While AFC Wimbledon’s promotion-winning players were on a plane to Las Vegas for a celebratory jaunt paid for by a mystery supporter, chief executive Erik Samuelson was today back at his desk putting the finishing touches to next season’s budget.
The champagne had barely stopped bubbling but thoughts within the club’s hierarchy had already turned to English football’s third tier following their 2-0 victory over Plymouth Argyle in Monday’s League Two play-off final.
“I’m in the office revamping the budget, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s because, although you do some calculations on the back of an envelope, we need to make sure the budget makes sense,” Samuelson told City A.M.
“We have to sit down and think, for instance, that there will be some matches next season where we’re going to need police. We haven’t got that in the League Two budget. We don’t pay any police costs in League Two because no teams are high risk.
“Ultimately, we can’t do anything which is unsustainable because if we don’t get money from ourselves, nobody else is going to pay it.”
Samuelson predicts that promotion is worth around £400,000 to fan-owned AFC Wimbledon, a sum which includes the Premier League’s increased solidarity payments to the Football League, effective from the 2016/17 campaign.
“That’s not a lot of money compared to the wages of a Premier League player,” added Samuelson.
“Our annual wage bill, which includes transfer fees, relocation costs and agents fees, next season will probably be less than two months income for a top Premier League player.
“What do you imagine Wayne Rooney is on? £250,000 a week? If that’s the case then we’re well short of two months of his income. For me, that just illustrates what a leap it would be to try and get into the Premier League.
“The Championship, on the other hand, I think we could just about do. I’m not sure beyond that, we’ll see when we get there.”
AFC Wimbledon’s Wembley success – 14 years to the day since their formation – maintained a fairytale rise up the football pyramid as they chalked up their sixth promotion since beginning life in the Combined Counties League.
It is a far cry from the open trials held on Wimbledon Common in 2002 after a group of supporters had met at the Fox and Grapes pub as the old Wimbledon FC’s controversial relocation to Milton Keynes gathered momentum. Not an unexpected outcome, however, for Samuelson.
“The biggest difficulty I thought we’d have was getting out of the Conference or the National League as it is now known because there were so many big teams with league histories and big budgets,” he said.
“I thought if we got out of there we’d be fine in League Two and maybe make it to League One, and then if we could get a new stadium, with the extra generated income, probably the Championship.
“It might sound naïve or arrogant but, actually, maybe we were just too naïve to realise that it could be otherwise. Maybe that’s not a bad way to be.”
AFC Wimbledon’s quest for a new stadium – the club hope to develop the greyhound stadium site on Plough Lane – is a top priority. Samuelson was today continuing his preparations for a meeting with the Greater London Authority to discuss the plan going before new mayor Sadiq Khan.
Promotion also means that next season AFC Wimbledon will play at the same level as Milton Keynes Dons, the team created when the former Wimbledon FC, FA Cup winners in 1988, uprooted to Buckinghamshire -- a move which still fosters hurt.
“Right now, we’re concentrating on our celebrations, our achievements and the phenomenal things we’ve done,” added Samuelson.
“We’re not going to let them intrude. They’ve had enough involvement in what we’ve done. They can disappear into the background, this is about us.”