It’s The Comms, Stupid


THE Danny Macklin shambles yet again highlighted the jumbled messaging of AFC Wimbledon’s  communications to its fans and the wider football community.

No doubt, the sensationalist revelations of Macklin’s sexist and abusive rant about a female colleague — albeit via a concealed listening device — were hugely damaging and embarrassing for AFC Wimbledon, which takes great pride in its fans-owned ethos. The story even made its way to the New York Post!

The Club’s handling of the Macklin scandal, citing legal advice, again fitted the template of past muddled attempts at keeping things quiet and only flushed out from a bunker-like mentality into making a statement when belatedly reacting to press coverage of events.
(London Irish rugby ground share, anyone?).

The consequence of the secrecy and stonewalling is a proliferation of corrosive rumours and conspiracy theories, as was the case in the Macklin mess.

Macklin’s impropriety certainly wasn’t obvious in advance but the lengthy delay in
the club in reaching a decision indicated long difficult internal discussions to resolve the thorny issue.

Fans were left in the dark with a perfunctory initial brief club statement
of Macklin leaving the club. It took another three weeks before the truth finally emerged—through the media with the consequent bad PR that followed.

It smacks of a lack of a consistent messaging from the club. There is a disturbing ponderousness in replying to events – it takes too long to get a message agreed and published. That sheets home to AFC Wimbledon Chair Mick Buckley.

He has been serving in the role on since the departure of CEO Joe Palmer over a
year ago.

Mick Buckley

Buckley, a former CEO of financial and business television network, CNBC Europe and before that with Turner Broadcasting Europe, has been a director of the Dons Trust, the football club and AFCW PLC, over the last decade and is a lifelong Wimbledon fan.

Insiders bemoan that Buckley is not a natural communicator, as witnessed by
his meandering monologue at a Fans Forum last May. Video highlights were promised the following day for those who couldn’t make the meeting, but they didn’t materialise
in full forcing a flood of complaints from the fan base.

The club was reluctantly forced to release the recordings in full. Sound familiar? No, club comms are a recurring theme.

The club has earned an unwanted reputation with many of its fans of acting tin-eared and failing to read the room.

There is a lack of a clear comms strategy and someone to implement that strategy at events, interviews etc.. Someone who is open and willing to answer, not deflect, the awkward questions.

A third managing director since April 2019 is currently being sought. Hopefully, the club will make sure that the new MD has the comms skills, and the responsibility, to fill the vacuum.

That won’t be easy assuming they’re not steeped in our culture so they will need help. But there’s lots of goodwill out there – they just need to tap into it. Here’s hoping they address the problem – and soon. — ROB SMITH.