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Monday 13 June 2011
What happened at Coral Bay (and Celtic Manor)

This is the fourth of this summer's series of What's happening at Kingsmeadow articles. In the best traditions of TV series, we went on the road for this one.

Last week, club secretary David Charles and chief executive Erik Samuelson travelled out to Cyprus where they represented the club at the npower Football League AGM. The format of the AGM is rather different from that of the Football Conference (of which later). For one thing, there is no formal vote to admit new clubs to the League. Instead, as we understand it, we became members by being ‘introduced’ by a letter from the Conference – as simple as that.

We needn’t have been concerned about being new boys: every club we spoke to was very friendly and welcoming, and many expressed great pleasure at seeing us promoted into the League. And we took the opportunity to get some guidance on a whole range of practical issues that we need to resolve during the summer.

One topic we discussed at length with Crawley Town officials was the decision to play a Preliminary Round of the Carling Cup, consisting of one tie, AFC Wimbledon v Crawley, to allow for Birmingham entering the competition later because they are also competing in the Europa League. Obviously both clubs were disappointed, but the board’s decision was made, so we accepted it with good grace. Home advantage in the tie was decided by a toss of a coin earlier today, and as we have already announced, Crawley will be at home. The game will be played on Friday 29 July.

Turning to the League meeting itself, the first day was very full, with presentations on:
• revenue generation, including the effect on clubs’ income of the recently renegotiated TV rights, effective from next season
• a run-through of the resolutions for the AGM the next day (allowing the AGM itself to be conducted at a very brisk and businesslike pace)
• the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations, presented by Andrea Traverso, Head of Club Licensing and FFP, UEFA
• a session on proposed enhancements of the Respect programme
• strategic proposals for the Football League.

The final session of the day consisted of divisional meetings to discuss the AGM resolutions and the strategic proposals. The first session the following day opened with feedback from each division’s representative and the announcements, which fans may already have seen, that clubs took a significant step towards achieving greater financial sustainability by agreeing to adopt UEFA’s Financial Fair Play framework.

Clubs in all three divisions voted in favour of developing rigorous new measures aimed at delivering a ‘break-even’ financial model at clubs. Championship clubs agreed to work towards the introduction of new regulations, to be developed and approved, by the beginning of the 2012/13 season.

In addition to supporting the objectives of Financial Fair Play from 2011/12, League One clubs also agreed to introduce the Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP). The SCMP limits spending on player wages to a proportion of total turnover and helps to ensure Financial Fair Play.

Clubs in League Two also support UEFA’s Financial Fair Play ethos and currently operate the SCMP successfully at a 60% threshold, which will reduce to 55% next season. It is clear that clubs are determined to bring costs under control sooner rather than later.

The second morning included a very interesting presentation on youth development and the status of the Football League’s response to Premier League proposals on academies and youth development generally.

When the meeting was over, David and Erik flew straight back to England and headed for Celtic Manor in Wales for the Football Conference’s AGM. At that meeting the news was announced that, sadly, Rushden & Diamonds were to be expelled from the competition. This had knock-on effects for various clubs and generated what was probably the most lively discussion at an AGM in our three seasons in the competition.

At the end of the meeting, Erik, who chaired the Conference Financial Working Group, gave a presentation on the state of member clubs’ finances. The good news was that the initiative to make clubs pay their taxes on time was working well, but there was some deterioration in the overall health of clubs’ finances compared with the previous year.

The evening was attended by a wider group of board members, management and guests, and was a chance to catch up with and say ‘goodbye’ to some of the friends we made in the Conference.

Meanwhile, back at Kingsmeadow, ‘the control room project’ continues. Preparation work is well under way; the control room itself is on order, the press box will soon be demolished to make room for greater number of press places we need to provide, and new dugouts are on order. The pitch has just had its first cut and is looking good after all the recent rain.

We are catching up on the season ticket processing backlog. We have received 2,200 application and renewal forms, and after making an estimate of the number of direct-debit and five-year ST holders who haven’t returned their forms, our current estimate of sales is about 2,500, close to our previous record and with several weeks to go to the start of the season.

Back from a wonderful time in Las Vegas, Terry Brown is meeting players to try to finalise contracts for next season. As agreement is reached for each player, we will make separate announcements here on the official website.

Elsewhere, preparations are well in hand for the Wimbledon Village Fair next Saturday, where we hope to launch various new products – more details were announced on this site a little while ago.

Everyone is eagerly awaiting publication of the League fixture list this Friday, and on Thursday we will find out who we will meet in the First Round of the Carling Cup, should we win at Crawley on 29 July. We have been aware of the possibility of the game against Crawley for some time, and that has had an effect on our planning of pre-season friendlies. Now that we know it is going ahead we will be able to finalise our PSF programme soon.

And in only 18 days’ time, the players return for pre-season training!