AFC WimbledonSport

Dons may have to release all their out-of-contract players

AFC Wimbledon may have to release 11 players left this summer as the club’s finances are hit by the income cliff-edge caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Manager Glyn Hodges will have to rebuild his squad almost from scratch before the start of next season, in a scenario which will spell out the financial plight of League One’s clubs caused by lockdown.

But the former Dons player, who took over from Wally Downes in the hotseat in October, is relieved the club now has some certainty going forward.

Hodges expressed his sadness at the fate of Tranmere, who were relegated into League Two after the EFL voted yesterday to halt the season and rejig the table on a points-per-game system.

“I feel sorry for Southend, Tranmere and Bolton,” he said. “But especially for Tranmere. It is a horrible way for decisions like this to have to be made.

“But this is the right decision now, because it brings some certainty.

“It will cost a lot of jobs, though – it might be the equivalent of the price of a centre-forward and there might be some redundancies and wage cuts.

“We have worked so hard to get here, so survival is essential.

“Being able to put staff on furlough has saved us, really. The financial implications were massive. If staff had to come back for the last nine games without crowds, there would have been a risk of us going bust.

“Now we have to work on next season’s budget – because we are not out of the woods yet.

“We may have to release everyone whose contract is up, which will leave us with 11 players.

“There are some excellent players we would have wanted to keep – but we cannot afford to do it. It is the price we have to pay.

“Building a new stadium has stretched our finances even more.”

The EFL decision at least gives clubs some certainty.

“It was strange to hear about the decision yesterday,” he said. “It was a relief in a way, because it means we can make plans now.

“But it would have been good to have played on – it would have made the decisions about players easier. Everyone wanted to play the last games – but time had just run out.

“We have been following fitness programmes in preparation for games and the dates for the restart kept changing, so all that is now finished. We have been busy watching videos and looking at recruitment.

“Pre-season was all planned and ready in March but now that will have to be ripped up and we will need to start all over again, if the next Premier League season is moved back. It is all unprecedented.”

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