This column is a little different. It’s written by our new Dons Trust 16-24 advisory group.
Everyone wants to know what young people think. I suppose it’s because it won’t be long before we’ll be the ones with all the money – if there’s any left! But seriously, as a group of young members of The Dons Trust, we got involved after the Dons Trust Board (DTB) put out a call for members of the trust aged between 16 and 24 to become part of an informal group who could help them to think about how – and others of our age – they promote and talk about fan ownership.
With the return to Plough Lane, we are seeing an increase of families and younger people attending games, and one of our aims is to attract younger fans to become members, and generally ensure that the voice of younger fans is part of the decisions the trust – and AFC Wimbledon – make. The board wants to see the next generation of Wimbledon fans stepping up to the plate, taking part in the ownership of their club in the same way that they and many of their friends and fellow fans did back in the dim and distant past. Sorry, we mean the early 2000s!
Seriously though, when you look at what that generation of fans achieved it’s immense, incredible. We all know about how the fans of that era refused to let Wimbledon disappear and did everything they could to keep it alive, bringing it back to life despite what some people tried to do to kill it off.
Every single time they were thrown a challenge – stadium, league place – they met it. But we did it too, even though we weren’t around to see it. We believe that we are a part of that same spirit, that Crazy Gang team that won the FA Cup, and the other achievements of the club on the pitch in 1963, 1977, 1986, 1988 and 2011. It belongs to all of us, as do the achievements off the pitch. AFC Wimbledon is all one family, no matter your age or your background. The battle to keep the spirit of Wimbledon alive, brought back to life through AFC Wimbledon, are the achievements of the club we all support. The club that thousands of us own, as well as watch, every week.
Except what’s the point of all that effort, time, passion, commitment – and money – if it all ends up disappearing, falling most likely into the hands of some private individual who never did anything except wait for the chance? Our goal is to maintain the pride, passion and effort that all those older than us put in.
Yes, we all love watching football, and Plough Lane is such an amazing place to watch our team play – men’s and women’s. It’s got a buzz to it on a matchday that we all love. But we’ve all decided that it’s our turn to step-up and get involved. Not only do we need to take some responsibility to ensure that fan-ownership is something that isn’t just a nice part of the long, incredible story of this club that disappears into history, but is something that is part of the identity of the club for years and years to come.
We’ve already had our first get-together with two Dons Trust Board members – Angus Fox and Richard Shepherd – and we’re looking forward to meeting the rest of the board. We want to play an active role to help grow membership, and get younger people excited about owning a part of the football club they support, and in doing it, propel this football club forward like we know we can do when we work together.
We don’t claim to speak for every young fan of our age, but what we can do is to challenge the trust board sometimes, to bring us into the discussions they have, and make sure that the voice of the next generation of fans – of owners – is in the room, being part of things now.