Category Archives: AFC Wimbledon

The Vagina of Imogen Thomas v Seriously Debating Democratic Organisation

There are a lot of miserable old-before-their-time lefties who argue sport is part of a bread & circuses phenomenon of social control.

I like to disagree.

But consider this weekend:

AFC Wimbledon, a democratically run fan-owned football club born of a bizarre, clumsy & ultimately capitalist injustice, win promotion to football league… but low brow gossip and awful Twitter jokes about Ryan Giggs’ naughties continue to dominate the agenda.
Sure, there are principled nuances to the Giggs story in the ethical & legal debates surrounding the use of super-injunctions by the rich. But in AFC Wimbledon there is case study in people organising themselves, successfully so. But what reports of the Dons’ success I have seen have been so simplistic and unquestioning they may as well have not bothered.

Tittilation has won.

This is reason no. 1,527 why the miserable old lefties think football fans are dismissable cunts, and they are right.

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Filed under AFC Wimbledon, Manchester United, Politics

The Wider Interests of Football…

I must be the only person in the world to have stopped supporting AFC Wimbledon this season.

A campaign in which, consistently competitive in a national league for the first time in decades (an incarnation ago), the Dons (re)gained Football League status through their play-off final victory over Luton Town.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Crawley Town being the Met Police FC of the division, the Dons would surely have walked automatic promotion.

And I was there, at the beginning.

Starting the season living on South London’s historic Garratt Lane, and ignoring the existence of clubs like Fulham on the other side of my other side of the river, and given the recent move of Tooting & Mitcham FC from the former to neither, AFC Wimbledon were my local club. (They would have been my huperlocal club if they still played at Plough Lane, but oh well…)

As documented previously, I had started seeing the Dons in January 2010, taking in the second half of their debut Conference season in which they ultimately fell shy of the play-offs.

The new season, however, started brilliantly. The Dons looked bolt-on for a special year – a season of Excalibur proportions with the modern mythology round these Wombling parts: AFC were going to get their league status back.

But as the football (which of course never stops) learched to one of its annual business ends I moved eastwards from Garratt Lane to the Dog Kennel Hill Estate. And the Dons were no longer my local club. I now live three minutes’ walk from Dulwich Hamlet.

And this came at a time when I had been thinking a lot about locality, and it’s relationship to football…

I’m not interested in bullshit notions of ‘authenticity’ regarding “support your local team”. Rather, it had occurred to me that a basic foundation in the inequality of the football economy was how acceptable it is to not support your local football club. Now, obviously, this process is multiplied at a geometric rate by the technological possibilities of television, computing etc. and the regulatory liberalisation of globalisation, but its founding stone lies in the simple act of a sepia-tinged flatcap’d man walking past one football ground to go to another, more popular.

Indeed, a massive contributing factor in Wimbledon FC’s original (and still continuing) problems of place was that swathes of matchgoing southwest London handily ignored them to support other ‘local’ clubs such as Chelsea, Fulham, Arsenal. The Dons were dismissable. And even now, with the Milton Keynes move widely derided and now firmly institutionalized against, Merton council are still seemingly disinterested in the club, who – as they did throughout the ’90s – have to make do playing miles from anything like a ‘spiritual’ home, groundsharing again (though this time as dominant partners) in the relative backwater of Norbiton.

For these reasons, combined with the difficulty of fitting travel to Norbiton around work, I stopped going to AFC Wimbledon.

I could have chosen to have enjoyed the glory, and it was exquisitely tempting. But I felt to carry on at Kingsmeadow, an approx. 80 minute trans-transpontine journey rather than the hop, skip & a jump to Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill, would be to play my small role in the contemporary capitalist logic of consumption that was itself the breeding ground of the madcap move to Milton Keynes.

I did it for you, Dons…

Thinking Points

1) The Status Quo Returns? For many, Wimbledon’s return to the Football League just that, but it simply isn’t the case. The past decade has made the Dons everyone’s second favourite club (particular fans of big Champions League level teams – like an anti-guilt mechanism) rather than the inconvenience many regarded them as previously.

Wimbledon, having spent years as a gigantic whale in a garden pond, now view themselves as synonymous with ‘good’ football, short passing rather than desperate long hoofing of their days in the top tier of English football.

2) Arrogance & Oddity There was certainly a feeling amongst some fans that rising through the non-league pyramid was an absolute inconvenience as they approached that which they were righteously owed. And sometimes this arrogance grated on non-league fans. But others, both Dons & (blown away) rivals, embraced the oddity of it all, particularly in the first few years where thousands would invade afterthoughts of pitches more used to the proverbial two men and a dog.

3) The Power of a Creation Myth AFC Wimbledon have the most powerful facilitator in the development of a strong fan culture: a sense of profound injustice at the heart of their foundation. The Milton Keynes mockery unites ALL football fans more than anything I’ve ever come across, thus allowing the Dons a position of unequaled righteousness. It is another reason why they are culturally a far stronger unit than ever before.

4) A Political Act? Well, of course, in a world where everything is political, of course the formation of AFC Wimbledon is. Even an idiot could apply new social movement theory to it. But for me, it wasn’t outright ‘political’ enough. It was, after all, the richest (in terms of average salary) matchgoers of the late ’90s Premier League setting about bringing back the status quo.

Don’t get me wrong, the move to Milton Keynes was ridiculous. I have no time for anything surrounding a subterfugeous redevelopment scheme (which is in essence what was going on in Milton Keynes. Ask Asda.)

What was noteworthy about Milton Keynes wasn’t that it heralded the invasion of capitalism into our sacred and unspoilt football, but that it was done so cackhandidly that people were appauled by it rather than lapping hungrily from the bowl as they usually do with, for example, the restructuring of the Champions League to facilitate monopolisation by big clubs.

AFC Wimbledon do not challenge this.

I think – or hope – football can go deeper as a canvass for cultural resistance.  FC United are a ‘reformed’ club who take the idea of footballing rebellion an ideological step further into the abstract, responding instead to a change of ownership at the ‘parent’ club. But I’d like to explore even more possibilities. Why form clubs in the idealized image of the ancien regime? Why adhere to the footballing aesthetics & values that now seem so distant, so privatised, so globalized?

We should form a truly new club for all London’s discontented football fan. And groundshare somewhere other than bloody Norbiton. If the club was truly rebellious I would get off my arse and travel. As it stands, football clubs seem so homodox that to visit any other than your nearest one is frankly a waste of effort.

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Filed under AFC Wimbledon, Culture, Dulwich Hamlet, Politics, Rebellion

AFC Wimbledon v Mansfield Mutilators*, or, An Overly Deliberate Attempt At Contemporaryness & The Horror Of New Etiquette

(*=This is a lie. They are called the rather more dour Mansfield Town. I told several non-football fans they were called the Mansfield Mutilators to see if trumped up Americanization would perk up their interest. And indeed it did. So, commanding heights off postmodern industry, there you have it. Get more people interested in football by dishing out names like that. All, on the other hand, maybe enough people like it already? Ha ha.)

(NB: I am reminded of the fact that the last time I wrote a match report for the internet I spent a lot of it dwelling on the fact I accidently exposed myself to a number of elderly shoppers in an Edinburgh Woollen Mill during an eventful trip to the match. Nothing quite so jolly this time, but do please contact me at vornstyle@googlemail.com for a digital image of my naked groin. Be sure to mark you e-mails either “Erect” or “Flaccid”. And remember, the customer is always right.)

After numerous weather-based postponements, I was finally able to see my new local team last saturday. The mythology-rich AFC Wimbledon were playing (the mythology-poor I would assume) Mansfield Town in the 5th tier of English football: the Blue Sq. Premier. I set about a mission of compiling a haphazard match report thru the increasingly international medium of Facebook status updates. This is what now follows…

Robert Peter Vaughan has found his spectacles, and so will be able to enjoy the splendors of non-league’s tiki-taka total footballing genius in glorious High Definition reality.

Football can be a very beautiful thing. It depends on the consumer’s belief and assumptions. I wrote this in reference to this advert:

What the hell? Mourinho’s anally-retentive defensively-minded football looks more beautiful in HD?! As a child I used to watch football on Teletext. Nothing would happen. I would sit there, waiting, waiting, waiting for the page to reload. Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-0 Manchester Utd… black space… Coventry City 0-1 Manchester Utd. YYYEEESSSSSSS!!!! GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! MUM, WE’VE SCORED!!!

Who can deny the beauty there? Not I. The above advertisement is part of the sustained game-changing campaign to  and change perspectives, build industries on and basically make money from the highest reaches of the game. To me it is crude McDonaldisation, Disneyfication, hypercapitalism, postmodernisation. Whatever. But it is also undeniable, a bolted horse, an out of control juggernaut. The above status update was a bit wallowing, a bit romanticist, a bit backwardbound, a bit utopian. I apologise.

Robert Peter Vaughan is at a funeral service.

Former Wimbledon manager Allen Batsford had died over the Christmas period. Before the game, numerous players from his 1970s team gave eulogies over the PA system. The minute’s silence was a proper pin-dropping affair. To state the absolutely obvious, it was funereal. The only thing missing was to actually bury him beneath the center circle of the pitch. It brought home, with thunderingly simplicity, the whole sociological notion of sport being a ritual. This was a better funeral than all of the ‘real’ ones I’ve been to!

Robert Peter Vaughan After two minutes head tennis antifootball, sudden quality, sudden incision, sudden blood. 1-0 you slag!

Okay, as alluded to in the first status update, I’m quite snobbish about the style of football I watch. I even criticize my girlfriend – an insightful, intelligent, talented, beautiful young writer – for her chaotic & opportunistic style of Table Football play. I adore Barça’s quick-passing, supremely technical football. Non-league football – indeed, any level below that of economic superclubs – represents something quite different. No sustained possession, greater reliance on power and strength. Long balls. Up & at ’em. The first two minutes of the game followed this stereotype. But then – sudden! – a considered, measured diagonal ball was floated from just outside the ‘D’ of the penalty area for AFC Wimbledon’s striker to head accurately, gently past the exposed goalkeeper. All of which, of course, further enhances my philosophical prejudices (for that is what they are). And as for “1-0 you slag!”… well, I was excited. I am, after sustained research, human after all.

Robert Peter Vaughan Ah, people smoke here. Interesting.

Something I haven’t noticed in other English football grounds. Not just a handful of isolated oddities. Lots of people were smoking here. It was totally acceptable in this temporary microsociety. Reminded me of Barcelona. Not only was the Camp Nou full of smoke & smokers, but the whole city was. I was amazed to return home and later find out that was supposedly a smoking ban.

Robert Peter Vaughan 2-0. And lino is mobocratically sentenced to “cunt”.

This is interesting. 2-0. To the home team. And yet the Assistant Referee (formerly known as a “Linesman”) is absolutely abused. Why? Well, a few moments earlier, he had disallowed a goal because of a fairly unquestionable offside in the build-up. The home fans reacted badly. Of course. But when this allowed goal (rather than the disallowed goal, ha ha) went in, part of the celebrations were to vilify the lino. Quite brutally. It’s as if the subjective correctness of allowing this goal had highlighted the subjective incorrectness and stupidity and dare-I-say-it evil of his previous decision. Rather than right his ‘wrong’ he’d actually erected a flashing neon sign to highlight it. And, so, “SURE IT’S A GOAL, LINO? YOU CUNT!” And, dear reader, as much as it makes me blush… I called him a “cunt” as well…

Robert Peter Vaughan just heard an elderly man say, “I’m friends on Facebook with the Womble.”

Ahhh… Just… alway remember he’s a womble? Here’s a picture standing on the 4th plinth:

Robert Peter Vaughan The brotherly love of the football crowd. Where a knocked over crutch brings only an “EXTERMINATE!” joke.

All rather lovely. Except I chickened out of bringing my usual bag, a bright orange My Little Pony one. The very same bag that so often in central London draws people to me to inform me of my messianic wonderfulness. Symbolic interactions, eh…? Or shell of an Übermensch.

And then! This is where things started to get ridiculous. And by things, I mean things in my head, not out on the pitch. I stopped status updating. Not for want of interesting things happening. For example, AFC nearly scored a *roll out the cliché* audacious!! 35 yard goal. But I began to worry about my excessive status updating breaking some unwritten Facebook etiquette. What? What? What? In the context of my general rudeness, I was flaberghasted that such bullshit could effect moi, the great artist. It’s a sad sad sad sad sad sad world in which we live, with delicate intricacies of social normative shitsandwich stopping people riding around in rapehungry biker gangs. Pity the artist! See how he suffers!

The match finished 2-0. I enjoyed it very much (remember, I am human). I got excitable, and bought a scarf (human, I am). It is blue with SOUTH LONDON emblazoned across it in bright yellow. I have enjoyed wearing when visiting my (above-mentioned) girlfriend in rat-infested Islington.

I somehow managed to pluck up the courage, admittedly several hours later, to make one last status update:

Robert Peter Vaughan would simply love (possibly Love) to see AFC Wimbledon versus MK Dons. What a ritualistic spectacle that could be! Oh, the delight I feel in my tummy. That would be one for the decapitated pigs. Beautiful, vibrant, throbbing, malignant, violent. Potentially.

To start with, read the background here. Basically, Wimbledon FC, a South London club who had been in the top tier of English football for nearly twenty years and famously won the FA Cup were moved by their owners to Milton Keynes.

Hmmm… Was it wrong to move to Milton Keynes? Well, i’m a little fuzzy on good and bad, hence my recent spate of wild stabbings, but I believe in cause and effect. There’s reasons why Wimbledon FC moved, local council, lack of Premier League level support, etc. But it’s also utterly predictable that a significant number of people would be pissed off by the move.

The curious thing is Wimbledon are now a lot stronger than ever before. There’s so much good will for them, and they are developing layers of exciting mythology with their second rise up the leagues. Myths that will attract fans. I mean “stronger” in the sense of their identity. And I’m fairly certain to will taste the top flight again (unless a breakaway EuroSuperLeague happens first). Because the goodwill and strong identity essentially means: media interest/fan interest = money = better players/staff/facilities = continuing their rise up the leagues.

I admired the leagues fact that Wimbledon were a non-league club, essentially, who had landed themselves in the 1st Division thru luck and audacity. I like to see those things in sport. I believe football needs variety to remain interesting. AFC Wimbledon aren’t quite an FC St. Pauli, but they are a club on the up and in some vague way avoid the extremities of the homogenizing mechanisms at play with the rest of the game and its surrounding culture. I wish them well. And I call on every football fan to demand more variety.

And a match against MK Dons would be fantastic pantomime of the rawest and most viscerally believable kind.

Edit: Here’s the highlights:

Edit 2: An article by Matt Dickinson in The Times is here, using this match as a starting point for some brief queries about the Dons’ future growth. Not as interesting as mine, but he at least gets to interview the AFC Wimbledon manager Terry Brown. Interesting as a normative comparison piece to this article.

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