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The importance of the Academy

AFC Wimbledon CEO, Erik Samuelson, discusses the importance of the Academy and Dons Draw in his programme piece.

Today the Academy takes centre stage. Around the ground and at half time there are various events

taking place to recognise and celebrate our Academy. They have had a very good year. Until his

injury Will Nightingale had staked a claim for a regular place at the heart of our defence and later in

the season we saw Ryan Sweeney step in with accomplished performances for eight successive

starts. Other players have made the transition too, with Neal showing he is very willing to give the youngsters their chance.

This season we’ve seen the Under 18 team win away games at the academies of two Premier League clubs before giving a third, Chelsea, a real run for their money here at the Cherry Red Records Stadium. I saw two of these games but sadly I was unable to watch us win at Newcastle, which was a particularly unfortunate game for me to miss since I’m from Sunderland!

The objective of the Academy is to develop players and the mantra is that the result of the game is

secondary. But that shouldn’t (and didn’t) stop us celebrating success on the pitch in games like


We run the Academy for several reasons. First, because we think we can produce good players who

will be totally immersed in our culture and be all the better for that. Second, we do it because by

bringing through local boys we are loyal to our cause of being a club that is rooted in, and grows

from, our local community – it’s the Wimbledon way and a key part of the identity of our club. And

third, we think it is cost effective as, being a fans-owned club, we really need to be.

It is likely that Academy graduates will get even more opportunities next season as the change in

rules that means that short term loans are no longer allowed will means that we, and many other

clubs, look more and more to their young stars to step up when the need arises. So it is more

important than ever that we keep investing in our young players.

It isn’t cheap to run an Academy. We are close to completing the budget for next season. The

accounts are quite complicated but the two simple statistics are that we are budgeting to spend

about £675,000 on the Academy next year. We receive or generate income from various sources to

reduce this cost to more manageable levels and the net cost to the club is just over £250,000.

I said earlier that, as a fans-owned club we need to be cost effective since we have to raise every

penny we spend ourselves. That is why, to tie in with the Academy activities today Day, we are

pleased to reveal the new look Dons Draw. Profits from the Dons Draw will be focused towards

producing the homegrown and hungry stars of AFC Wimbledon's future. The launch takes place

today and You should see plenty of activity around the ground today encouraging you to sign up.

You can do so online at, or by visiting the Dons Draw desk outside the back bar

before the game, and inside the middle bar at half-time and after the game.

The Dons Draw, like so many good things in this club, is run by volunteers and you can read a feature on Neil Messenbird who has been running it quietly and very efficiently for several years now. During that time it has been absolutely essential in helping to grow the Academy and the club to

where it is now, raising over £700,000 in the process. It also gives entrants a great chance to win

something back, with cash prizes guaranteed to be won every week. I hope you will feel able to

subscribe so that we can build on our success to date.

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