MK Dons...Breaking Tradition
June 2004 was a fatal month for thousands of Wimbledon fans. There beloved club was renamed, after its relocation to Milton Keynes from the home of Britain's tennis grand slam. The club was renamed Milton Keynes Dons, taking away the fantastic heritage of one of the oldest running football clubs in the world.
A group of supporters were in uproar about this move, as you can understand. Many considered that the new MK Dons were no longer representative of the legacy and tradition of Wimbledon FC.
This lead to a new team being formed along with MK Dons. AFC were formed in May 2002 and began playing in the Combined
Counties League in August 2002 a full season and two months of the next
season before Wimbledon FC moved to MK on 27th September 2003. Now, a couple of years on, they have seen two promotions and a narrow defeat in a playoff which would have seen them compete in the Conference South - one under the main non league division.
The club currently hold the all-time English record for the most consecutive unbeaten league games by any senior football club, having achieved 78 leagues matches in a row without defeat over a period spanning three seasons.
Supporters of other clubs around the country initially boycotted matches against Milton Keynes Dons (mockingly referred to by many as 'Franchise FC') in solidarity with Wimbledon's supporters, as a protest against the principle of relocation and the instant recognition of the new club in Milton Keynes by The Football League, which is perceived as completely alien to the traditions of the game in England.
The planned move to Milton Keynes started taking shape in the late 1990`s, when Pete Winkelman, a music entrepreneur and avid promoter of Milton Keynes, wanted a football league club in the town.
Winkelman approached several league clubs to try and get them to pack their stuff up and move location. Luton Town, Barnet and QPR were having none of this, despite their financial troubles. His plan was to build a FIFA-compliant stadium, fit for a football league team with commercial redevelopment and railway links. Food superstore ASDA and furniture company, IKEA were mooted to be built close by.
Winkelman approached Wimbledon FC about a possible move, in which they were only too glad to finalise. This was then taken to The FA who suprisingly approved almost instantly, much to the despair of fans. They proceeded to boycott games at Selhurst Park, leading to the club into financial administration, with spiralling debts of £20 million.
In June 2004, despite the Football Association's 'Independent Commission' recommendations, Winkelman announced that Wimbledon FC would change its name to Milton Keynes Dons FC, having previously promised fans a vote on the issue; the committee of the official supporters' club had voted unanimously for the word 'Wimbledon' to be retained in the name. It seems that "Dons" at the end of the name is tokenism, with many fans saying is it really needed now?
The team, when it moved, had a total new kit also.
The club at the moment are playing at The National Hockey Stadium whilst waiting for the purpose built bowl to open possibly next year. The club, under the management of 'Mad Dog' Martin Allen, lie sixth in League Two.
Many away fans boycott MK games now, for moral reasons. I don't personally buy into that, as nothing should come in the way of supporting your team, but this is what has happenned with MK, and they have to deal with it. The arrival of the new stadium will help in some respects as more boycotting supporters will be attracted to a purpose built ground.
The legend of Franchise FC lives on.