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Monday 23 April 2007
Erik Samuelson's notes from Saturday's programme

In the Heybridge Swifts programme, Erik updated supporters on a number of issues, including some of the work which is planned for the close season. We republish below his article, for the benefit of those who were unable to buy a programme on Saturday:

Building on success

Welcome to the fans, officials, management and players of Heybridge Swifts. As you know, we recently signed Richard Jolly from the Swifts, and their officials were very professional and friendly in everything they did. We appreciated that a lot, and we want to acknowledge that here today.

Today I want to look back at the biggest events of this season. From a personal and possibly selfish point of view, the biggest thing that has happened is that I've been made acting, and now confirmed, Chief Executive of one of best-known clubs in the land, as well as the 94th largest as measured by attendances. I was proud to be offered the role, but I mention it mainly because I want to talk about my predecessor, Kris
Stewart.

There were lots of conspiracy theories when Kris stepped down, saying he wanted a break and to return to the terraces. So for some people it's been quite a shock to see Kris take a break and return to the terraces! He is happiest there (as, indeed, am I) but he hasn't completely withdrawn from the club.

Kris has always been someone to whom I've turned for advice, and happily for me he has continued to be available. So, my grateful thanks to him for his help and support. On behalf of everyone, I want to acknowledge once more his fantastic achievement, along with Ivor and Trevor, in setting up this club following the FA commission's decision to let franchising into English football.

Five years later, the FA allowed our appeal against the Ryman League's decision to deduct 18 points from us. I won't linger on the subject, other than to repeat that those who say "rules is rules" seem to forget another rule, which is that clubs can appeal if a penalty is excessive. We did appeal ? and we won. I now hope that common sense will prevail and that, in the words of the Ryman League statement, the decision has been "in the best interests of all member clubs ... it is to be hoped that this will now be an end to the matter".

The other matter of great importance that has started this season is our strategy review. Whatever the outcome of this season on the pitch, we need a plan setting out where we are going and how we aim to get there. We also want our owners, i.e. members of the Dons Trust and PLC shareholders, to help to develop that plan, along with fans and other interested parties. The first draft reports from the group leaders are starting to appear, complete with lists of other work that needs to be done. There is a long way to go but we are on our way. After the season ends, updates will continue to be posted on the club's website.

During the year, either Ivor or I have attended the funerals of Ian Widdup, Vic Bird, Bill Turney and Richard Bugg, and in the next few days we shall be attending the funeral of Syd Neal. These are very sad events, of that there is no doubt. But one thing that Ian, Vic, Bill, Richard and Syd had in common was the importance of Wimbledon FC in their lives and the pleasure they got from the emergence of AFC Wimbledon. We should all take pride in that.

Looking forward, there are changes under way at the stadium. Straight after the Wimbledon Heroes v Chelsea Legends game, the pitch renovation will start. This will be a more substantial renovation than has ever been done before and we hope that it will give us a much improved pitch next season.

We will be refurbishing the outside toilets at the Tempest End, starting shortly after the end of the season. Some of this work is being sponsored by the Womble Underground Press. We thank them for this generous offer.

This is the list of additional projects we hope to carry out in the near future, subject to getting acceptable quotes and the nod from the Dons Trust board:

- refurbishing the toilets in the back bar (if we can get a price that is acceptable to us we aim to carry out this work during the summer)

- replacing some, possibly all, of the windows, especially those in the back bar

- removing the temporary rigging for the PA and installing it permanently in the Tempest End roof and other key points around the stadium

- upgrading the lighting in the President's Lounge in line with the recent upgrade in the lobby of the main bar

I am often asked when we are going to extend the Main Stand roof. We've been stuck because we haven't been able to obtain the original calculations which demonstrate that doing so would be safe. So, as an alternative we've decided to have structural load tests carried out on the purlins (the horizontal concrete supports for the roof). If the results are acceptable, we will reappraise the building costs and decide whether to proceed. If we do go ahead, it is very unlikely that the work could be carried out before next season. And please note that this is an ambition, not a promise to complete this work, as it may well prove to be very expensive.

Meanwhile, smaller improvements continue to be made, with new lighting in the main lobby, new curtains in the bars (many thanks to volunteer Jean Trayhorn for doing such a splendid job of making them) and coat hooks in the main lobby, while new carpeting is on order for the back bar entrance area. We have also converted the old marketing manager's room (just off the main bar) into office space. And, following other changes, I hope you've noticed how much cleaner the place is lately.

This is a long schedule of work, some of it already commissioned, some of it about to be commissioned and some of it in the category "we'd love to do it but aren't yet sure we can afford it". Any fans who would like to copy WUP's initiative to sponsor some of the work should please contact us ? we shall be glad to discuss your ideas with you.

Enjoy the game.