“Strategic Challenges in a Supporter-Owned Club: the Case of AFC Wimbledon”

The Business of Sport – Seminar Series

Room G01 – Clore Management Centre, Birkbeck College , Torrington Square , London WC1 7HX

Wednesday 9th January 2008 at 6pm
(For directions click here)

“Strategic Challenges in a Supporter-Owned Club: the Case of AFC Wimbledon”

Given by:

Erik Samuelson, Chief Executive, AFC Wimbledon


In 2002 AFC Wimbledon became one of the first supporter-owned clubs in England under the ownership of the Dons Trust based on the Supporters Direct industrial & provident society (co-operative) model. The club was formed after the businessmen owners of Wimbledon FC (then in League 1 of the Football League) moved the club to Milton Keynes in the English midlands, far away from its South London roots, and re-named it Milton Keynes Dons. When the club’s supporters were unable to prevent the move they formed their own club vowing that only through supporter ownership could they control the destiny of their club in the future.

AFC Wimbledon see themselves as the true inheritors of the history and tradition of the old Wimbledon FC and official recognition of this was given in 2007 when Milton Keynes Dons transferred the replica trophies and all Wimbledon F.C. memorabilia to the London Borough of Merton (within which Wimbledon lies). They also see themselves as a special club, as the following statement from the club’s website illustrates:

“The supporters of AFC Wimbledon believe that our club is a continuation of the spirit which formed Wimbledon Old Centrals in 1889 and kept Wimbledon Football Club alive until May 2002. We consider that a football club is not simply the legal entity which controls it, but that it is the community formed by the fans and players working towards a common goal. We therefore reproduce the honours won by what we believe was, and will always be, ‘our’ club, in our community.”

AFC Wimbledon is clearly therefore a special club. However, at the same time it faces the same sporting and commercial challenges as any other football club. Whilst in the first two years of its existence AFC enjoyed considerable success, buying a stadium at Kingsmeadow in Kingston, not far from its Wimbledon roots, and enjoying two promotions and healthy average crowds of around 3,000 per game, in its last two years the club has narrowly missed promotion as it struggles to compete with clubs with significant financial backing by private investors.

In this presentation, AFC Wimbledon Chief Executive Erik Samuelson outlines how the boards of both the Dons Trust ands AFC Wimbledon have developed a strategy that takes the club forward in sporting and financial terms, whilst at the same time preserving the special ethos that led to the club’s foundation in the first place. In particular he will address the key strategic challenge for all supporter-owned clubs from AFC to Barcelona; just how do you compete with clubs owned by deep-pocketed businessmen for whom normal financial objectives of at least breaking event do not appear to apply.



Watch here a video documentary on the life of AFC Wimbledon


Erik Samuelson is the Chief Executive of AFC Wimbledon. He was formerly a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where his responsibilities included leading their European risk management services. He was appointed as Wimbledon’s finance director when the club was formed in 2002. He carried out that role on a part time basis until he retired from PwC at the end of 2003. He was appointed as Chief Executive in September 2006.

For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Email: or Tel: 020-7631 6763

View all Events