consideration.
1221322-2 Page 66
q Finances are tight, but the way to put them right is to be community-based,
working hand in hand with the supporters and local businesses to underpin the
finances of the Club rather than relying on handouts from media organisations
who clearly have not thought through the economics of their business plans.
Floodgates
q If this move is allowed, then clubs such as Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport,
Walsall, Brentford and others in the shadow of more affluent neighbours will
come under threat from businessmen in areas such as Kent or Cornwall, who feel
that their community has the right to buy a league position.
q There are other potential sites if the floodgates are opened: e.g. Bristol.
q It would not take a genius to buy a club in debt, engineer the sale of their ground
in a lease back scheme and then threaten to fold because of “debts”. If you
create any kind of loophole for the Club, then many others will follow.
q Regarding franchising, one could envisage struggling First and Second Division
teams, who see the prospect of entry to the Premier League becoming ever
distant, acquiring smaller Welsh or Scottish clubs with a view to gaining entry to
the European Champions League.
Other clubs
q Brighton and Hove Albion FC had to play in exile in Gillingham for 2 years
following the sale of its home ground. During this period it did not acquire a
new set of supporters from Kent. On the contrary, not only did it not assimilate
new supporters, but also lost all but a very small hardcore of Brighton fans. It
was not until the club moved back to, albeit with very limited facilities, its home
base of Brighton that the fortunes of the football club as a whole and the team in
particular began to flourish.
q There is no doubt that the Club could make money if it returned to Plough Lane:
you only have to look at Charlton to see what returning to the local area does.
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