I’ve always considered Kris Stewart to be the Godfather of the Fan Ownership movement. Which is probably grossly unfair on someone, but, you know, fuck them. And while you could sensibly argue that there wouldn’t be an FC United without AFC Wimbledon, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be at FC United if it wasn’t for Kris. His erudite and impassioned missives I read during the Wimbledon/Franchise fuck up made me realise my own dissatisfaction with modern football, and consider the isolation and insignificance I felt as a customer of a Big Red Club.
Kris has very kindly agreed to answer a few questions, which I’m breaking down in to three parts over the course of the week. Part one deals with the formation of AFC Wimbledon. Enjoy.
When did you realise that you were going to have to set up AFC Wimbledon?
Not really until the day they were finally given permission to steal
our club. Or the night before, anyway, when we got word that the
decision had gone the wrong way. That was a real shock – not that we
thought we would win easily, but we thought the decision would go the
right way, and then Koppel and co. would take things through the
courts, and the whole thing would drag on a good while longer.
So although all through that season, when asked “what if..?”, we’d
said “we’ll go again”, we weren’t expecting to have to do so right
there and then – and we were still hoping we would never have to, of
So we got the news on the night of 27 May – late at night, as stories
were going to press. The next day, I was up at Soho Square – we’d had
a vigil running throughout the “Independent Commission” proceedings –
and as the news began to trickle out, lots of others came along too.
The most disgraceful part of that day itself was that no-one actually
announced the decision. It was communicated to the parties – The
Football League and Koppel and co – but no-one told us. all we got
were stories in the media, then later on the Football League and the
FA commenting on the decision.
In the end we got pissed off (reasonably so I reckon) and forced our
way into the FA HQ and told them we weren’t going until we had been
told, officially, what had been decided (though of course we knew, it
was just the “insult to injury” of not being told formally. Plus we
didn’t really have anything better to do.) After quite a while, and a
few threats of the police being called, the aptly-named Nick Coward,
FA Legal Head Honcho, came down and passed out some copies of a few
weasel words from the FA, lamenting the decision and wringing their
So I was busy that day – talking to other supporters, to the press and
TV (until we got bounced by some NuLabour no-mark having to resign
from the cabinet), occupying FA headquaerters and such like. But some
others had been busy preparing the groundwork – making phone calls, or
making phone calls about phone calls, trying to find the right people
to talk to. We took a convoy of black cabs from Soho Square back to
the Fox & Grapes (a pub on the common, where legend has it the team
would change when we started way back in 1889). As you can imagine,
there were a lot of very upset and angry people there. One, in
particular, of the guys who had spent the day working rather than
media-whoring and breaking-and-entering, was going round to people
inside and outside the pub, selling the virtues of starting again,
with our own club, from the bottom, like before but better. If I
hadn’t already been sold on it, I’d have bought it there and then
That night, 28 May 2002, that’s when I date our renaissance from.
Your quote ‘I just want to watch some football’ has gone down in lore. Was it a planned statement, or an off the cuff remark?
It was off-the-cuff. Sort of. Or at least, it was the first time I
said it that night. I have a feeling I repeated it a good few times,
because I liked the sound of it. I don’t know if you ever speak in
public, but I’m someone who generally prefers to wing it – think of
some general ideas, but not prepare the words. Sometimes it comes off,
sometimes it doesn’t. (Incidentally, when I spoke to your lot at the
Apollo, I had made notes. That was nerve-wracking, that was.) Anyway –
the “I just want to watch some football” came into my head while I was
speaking, and I worked it in.
It was the WISA annual general meeting, which just happened already to
have been set for Thursday 30 May – two days after the “Independent
Commmission” gave Koppel and Co. permission to steal our club. I was
Chair of WISA, so I was running the meeting. As you can imagine, just
two days after the decision, and with rumours around about what would
happen next, there were plenty there. I think we told the papers there
were 1,000. That was probably a bit of a stretch, but it is the only
meeting I’ve been to where people genuinely were hanging from the
rafters. After we rattled through the boring business of an AGM, we
moved on to talking about “what next?”.
The idea of starting over was new to a lot of people, and there was a
lot of concern – that maybe doing it right away would be seen as
giving up, that maybe it was giving up, etc. I wasn’t sure, but it
felt as if the mood of the meeting might be slipping away from
supporting the new venture. That would not have stopped us – we had
started and we weren’t going to stop – but it would have been a blow.
And I wanted to do what I could to make sure that didn’t happen. Being
in the chair, I couldn’t really speak, so I cheated, and handed the
meeting over to our vice-chair, and went down from the platform to the
floor of the meeting, and spoke from there.
And “I just want to watch some football” was exactly how I felt that
night. I’d had enough. Don’t get me wrong, there were some real high
points in that year of protest. Blocking in the Sheffield United team
coach after a Friday night game was particularly funny. But I’m a
Wimbledon fan and I want to watch my team play. Others were very
welcome to traipse up to Buckinghamshire to stand outside the National
Hockey Stadium to shout abuse at people who hadn’t given a toss about
it for a whole year. But I…well, I wanted to watch some football.
In the end, the meeting voted overwhelmingly to support restarting, as
well as carrying on the fight against Koppel and Co. And, to be fair
to the fighters, they did fuck things up for Koppel and cause the
appalling Pete Winkelman plenty of trouble too.
Although I liked how it sounded, it really didn’t occur to me that the
phrase would stick in people’s minds, and I didn’t realise it had
until much later on. I’d be lying if I said that doesn’t make me feel
good. If a little weird, too.
Part two will be posted up later in the week.
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