AFC Wimbledon, a community-owned and run social enterprise football club, is the latest winner of the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award.
AFC Wimbledon was formed in 2002, following the relocation of Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes. Determined to make sure there was still a local club for football fans in Wimbledon, a group of supporters set about rebuilding their football club from scratch, with only community shareholder investment.
The new club’s founders brought together over 4,000 other local people, with co-ownership, social action and inclusion at the heart of everything the Club stood for. Since the club was formed, hundreds of these fans have worked for the club on a voluntary basis and now, 10 years and 5 promotions later, they are the owners of a vibrant, community-focused and economically sustainable Football League club.
But AFC Wimbledon is about far more than just football. It also delivers a wide range of community activities such as 19 youth and women’s teams, school health and sport projects (100s of children a week participate in the outreach schemes provided) and a range of innovative activities, including a stadium school to help children get to grips with maths by using football as a teaching aid.
Congratulating Wimbledon on the award, the Prime Minister said:
The team behind AFC Wimbledon have not just given fans a local club to support, but much more than this, they have united a community, given them the chance to have a real stake in their club’s future and made a huge difference to the lives of many people in the area at the same time.
Football is a team game, and AFC Wimbledon have shown just what can happen when people don’t just sit on the sidelines, but choose to get involved and really pull together - a great example of the Big Society.
Congratulations to AFC Wimbledon and all their fans and supporters whose determination and devotion has created a community-owned club that has gone from strength to strength.
Presenting the award, during a visit to the Kingsmeadow Stadium, Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson said:
Football clubs across the country have an important role to play in their local community and AFC Wimbledon is a fine example of this. They are worthy recipients for the Big Society Award for their community projects and I wish them every success in the future.
Accepting the award, Erik Samuelson, Chief Executive from AFC Wimbledon said:
This club’s achievements show that a co-operatively owned football club can be faithful to its high ethical standards, keep a keen focus on community involvement, be financially sustainable - and still be successful on the pitch. Everyone who has contributed to the club’s success and this award should be very proud.
Clive Yelf, AFC Wimbledon said:
AFC Wimbledon is a great example of community values allied to a belief that ambitions, whether for the team, club or those we work with, are there to be realised.
In just 10 years AFC Wimbledon has redefined the expectations of others as to what ordinary football supporters working together can achieve. Being a community organisation ourselves, we can also recognise the importance of supporting and helping others to achieve their own aims and the fact that football has a strong position in our national culture and can help provide a common thread between groups and individuals.
The Big Society award is very much appreciated, not as an end in itself but as a clear recognition that our priorities, our ambitions and our values are the right ones.
AFC Wimbledon have made steady progress over their 9 years, gaining promotion 5 times. While making plans for a possible future return to Wimbledon, the club is gradually redeveloping the ground their fans bought, and the youth set-up is growing fast. Backed by average attendances of nearly 4,400 this season the club looks well placed to continue to grow and thrive.