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Interviews

Transcript: Chairman on BBC 3CR

The full transcript from Pete Winkelman's interview with BBC Three Counties Radio...

10 August 2022

Chairman Pete Winkelman spoke live on BBC Three Counties Radio on Tuesday night, to address some of the concerns supporters have raised regarding the matchday experience at Stadium MK…

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(Interview starts at 31:08)

Here is a full transcript of his interview…

“A few things that went wrong on Saturday - some were unavoidable, embarrassing, some that people aren't 100 per cent happy with, and I'm getting those messages loud and clear.

"This (challenging) is part of the evolution of the Club. Over the last few years, you have seen some of the kids who were our original fans who came with their families have now grown up, and we can see the benefits of that with our away support. But for 15 of the 18 years, we've been in League One and that's the bit I'm most upset about. Also, post-Covid and Brexit, there has been a big change in the way hospitality works in the UK. It makes things much harder to deliver even the most basic of things, and it makes it harder when you have different agency staff at each game.”

Season ticket prices increased and lack of perks...
“We can't do £230 season tickets, we won't go anywhere if we do. We have to price it the same as everyone else to compete with them.

“I accept these are big changes that we have made but I've never received any communication from a company telling what I'm not going to get if I renew. What I do see is a piece of paper that points out what I am getting and we published those in the white paper last season.

“(On why) over Covid, we were able to spend more time than we've had before to look at how we can be competitive. Over the years, we tried everything in terms of marketing - discounts on food and drink, discounted season tickets, cheap tickets, even a free game for MK50. None of these things exploded our fanbase. When we had the cheaper season ticket last season, it did not increase our fanbase. We've put the prices, and we've got more season ticket holders and that's because the football was good and we nearly made it. That's what gets people excited. More people will come if we're in the Championship and more will come if we're in the Premier League. That's how we get armchair fans into the stadium.”

Supporters’ Board…
“We are putting a Supporters’ Board to replace the working groups that we had before and to create better communication with our supporters. It will be supporter-led, with over 100 people having applied. The selection panel has been made up of three supporters – two from MKDSA and one from Dons Action – and two from the Club, so a fan majority. The supporters will also have the chair of that board.

“We have a strong relationship with the MKDSA. They are our officially recognised supporters association and they have an absolute role to play – they always will have and, in fact, I can only see it getting more powerful. Dons Action is a new group but has been influential in building our away fans and improving the home atmosphere in the stadium. We wanted to give that recognition but the Supporters’ Board is for all our supporters across the stadium, who aren’t part of organisations or groups. Our White Paper exercise had great input from everybody and it ended up very different to what I imagined because of the changes that supporters made. I want to keep that going with the Supporters’ Board.”

Car parking…
“We're the only club in the Football League with 1,000 spaces in the car park who don't make any money from it. We will this year though because we've had to change it. We're a trading club and we're doing it deliberately, it's part of our business model. Overall, the club is in a much better shape because we're focussed on getting out of this division and that's all that matters.”

Coverage across Milton Keynes…
“Twice I've had shops in Milton Keynes, I've had big commercial deals with The Centre MK, but none of those increased our season ticket sales. To be bigger, we have to be more important. When you talk about these bigger clubs, they've been in the Premier League, they've been there in their history but we're not there and we're not the big club we want to be until we've achieved that. So we have to ask how to do it. We have to take a medium and longer-term view of what's right for our club and for the team on the pitch, not knee-jerk like we used to.”

Investment from elsewhere…
“If someone were to introduce me to the friendly billionaire you can all Google and know who they were, not some company you've never heard of, then we know it would be a good route to go. But this is my baby, I don't give it up for someone to mess it about.

"I've only once had that opportunity, and it's a deal everyone knows we wanted to get done and UEFA rules and restrictions wouldn't allow that. That's the only one that made me confident they could do a better job than me. I've watched people come and go, buy others clubs and they're nowhere now.”

Lack of understanding and care…
“I don't mind the criticism we've had when we mess up, and we messed up a few things on Saturday, but with regards to other things I'll justify it to the fans. But no-one cares about this club more than me and my staff, who work around the clock to do what is best for this Football Club.”

Stadium catering…
“We haven't changed the catering options this year because to do that would cost us more, with more chefs and staff because there will be more things at different kiosks. We know what we'd love to do, but it's all down to the capital investment and the people you'd need to operate it.”

Getting out of Stadium MK…
“There is no other ground easier to get out of than here. It's hard compared to other places in Milton Keynes because you've got so many trying to leave through a few exits at any one time, but I cannot excuse that - we get out faster here than any other ground I go to.”

New shirts…
“Funnily enough, we're not noticing any fewer kits being sold! Castore are getting a bit of stick as well but we made a decision to go with a premium brand because we feel we deserve that. We went with Nike a few years ago, but we didn't get a bespoke kit or attention so we changed back to our own shop. We thought with the performance shirt Castore have developed, we could go down that route as an experiment and see how it goes.

"They have signed a lot of big clubs and teams, and went from the equivalent of 100 bedrooms to 300 bedrooms. Under the contract we had with UEFA, we were unable to get into our stadium in July to get the the store finished, so Castore had to put us to the bottom of the list because they had to get everyone else up and running. I don't blame Castore, it's what I'd have done. Give Castore a chance to get the kits and other bits and pieces in. They're on a ship from China, but, of course, China was shut down with Covid and they locked down again recently. It's not just MK Dons who are affected. Every club has kit problems, distribution problems, it's the world we live in.”

Bottle tops...
“Why did we take the bottle tops off our fans? We never do that. During the Euros, all the bottle tops had to come off, that's part of the rules. The risk assessment for Sheffield Wednesday said we had to take them off, but that was for the away fans, not ours. How it got down the line to our fans I don't know. They're just excuses at the end of the day but it adds to something that has gone wrong.”

On the training ground…
“We tried to put planning in and then we had to look at a few other ways of doing it, and we're looking at resubmitting it in a few weeks. It's going to be really simple, I'm trying to keep it simple because we keep getting landed with the world's burdens. Sort this out, sort that out, when all I want to do is sort a training ground for this Club. God knows how many deals we've had and how hard we've tried. They're hard things to pull off.

"Unfortunately, we don't have that oil well, or pharmaceutical company as it is nowadays, that gives us that revenue which allows you to do the extraordinary. So we have to do it real. We're real, we're sustainable, we're here week in, week out, we pay all of our bills, and we make sure everyone is safe and has a good time at Stadium MK.”


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