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02/03: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 17/08/02, 3pm
Franchise FC
Nothing of value
By Matt Rowson

Let's start this one with a question.

Suppose that you come home one day to find your next door neighbours' house ablaze. What do you do? Do you:

(a) Ring the fire brigade, then do all that you can to make sure that your neighbours are safe.

(b) Go inside your own house, shut the door, make yourself a cup of tea and switch on the telly. Not really any of your business, is it?

(c) Drag all the old boxes that you were supposed to take to the tip three weeks ago out of your shed and chuck them into the blaze. Jolly convenient to have a bonfire next door, would be a shame to waste it.

(d) Go inside and half-fill your washing-up bowl with water. Take it outside and stand poised, just in case the flames spread to your property. Let nobody say that you don't protect your family.

It's easier to make a dispassionate assessment now in front of your monitor than it would be in the heat of the moment, of course, but I'd like to think that I'd go for (a). In fact I'd like to think that most "decent" folk would. In all honesty it's hard to make a viable case for any of the other options, these being based in either crushing stupidity (see (b)), numbing selfishness (see (c)) or both (see (d)). You'll excuse me for having trouble empathising with another point of view.

Football. Splendid. How... comfortable it feels to be back in the swing again... the old routine, whatever it might be. Routes, habits, rituals. Stopping off points... a pub, a chippie, a newsagent. The friends and family you sit with and share the whole thing with. It's wonderful, isn't it ? And all the highs and lows that your football club have lead you through... yes, you know it's only a game but it's still so very very special.

So what would it take for you to give it up ? Completely ? Not just cut down on games, maybe give up your season ticket and pick and choose your fixtures, but to completely wash your hands of the whole affair. "A lot", I guess. It's hard to contemplate the sense of betrayal that would lead to such an act.

It's difficult to get a straight or appraisable figure, of course, but figures circulated last week suggested that Wimbledon have sold a grand total of 128 Season Tickets for the coming campaign. Now that isn't a lot, even for Wimbledon. So we're not talking about a minor protest here. The attendance for Saturday's opening fixture against Gillingham at Selhurst Park was announced as 2476, and this with the concession that roughly 1800 of those were following the Kent side. Even so, the plausibility of the figure was widely disputed by those in the ground... when Garth Crooks reacts with scorn, you know you've been rumbled.

Two things determine a football club, in essence: the locality, and the fanbase... all other details are basically transient. Wimbledon Football Club have disowned both in their decision to relocate to Milton Keynes and as such are of no value. The Football Authorities' decision to sanction their move may be grounded in the illegality of any restraint of trade. However there are parallels with the ITV Digital situation here; Gjelsten, Rokke and Koppel may have law on their side, as did Carlton and Granada, but in the same way their conduct is morally indefensible.

The arguments regarding the setting of a precedent are so painfully facile that they don't really warrant rehashing here yet again. Bottom line, Wimbelstein's reinvention cannot be allowed to succeed; Franchising of football clubs cannot be seen as a viable option. It was for this reason, not a sour, bitter vendetta, that AFC Wimbledon fans protested outside Selhurst Park at the weekend, a point pitifully missed by puppet manager Stuart Murdoch, who pleaded for both parties to "go their separate ways". I don't think so.

AFC Wimbledon's competitive existence kicks off on Saturday with a Combined Counties tie against Sandhurst Town. Wimbledon finally has a community club again. Wimblestein have nothing. Nothing of value. They still have players and stuff of course, and you have to feel sorry for them, caught in the middle of this mess. You'll have to read about them somewhere else though.

BSaD won't be covering the return fixture to this one on Boxing Day. We are, however, exploring the viability of organsing transport from Watford to AFC Wimbledon's temporary home at Kingstonian for their match with Raynes Park Vale. Anyone who thinks they might be interested is encouraged to drop us a line.