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Tuesday 07 September 2004
Open meeting report

Before the Walton & Hersham game, the club?s directors held another open meeting for supporters.

The first item for discussion was the no-smoking experiment in the back bar on AFC Wimbledon matchdays. Chairman Kris Stewart explained that, following a number of enquiries since we started playing at Kingsmeadow, the directors had decided to make the back bar a no-smoking area on our matchdays for a trial period.

A number of supporters contributed to the discussion. Even hardened smokers agreed that having a bar where non-smokers can be comfortable is a good idea. There was a suggestion that it is hard on non-smokers who would like to watch football on TV that there is only a screen in the main bar, and Kris reported that a second screen for the back bar was something that the club would like to provide, funds permitting.

Commercial Director Ivor Heller then introduced a new subject. He reported that, after the budget for the new season had been finalised, the production costs for the club?s programme had gone up significantly since last season. Without any remedial action, this would mean a significant loss over the season compared to the budget. Without compromising significantly on the physical quality of the programme, the options open to the directors are:

1) Do nothing and make savings elsewhere to meet the budgeted profit for the year
2) Reduce the size of the programme to 32 pages and maintain the same cover price
3) Increase the cover price to 2.50

The directors? preferred option would be to increase the cover price.

Kris added that whereas last season we were required to carry a one-page advertisement from the league?s sponsor, this season the requirement is for three and a half pages, with the league requesting that to be increased to four and a half if possible. This obviously reduces the amount the club can earn from programme advertising, thus compounding the problem.

Early in the discussion, one supporter suggested an even higher cover price of 3.00 to provide funds to reduce the stadium debt, which received very little support from those at the meeting.

In response to a question from the floor, Ivor confirmed that the printing and production contracts for the season were awarded on the basis of the lowest costs tendered. He further explained that without changing the nature of the programme significantly ? which the directors would see as a lowering of the quality of our programme - there is no way of reducing those costs enough to alleviate the problem.

A straw poll of those at the meeting indicated that a small number would not buy the programme if the price were to be raised, but that the vast majority would continue to do so. Some contributors thought that the loss in sales caused by a price increase might be larger than that indicated by such a straw poll, since those at the meeting could be considered among the more committed of supporters.

The directors accepted that if a substantial loss in sales were to occur after any price increase, the situation would have to be re-assessed.

Finance Director Erik Samuelson then gave a short update on the financial performance so far this season. The directors over-estimated the income from the pre-season programme, which meant that we started the season a few thousand pounds behind budget. The gates for the first two home matches had been ahead of budget and Erik hoped that would continue. Furthermore, since we budget to be drawn away in all cups and go out in the first round, the home draws in the FA Cup and Trophy would mean extra income through higher gates than for away matches and also from the bar and catering revenues.

Erik promised a more detailed review of the budget for the coming season at the forthcoming Dons Trust SGM, on 30 September.

Further questions from the floor saw Kris confirming that the new catering operation at the stadium sees the club taking a percentage of turnover as a commission, with all the operational issues being for the catering company to manage. This has taken a good deal of pressure off our volunteers in general and Ivor in particular, who was spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with the teabars. Kris also confirmed that anyone hiring the facilities at Kingsmeadow and wanting to provide food for guests must use the new caterers, in the same way that hirers cannot provide their own drinks.

After a number of announcements, the meeting closed.

* Since the meeting, the directors have confirmed that the back bar will remain non-smoking on AFC Wimbledon matchdays on a permanent basis, and that the programme cover price will increase to 2.50 as of the Metropolitan Police FA Trophy match on Saturday 9 October.