MKDSA STATEMENT ON THE FORTHCOMING GAMES v AFC
With the football season less than two weeks away once again the focus of some fans is set on a couple of fixtures that always divide opinion, namely our two meetings with AFC Wimbledon.
Whilst the home fixture will not be until October 9th and the return journey to the New Plough Lane Stadium on April 9th next year the MKDSA are more than aware that the annual topic of this game is bound to be discussed at the forthcoming MKDSA Fans Forum & AGM on August 16th, and it is with this in mind the MKDSA committee decided it needed to make a statement regarding the bubble arrangements to make it clear to the fans and the club where it stands on this issue and this was unanimously agreed at our recent MKDSA meeting.
As we all know in previous meetings with AFC, MK Dons fans have been subjected to strict travel arrangements. Travel has only been allowed via the clubs organised coach service with individuals not allowed to make their own way to the game. This has made it extremely difficult for many of our fans wishing to attend this game especially those that live some way from SMK, or the West London pick up point. Conversely AFC fans have largely been allowed to travel to SMK with limited ticketing restrictions if any, (possibly past ticketing history), that allow them unhindered passage and free movement to and from SMK and the surrounding areas of the stadium.
Previous meetings at the former AFC ground Kingsmeadow did have unique circumstances, namely the poor access for away fans and the MKDSA fully appreciate that the club with the safety of its fans in mind and under advice from the Met Police restricted travel for MK Dons fans. Whilst we agree the club acted in the best interests of its fans it did without doubt have a feeling of being totally unfair on our fanbase, whilst AFC fans were allowed the freedom of Milton Keynes.
The 2021/22 season will herald the opening to fans of the New Plough Lane Stadium and undoubtedly the whole situation is yet again up for discussion not only amongst the fans but the MK Dons Ticketing Committee that will sit towards the end of the season to discuss the away fixture with AFC. For those that are unaware this committee consists of club officials, a representation from the MKDSA, plus several independent fans.
With the opening of this new stadium, we now passionately believe that parity must be restored, whereby the fans of the MK Dons should be allowed unrestricted travel to the New Plough Lane Stadium, the same as AFC fans are afforded when travelling to Milton Keynes. If the Thames Valley Police state, it is safe and manageable for AFC fans to have unrestricted travel to SMK, then the same luxury should be afforded by the club and the Met Police to MK Dons fans when travelling to the NPL.
If the club and or the Met Police say this cannot happen on grounds of safety, we would like to state that if this is the case AFC fans should be subject to the same restrictions when visiting SMK, and we cannot agree with any other scenario, In our mind it has to be parity as it is clear that the majority of MK Dons fans are very unhappy with the previous situation whereby Dons fans are subjected to such strict criteria and AFC fans are not inconvenienced in any way shape or form.
We fully understand and support the clubs’ views on fan safety for both sets of supporters but with the change in circumstances it is time to level the playing field.
As the Supporters Association we of course recommend that fans use the official travel provided by the club, but as with any game it should be a matter of choice.
On a related issue, at our last home fixture against AFC Wimbledon it was deemed necessary at the end of the game to prevent MK Dons fans from leaving the stadium several minutes before the final whistle as it was feared that there could be a confrontation with exiting AFC fans. Whilst to some degree we understand the reasoning we feel this was the wrong decision as nobody that sits on the MKDSA committee had ever heard of a situation where the home fans were locked in. As regular away fans we have all been subjected to being locked in for as much as 30 minutes after a game whilst the surrounding area was cleared and then we were released onto the streets. To us it makes much more sense to allow 8,000 home fans to leave the stadium unrestricted and keep behind 1,000 travelling fans. That is standard policing practice throughout the country. To us the scenarios this created at the fixture were unacceptable and put many fans welfare in jeopardy as neither fans or stewards knew what was going on and it was beginning to lead to panic for some fans with the crush caused on the stairways as their exit was blocked by stewards, and we urge the club to rethink any future similar actions.