The Political Economy of Hating MK Dons

Posted by on Aug 7, 2010 in Uncategorized | 27 Comments
Our recent, we thought modestly reasoned and exhibited, decision not to cover MK Dons in our mammoth pre-season profile was met with a mixed reception: with “sanctimonious” one adjective used to admonish us (true elsewhere but perhaps not on this issue). Similarly, a Dons related post on The Seventy Two was met with a cacophonous response. It’s clear that the topic continues to set feelings racing and leaving aside the fact that those who don’t see it as a point for debate at all will all have their thirteenth birthdays ahead of them, it’s clear it’s far from a black and white issue. This set me thinking and I thought I would sit down and identify five distinct degrees of feeling towards the lovely MK Dons.

Degree 1: Stop moaning and move on
The old Wimbledon trophies have been returned to Merton Council and public figures such as the esteemed Lawrie Sanchez have suggested bygones be bygones. There’s a body of opinion that sees nothing wrong with the North Buckinghamshire set (surely it’s no coincidence that they are the local club to those bastions of conservative education, Buckingham and Cranfield Universities).

To this crew, everyone hated the Crazy Gang anyway and that Pete Winkelman seems like a go-ahead kind of guy who carries off that hairstyle well for a middle aged bloke. They see nothing wrong with their fabulously impressive stadium being nominated for the World Cup and see it as the kind of fast growing, modern city that will help us compete with similar petrol driven economies like the United States.

Degree 2: I’d watch a match at MK Dons
This category features those who acknowledge the mechanism of unfairness that helped the Dons gain their place in the league but object in the kind of mild mannered way that Hong Kong Phooey would have been proud of. We need to forgive and forget, they’ll tell you, and point out that we all live in a country ruled by David Cameron for Pete’s sake, so we can’t be too sniffy. Plus, kids growing up in Milton Keynes deserve a club to support and it’s better they go there than Chelsea – it’s a go ahead kind of place and child friendly – there are plenty of places to park and Frankie and Benny’s serve surprisingly authentic Italian grub.

Degree 3: I’ll never watch a match at Stadium:MK
In the early days of the whole shabby business, the quickly agreed upon solution was the formation of AFC Wimbledon and a determination among fans to boycott matches at the National Hockey Stadium, then the home of the object of our study. This mild form of rebellion has been effective – without doubt, MK Dons or “Franchise FC” are still the most widely reviled club in Britain this side of Stamford Bridge and their crowds are still meagre given the size of the conurbation. Even the construction of the enormous, but far too capacious Stadium:MK has seen most stick to their guns although there has been some recidivism. Economist Christophe Chamley’s book Rational Herds would no doubt shed light on this sub-group’s motivations.

Degree 4: I’ll never watch MK Dons in any match
Admittedly, we are in fringe nutter territory here and if I can claim to have stuck to this condition myself thus far, that’s more to do with the fact that my club is yet to lock horns with the all whites. I’d like to think, however, that I would resist any temptation to go see them – even if it’s a Wembley final. That would be the ultimate feat of one-upmanship (for that would surely be the main motivational emotion) and even my fellow blogger Scarf, as vehement a critic of MK Dons as I have come across, has yet to verbally make this pledge.

Stage 5: Direct Action
And one can go further still. Let’s begin a logical chain – beginning with deep objection to MK dons’ right to exist, one concludes 1) that one shouldn’t visit their stadium, 2) that one should avoid ever watching them live, 3) that one should refuse to watch them on television, 4) that one should boycott any television station that shows any of their matches, 5) that one should boycott other products and services offered by the parent company of which said TV network is a part, 6) that one should refuse to ever wear anything white (if this means supporting Leeds United, then STOP supporting Leeds United), 7) that one should refuse ever to set foot in Buckinghamshire (therefore depriving Wycombe Wanderers of any fans at all), 8) that one should boycott pukka pies because they are no doubt sold inside Stadium:MK – probably, anyway, because how would one find out without stepping inside such a den of iniquity? 9) that one should withdraw support for the 2018 Bid and 10) stop supporting any club who are also involved in said bid because it’s now inviolably tainted – Plymouth Argyle and Bristol City fans you are MK collaborators! Shame on You!

…and I was born in Buckinghamshire.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

27 Comments

  1. Bill Turianski
    August 8, 2010

    I wish I could not cover MK Dons when I make maps of the league(s)they are in, but omitting them would undercut the whole premise of my site. I think it all depends on whether you want the tenor of your site to be opinionated or comprehensive.

    Reply
  2. Ben
    August 8, 2010

    Re: opinionated v comprehensive. This is as comprehensive a site I've come across as regards Championship matters (and it's now branching out across Leagues 1 and 2 too), but I honestly believe that the fact it's an outlet/forum for opinions is more important. We've been getting some grief recently on Black & White & Read All Over for our opinions (and myself for being sanctimonious about Joey Barton) – but I wouldn't have it any other way. Blogs written by fans who happen to have day jobs can't possibly hope to be as comprehensive or up-to-the-minute as mainstream news sites or the official club website, so they need to offer something different – which this site does exceedingly well. Being comprehensive and objective is ultimately impossible – so why not just accept a degree of partiality and bias? Sites which are (or purport to be) objective are usually the most boring around.

    Reply
  3. Lanterne Rouge
    August 8, 2010

    Good point Bill and I have to say your site is extraordinarily good – although the internet hadn't been invented at that point, it's the kind of resource I dreamed about as a kid. I am now in North America for a few months and am really enjoying the coverage you provide of sports maps this side of the pond.

    Reply
  4. mirkobolesan
    August 8, 2010

    I exclude MK Dons from any list of stats I do on my site and generally don't mention them wherever possible. I do include results against them though.

    I'm probably in the number 4 category. Though the potential scenario of a playoff final has yet to arise. I also don't go to every single match so it's easy for me to say I'll miss a match against MK Dons (I have done so in the past on a couple of occasions).

    It may be petty and childish. But so is football.

    I find MK Dons abhorrent and would rather they lost than any other team in the football league.

    Reply
  5. Stanley
    August 9, 2010

    Despite not having visited McStadium or, in fact seen, McDons at the Den, I take a pragmatic view. Whatever you feel about the way in which the club was brought into being, it is not going to be wiped off the map any time soon. The two-state solution in place (with McDons existing alongside a Wimbledon homeland in south-west London) has secured everyone's interests, and a line ought to be drawn under the matter.

    Reply
  6. scarf
    August 9, 2010

    A 'two-state solution' whereby the wronged party had to start from the very bottom of the pyramid and the thieves got to keep the league place? You make it sound fair and equitable, Stanley – it was and is not either of those things.

    I will never go to the Winkledome, but I will be prepared to 'draw a line' under it, as you put it, when – and only when – AFC Wimbledon have regained their rightful place in the League and are in a higher diviison than the cuckoos who stole their nest. I am hearened by the responses to this thread, most of whom believe – like me – that it is important to keep on fighting the good fight, les it happened again, to one of our teams. With respect, I doubt you'd find it as easy to 'move on' if that happened to Milwall, Stanley. I feel, especailly in the greedy-league-dominated age we live in that it is important for fans of the 'unfortunates' to stick together, and fighting franchising is a phenomenon is a part of that. One hopes that, by acting so vehemently, enough people can show the authorities that the English football community will not tolerate the theft of a club from its community (and, yes, I know Shelhurst Park wasn't exactly great, either, but it's better than Milton Keynes!) and the theft of a league place as part of a supermarket development deal. If this is not fought, then what is the point of having promotion and relegation – we might as well become like US sports, where anyone can buy a club and move it anywhere? There are historic principles that need to be defended, and fighting franchising in football is part of that. So this columnist is certainly not ready to 'draw the line' anytime soon.

    Since I was mentioned in the article, I'll state that my view is option 4 – I won't go to the Winkledome, but I’d go if we played them on neutral ground even though I know they got some of the gate receipts. Realistically my money or lack of it isn’t going to be the difference between them living or dying (though if everyone boycotted them, then just maybe….?), so it has to be a point of principle, and not going to their ground does it for me, just like I wouldn’t go to some countries whose regime I don’t condone. The most extreme anti-franchiseite I know is a fellow Stockport fan who refused to go to County’s home games because we signed a player (Dominic Blizzard) from franchise. He believed that by doing business with them we were legitimising them. Personally I think that’s when it gets to the point where you hate franchise more than you love your own team, and I’m not really down with that. There has to be a balance between having principles and being practical, after all – I’d love it if every club came out and said ‘We won’t deal with franchise’, but if our manager wants one of their players, then politics shouldn’t get in the way of him going to get him. If it does start to get in the way, then we’re going down the road of Athletic Bilbao and all the nonsense that goes with that.

    Reply
  7. Lloyd
    August 9, 2010

    Without a doubt, it's criminal that the move was ever allowed to happen. But it did, and we're a few years down the line now. AFC seem to have moved on to me, and if I were a fan of theirs I'd want to focus on promotion to the League rather than maintain an unhealthy obsession with the past.

    That doesn't mean that antipathy can't be stored up for the first mouth-watering tie between the two clubs, or that a Wimbledon fan shouldn't stand in protest every time the subject of franchising rears its head, but I really do think it's in their best interests to 'draw a line'.

    As for me, I'm probably veering between 2 and 3. Maybe I shouldn't admit it, but my curiosity and desire to tick off another ground probably outweighs any ill feeling towards Franchise.

    Reply
  8. daysofspeed
    August 9, 2010

    As a founder of AFC Wimbledon I can only applaud the moral fibre displayed by those finding the Franchise an abomination still. That'll be until my last breathe, I wish them nothing but famine, pestilence and doom.

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  9. daysofspeed
    August 9, 2010

    Lloyd – I've moved on no more than I would have if my family had been killed. I might not spend all day spamming Franchise websites but ask me about them, let me see them mentioned in any way shape or form and it feels like it happened only yesterday.

    I've not drawn a line and moved anywhere but wanting them to die a horrid death – but I have managed to not wake up thinking about that, I wake up hoping we will cream Southport away….

    Reply
  10. mirkobolesan
    August 9, 2010

    Lloyd, I am a “completist” of the highest degree. I collect football stickers, I know I have been to sixty two league grounds and I even have a menu from my favourite sandwich shop where I tick off each sandwich combination I have tried.

    Yet I would never go to MK Stadium to watch football. I would simply stick on 91. In fact I'd probably visit AFCW in order to complete the “moral 92”.

    Despite my “fundamentalist” views on MK I think you have to be careful. I know a lot of people have reservations about AFCW, I certainly don't think they are the paragons of virtue that they are made out to be by many football fans. I also wonder how we are meant to approach Arsenal – another Franchise football club. If 80? years is enough to forget about their move across London will a time come when its OK to accept MK?

    Reply
  11. Bert
    August 9, 2010

    The line has been drawn, and it's somewhere floating in the middle of option 5. I still won't walk into an ASDA, or watch them on TV, I stopped buying the Evening Standard when they decided to cover them as a London Club, I'd never go to a game there, I haven't spoken to a long-standing friend who decided to watch them in preference to AFCW (or indeed anyone else), and I take great delight in booing any ex-Franchise player whoever they play for, but I'd still probably not be able to resist the temptation of a home game. Life's funny like that.

    Reply
  12. scarf
    August 9, 2010

    @ mirkobolesan: I agree that AFCW aren't the paragon of virtue that some make them out to be – I'm not comfortable with everything that's happened with regards to Kingstonian and Kingsmeadow, for instance – but the difference is that they are a 'real' football club and therefore it's all relative. I'm deeply uncomfortable with a lot of the stuff that's happened at my club – Stockport County – over the last x number of years, but they're still my club, and similarly, whilst AFCW aren't perfect, they're a proper club (with the history, the culture, the tradition to go with it), which franchise are not, and that is what's important here.

    I've thought about the Arsenal thing, too, and I think you have to look at it and think that those in charge of Arsenal today are not responsible for what happened 80 years ago, just like today's governments aren't responsible for wrongs back then, either. So, for instance, I don't actually have a problem with the kids growing up in MK now who support franchise – they don't know any different and they're just supporting their local team. My wrath is reserved for all those who made it happen (from Koppel to the adjudication panel) and for those fans who used to support other teams and who accepted franchise and started supporting them – they are adults who should have known better. If they had not accepted franchise and instead supported Milton Keynes City instead – who also died partly as a result of franchise turning up – then people in Milton Keynes would have a perfectly legitimate local club to support, with enormous potential, instead of having a complete pariah infecting their town.

    Maybe in 80 years' time then enough things will have changed that 'MK Dons' will be accepted – maybe Winkie or his descendents won't own it (though who with any moral backbone would buy such a club? And if they did and turned it into some amazing flagship club – a community mutual who did great things for the kids etc, how would I react? I'm not sure. Begrudging praise I suspect.) and perhaps AFC Wimbledon will bein the league. For now, though, I agree with daysofspeed – my only wish is that they are liquidated, as quickly as possible.

    Reply
  13. Stanley
    August 9, 2010

    Nowhere in my comment did I suggest that a line be drawn under the issue of franchising itself. The case of McDons was a lost battle in the `good fight' referred to above. I just feel that, although the final settlement was not perfect (as you point out scarf), the facts are now entrenched. AFC Wimbledon is thriving and close to gaining membership of the Football League. I prefer to spend my energy in celebrating that.

    (As an aside, Millwall have in fact uprooted during their 125-year history, crossing the Thames from the Isle of Dogs in 1910 to seek an expanded fan-base in south-east London. Just as Woolwich Arsenal went in the opposite direction three years later. Not quite the 50-mile journey of McDons, but the phenomenon isn't new.)

    Reply
  14. Nikul
    August 9, 2010

    I take issue with the statement: “Frankie and Benny’s serve surprisingly authentic Italian grub”.

    Reply
  15. daysofspeed
    August 9, 2010

    Scarf – please expand on “I'm not comfortable with everything that's happened with regards to Kingstonian and Kingsmeadow, for instance” I'd love to see anything AFC Wimbledon have done regards Kingstonian under the spotlight here.

    Reply
  16. Ben
    August 9, 2010

    Galling to see that Franchise FC are in a position to sign one of the biggest and best-known names in football…

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/m/milton_keynes_dons/8897208.stm

    Reply
  17. scarf
    August 9, 2010

    @daysofspeed: You bought someone else's ground, renamed it for yourselves and made the club it's traditionally associated with tenants in their own home with – as far as I'm aware? – no hope of repurchasing the stadium at a future date. I'm sure there are good reasons why it was done, but it doesn't mean I think it's right.

    Reply
  18. Bert
    August 9, 2010

    @scarf – to be fair, Kingstonian were already tenants in their own home, the old story of the ground being seperated from the club that plays there in times of financial plight, brought on by chasing the dream with money they didn't have. When we purchased the ground we set them a sustainable rent per season and played them in a pre-season friendly designed to cover some, if not most of the cost. This rent was not much different to the sum we were paying per MATCH in our first season. Now, as part of a further deal on a bit of coucil owned land outside the stadium, Kingstonian play rent free. They also keep their matchday bar profits and have their own club shop. Not ideal, but not an awful compromise. And, yes, we put a roof on one end of the ground and extended the stand and got sponsors, but the Kingstonian home end remains the same (and the Athletics End will always be that to them rather than our Tempest End), and we still refer to the ground as Kingsmeadow, despite it's rather twee full (sponsored) name, “The Cherry Red Records Fans' Stadium, Kingsmeadow”.

    Perhaps once we have our new Tesco's Fans' Stadium in the middle of SW19 then the tenants will have sufficient resources to buy it back, but I won't be holding my breath on either.

    Reply
  19. daysofspeed
    August 10, 2010

    Scarf – (to add to Bert's info) AFC Wimbledon bought the ground off Mr Khosla. Arguably his plans for the stadium might not have included the club that was renting it from him (KFC).

    They (AFC Wimbledon) allowed KFC to pay a peppercorn rent, they keep their tea bar and bar profits on matchdays, they get 6 free events a year and 3 pre-season friendlies, pay £0 for the electricity, pitch maintenance, building maintenance.

    The offer to buy back 50% of the ground now (at 50% of what AFC Wimbledon paid, plus interest and a share of the improvements carried out since the change of ownership) and the rest should AFC Wimbledon should they leave.

    Since the transfer of a second lease that AFC Wimbledon bought from Kingston Council KFC now have a 10 year rent free period as well as the continues absence of any maintenance costs.

    I believe it could be successfully argued that KFC are in a far better place, in a far better stadium, with undeniably lower rent than they were before AFC Wimbledon removed their previous landlord.

    The inference AFC Wimbledon have been anything less than helpful, respectful and supportive of KFC is IMO mildly insulting at best and massively incorrect at worst.

    I hope that info helps shed some light where others have apparently inserted less than honourable insinuations.

    Reply
  20. daysofspeed
    August 10, 2010

    PS Bert the KFC home end isn't the same – it's got an improved view due to steeper steps – paid for by? Yeah, you guessed it.

    Reply
  21. Bert
    August 10, 2010

    @daysofspeed: Yes, indeed, and an extended roof, although I was referring to the name.

    Reply
  22. scarf
    August 11, 2010

    Ditto – thanks for clarifying, DoS and Bert. Sometimes things seem too good to be true; I'm pleased this is not the case in this instance.

    Reply
  23. mirkobolesan
    August 12, 2010

    Can Wimbledon go up and continue at Kingsmeadow? Would the FL allow it? (I'm afraid I've never been there).

    Reply
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