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Monday 28 September 2009
From the Crawley programme

After home games we sometimes publish articles from the programme that provide news or information about the club and Trust and which haven't previously appeared on this site.

This feature updates fans about recent discussions about ethics at the Dons Trust board.


FAIR MEANS, NOT FOUL

The Dons Trust board is beginning to look at how questions of ethics affect our club, says chief executive Erik Samuelson. But it’s by no means straightforward.


At the time of writing, we are top of the fair play league this year. We have won it for the past two seasons – though, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a sponsor’s prize this season.

I’m delighted that Terry, Stuart and Simon have shown that you can win promotion while playing fair. But does it matter? Last week the Dons Trust board had a discussion about the club’s ethics, both on and off the pitch.

On the pitch, views ranged (I exaggerate for effect) from “It doesn’t matter how you win, just make sure you do win” to “We shouldn’t cheat at all – for example, we shouldn’t even block players off at corners.”

There have been lots of examples of admitted and alleged cheating in the press recently. Last season, of course, we had a couple of games where we felt, how shall I put it … badly done by. But what would we expect Terry to do if it was our player who lashed a dropped ball into the net after the game had been stopped for an injury?

It is Terry’s job to make sure that the players know the rules of the club, which he has agreed with the board. For example, every player is told that if there is a ruck, the only way Terry wants to see them involved is to be pulling our players away from trouble. Let the opposition get booked, not us. That makes absolute sense: players are no use to us if they can’t play because they are suspended.

And I think that being known as a “fair play” team helps us with referees. They get to know who cheats, and I’m sure that if they know that a team has a reputation for decent behaviour, it helps when it comes to the marginal decisions.

Off the pitch, ethical issues arise everywhere. For example, we believe that we should deal properly with other clubs. After we had sold tickets for one away game this season, we handed over a cheque on the day of the game – to the apparent astonishment of the club in question. On the other hand, we’ve had to write to a club’s county FA to get our share of a gate, nearly six months after the game was played. If that club ever asks for a pre-season friendly, there is no chance.

A good example of how ethics can get in the way is when we want to sign a player. To follow the rules, any approach should be via his club. But what if, the last time you tried that with that particular club, they didn’t tell the player (who was non-contract) and promptly got him to sign a contract? The only way to avoid this, and give the player the choice of what to do, is to “get in the player’s ear” – but that’s against the rules. Ask anyone in football and they’ll tell you that everyone does it. But does that mean we should?

This is not about being holier than thou. At present, the ethics of AFC Wimbledon are, effectively, set by the football club board, and that’s why the discussion at the DT board meeting was helpful. Some clubs would laugh at us for even thinking about such issues, but I think it is a strength, not a weakness, that we debate them.

The general view was that the board is pretty happy with the way we are at the moment. But we should extend the debate to members and fans, and I hope that we will do so, and sooner rather than later.