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Monday 27 April 2009
Open letter to parents of AFC Wimbledon girls' teams

Following our recent decision to refuse to allow the continued use of the club's name by the current management of AFC Wimbledon girls' teams, we wrote to some of the parents explaining our decision.

In response to requests from some parents we are now publishing that letter below, as an open letter.

On behalf of the Dons Trust board, I am writing to all parents and guardians of girls who play for AFC Wimbledon Girls to explain our decision to withdraw our permission to use the name ‘AFC Wimbledon Girls’ next season. But first, we want to emphasise that teams, and/or individual girls, who want to play for AFC Wimbledon can continue to do so, as explained towards the end of this letter.

Why have we taken this action?

The reason is simple. The current management of the girls’ teams has not accepted that teams which use the name AFC Wimbledon must come under the control of the Dons Trust. Every other team using the name ‘AFC Wimbledon' is controlled by the Trust and if the girls’ team management doesn't wish to accept this requirement, then they can’t use our name.

Does this mean that AFC Wimbledon Girls teams are being scrapped?

Next season we will run teams with the name AFC Wimbledon Girls - under the control of the Dons Trust. To be absolutely clear, we support girls’ football but we won’t let people use our name without being accountable.

Why was this done in such a rush?

It wasn’t done in a rush. After a meeting held in May 2008, ten months ago, the girls’ chairman, Mr Crisp, wrote to us and said “from the conversation yesterday our understanding is that we have a choice to make. That is to amalgamate with the Ladies and affiliate formally to AFC Wimbledon or leave the AFC set up altogether and rename and re-kit ourselves. The Dons Trust do not want us to continue as we are. Are we correct?”

We have never accepted that the girls’ teams were independent (although they clearly thought they were), but we replied that he was correct; the girls’ teams could not continue to use our name unless things changed.

After ten months of trying to get agreement, the chairman has written to us saying that the girls’ teams propose to “keep full autonomy”. All we have done is keep our word. If this is a surprise to you, then it shouldn’t have been – we assumed you had been told about the discussions and the risks your management were taking.

Why have some girls’ teams been stopped from training at Woodies (at Kings College)?

Because they aren’t AFC Wimbledon teams any more, following the failure to accept our proposals. We realise that this will disrupt the girls’ training and we really regret that, but these are our facilities, which are only for use by AFC Wimbledon teams. We are allowing the teams to finish the season, as we thought that was fairer to the girls. To be clear, we could have stopped the teams playing altogether but we didn’t want to ruin the girls’ season.

Why didn’t you contact us sooner?

We assumed that you were being kept informed by management. We recently asked to attend meetings that were being arranged but we got no reply to that request. Recently we also asked to be able to write to you but the email reply ignored our request and, instead, suggested another meeting – we see no point in that after ten months.

What was the Trust proposing?

We wanted:

• Formal acknowledgement that the Dons Trust has control over the girls’ teams, via AFC Wimbledon Ladies which would set the strategy for the teams
• A representative of the girls’ teams to be on the board of AFC Wimbledon Ladies Limited
• On a day-to-day basis, the girls would be run via a girls’ management committee, much as they are run today
• The management committee would be elected by you, the parents
• This structure is based on the FA’s good practice guide for running youth teams
• The finances would be centralised, as they are for the boys’ teams. We gave a written undertaking that funds collected from parents would only be used for the girls’ teams

We believe that these proposals are good practice and also reasonable.

Why did the girls’ management not accept these proposals?

We don’t know – you should ask them. One possibility is that they tell us they have had informal legal advice that the girls’ teams are only loosely affiliated to the club and Trust (and therefore, we assume, management has concluded that they need not listen to us). We believe that this advice is not correct and our own legal advice (in writing from a QC) is that the girls’ teams are part of AFC Wimbledon and the Dons Trust.

In connection with this, we want to make it clear that we will not tolerate, in any way, any attempt to continue to use our name or play in our kit after the end of this season, and we will take every action open to us to prevent it.

In the end, the real question is ‘why doesn’t management want to be part of the Trust?’ As one representative of a regulatory body said to us, most girls’ teams would be desperate to be part of a club like AFC Wimbledon So why doesn’t your management want it?

Whatever the reasons, the result of their decision is that your children probably can’t play under the name AFC Wimbledon next season if they stay where they are. We think that is a matter of great regret for everyone and urge you to think about whether it is really the result you wanted.

However, if the parents and manager of your daughter’s team want to be part of AFC Wimbledon next season, we will be very happy to talk to them – the door is not closed. And if the manager doesn’t want to come to us, the players probably still can.

Yours faithfully,

Erik Samuelson