Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of Scoop.it! Football Finance

AFC Wimbledon & FC United of Manchester

Posted by John Beech on April 27, 2009

English football’s bastard love children are proving themselves upwardly mobile. AFC Wimbledon will be playing in the Conference next season and FC United almost made the play-offs for promotion to the Conference North. Considering both clubs started from scratch so recently, this is no mean achievement. No doubt dreams of emulating their errant ‘parents’ – MK Dons (albeit a parent that has now given up any parental claims) and Manchester United (who have never made any claim of parentage) – will be rekindled. There are of course historical precedents such as Liverpool (out of Everton), but a century on there are now formidable barriers to the push onward to the summit of the pyramid.

Probably the biggest barrier is the simple and straightforward financial one. In the absence of any rocket payments (qv), unless a club has phenomenal financial backing the prospect of the top tier must remain a dream. The present situation of the clubs does suggest they are well positioned for a further upward movement at least in the longer term future. AFC Wimbledon’s home gates this season, at almost 3,000, are more than twice those of their nearest rivals, and would have placed them fourth in this season’s Conference home attendance table. With a boost in attendance which League football would bring, AFC Wimbledon would not look out of place in the League 2 home attendance table, although ominously, without that boost, the club would be just one place above Darlington (1).

FC United of Manchester, at just over 2,000, are clear winners of the Unibond Premier attendance table, and would have just taken the winner’s spot in the Conference North home attendance table.

For AFC Wimbledon, the better bet of the two on both current performance and support for qualifying for promotion to League football, face the potential obstacle regarding their stadium. Currently they are located at the Kingsmeadow stadium, owned by Kingston Council, the club owning the leasehold, and with an income from renting the facilities to Kingstonian FC. Kingsmeadow is not currently Football League compliant.

There is a grim irony in this for Wimbledon. Wimbledon FC’s decline began with the fact that their then ground, Plough Lane, was not Taylor-compliant and in 1991 the club began its journey which eventually led to Milton Keynes. For AFC Wimbledon, if it is to progress further, the stadium issue remains unfinished business after almost twenty years.

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