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Sunday 08 June 2008
Conference agm report

AFC Wimbledon was elected to membership at Saturday’s eleventh annual general meeting of the Football Conference at the Hilton Hotel in Blackpool. This short feature describes some of the proceedings during the day.

Erik Samuelson and David Charles represented the club at the agm, which was followed by a briefing meeting for clubs. After the usual early business of an agm (approval of minutes of previous meetings etc) had been conducted by the Conference chairman, Brian Lee, the meeting moved on to adopt the constitution, i.e. the list of member clubs for 2008-09. And so, sometime around 11.30 am, with no ceremony and very little fuss indeed, AFC Wimbledon became a Conference club.

The list of constituent clubs had been changed late in the day to reflect the demise of Nuneaton Borough. As a result, Redditch were re-allocated to Blue Square North, leaving a space for Dorchester to be reprieved in Blue Square South. These allocations assume that the appeals by Boston United and Halifax Town will be unsuccessful when they are heard later this week.

The Chairman read his report to members and there was some feedback about the Blue Square Premier play off final arrangements from a member club, before the fair play and programme of the year awards were presented, partly to reduce the number of such ceremonies in an already overcrowded awards event, due that night. All that remained was a vote of thanks to the board by John Mcginty, the chairman of promoted Aldershot, and the meeting drew to a close.

For newcomers, the next session, a meeting of the clubs, was very informative and helpful. In practice, the only difference was that the session was no longer formal agm business, but nobody changed seats and the roles of some of the Conference board became more apparent. There was an explanation of the insurance cover that the Conference arranges for all clubs, followed by a presentation about progress on attempts to improve the Football Foundation grants available to clubs. Jack Pearce, who Wimbledon fans will remember as the manager of Bognor Regis, gave delegates food for thought, speculating on what sorts of sanctions might be applied to players, managers and even chairmen, as part of the ‘Respect’ initiative, to improve behaviour towards referees.

Other presentations followed, including youth development and some new financial reporting requirements designed to enable the league to monitor the financial condition of member clubs – clearly a matter of concern following some of the more dramatic problems that have plagued some league and conference clubs over recent years.

In a change from last year, this season’s regional Conference play offs will follow the approach that was used in the Ryman League, namely that the final will be held at the ground of the finalist which came higher in the league. This was followed by a presentation by Setanta who talked about the coming season’s coverage and, for a brief moment, appeared to say that all Conference clubs would appear on TV at least once this season – but after checking, it turned out that this applies to Blue Square Premier teams only.

Once the presentations were over there was a chance to say ‘hello’ to some of the presenters and arrange follow up meetings and visits, before delegates were left free for the afternoon.

About four hundred delegates and their guests attended the dinner and awards ceremony in the evening, hosted by Setanta presenters Steve Bower and Rebecca Lowe, who presided over nearly twenty presentations, since nearly every award was triplicated due to there being winners for each of the three leagues. This might have become tedious but the awards were interspersed by footage from various games, which brought the proceedings to life. It was a shame that many the awards had to be collected by club officials, since most of the players who won awards weren’t present. The proceedings were filmed by Setanta and they will be shown on Friday evening at 5.00 pm.

And so the day ended, with your representatives dreaming of collecting a promotion award at next year’s ceremony, before networking with some old friends and seeking out some new ones. In passing, it seems we were mistaken in our understanding that the first round of the Setanta Shield would be drawn at the agm.

Overall, the agm and the meeting that followed were smoothly run, well managed, professional and informative. Metaphorically and literally, we are in a different league now.