SO many questions linger in the wake of AFC Wimbledon’s bombshell announcement on September 4 (remember the date) that Managing Director Danny Macklin would be leaving his position giving just four days notice.
It was a perfunctory 61-word ‘Club Statement’, which only prompted more questions.
Macklin posted on his Twitter account (since deleted) that he was leaving because his immediate focus would be to spend “much needed time with my young family before taking up a new challenge.”
It is understood that Macklin stayed in a Wimbledon hotel during the week, rather than making the daily commute to and from his Essex home.
It all just didn’t add up. The hasty exit came after just 10 months in the role and almost immediately the rumour mill cranked into full gear.
Only a few weeks earlier Macklin, normally a prolific social media user, said he was “pausing’ his interactions on his Twitter account (the post since deleted). But there was plenty of agitation going on behind the scenes.
Macklin may have been prodigious as MD monetizing the Plough Lane Stadium with commercial initiatives, but he made some enemies along the way.
Several long-standing club volunteers and those in paid jobs lost their positions during his time with one saying “I have my own axe to grind,” adding “Rather think that evidence (making enemies) is staring a lot of people in the face. Regretfully.”
The Club said it was looking for a replacement MD, but suppressed the actual reasons for
Macklin’s abrupt departure. There was word that the club’s lawyers were “chatting” with fan podcasts about what they were and were not allowed to say about the sensitive matter.
But the Club’s attempts to ride it out were always fraught. There were those keen to bring
things out in the open and so it all blurted out on September 25 — three weeks later — in an unexpected place, on the pages of The Times, not in the racier tabloids.
Under the heading “AFC Wimbledon boss resigns after secret recording of sexist and abusive comments,” there were mind-boggling revelations.
“The Times can reveal. Danny Macklin, who was managing director of AFC Wimbledon, described Rebecca Markham, the club’s ticketing manager, as a “slut” and a “slag” and joked about assaulting her in a covert recording device that was placed in Macklin’s office at Plough Lane by a military veteran working as a club security officer.” https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/afc-wimbledon-danny-macklin-resigns-b1109470.html
The bug was secreted in Macklin’s office by Matthew Wells, a British army veteran who worked as part-time security for the club, because he said he was concerned by the
alleged abuse of staff.
Wells said: “I couldn’t believe what I heard. The way he was talking about Rebecca
was terrible.” It is not clear what precipitated Macklin’s recorded rant.
The Club, which had prior knowledge that The Times was about to publish the damaging expose, subsequently issued a statement: “Behaviour such as that being alleged was and is not tolerated, nor is it representative of the culture at AFC Wimbledon. Once we became
aware of the matter we acted appropriately in accordance with our responsibilities and values to promptly resolve it. For legal reasons we are not able to say more.”
Macklin also issued a mea culpa. “I deeply regret what I said behind closed doors. The words and language I used were unacceptable and inappropriate with zero intent to act upon. They are not consistent with who I am and what I stand for. I am deeply sorry
for the words that I used which I should not have used in any circumstances. I can only apologise unreservedly to the individual concerned for the hurt and suffering I have caused.”
It is understood that Rebecca Markham left the club several weeks before Macklin. Sources say she may have received a settlement and a legally-binding non-disclosure agreement (NDA). It also implies a much longer timescale before the Club took action against Macklin, indicating long and difficult internal discussions took place.
The news of Macklin’s troubles came as no surprise to some at his previous club, Leyton Orient. “There were certainly lots of unpleasant rumours, and everyone who had to work
under him (at Orient) found him a resoundingly unpleasant person,” one observer told WDSA.
The FA said it would investigate reports that Macklin made abusive and sexist comments about a female colleague. “We are aware of the reports about the conduct of the
former managing director of AFC Wimbledon, and we will investigate them,” said an FA spokesperson.
The question that poses is can a likely NDA be overturned by the requirements of a regulatory body?
In the tumult that ensued Macklin’s hurried departure, the Club appointed Kris Stewart, the club’s foundation CEO. to fill in on a temporary basis while a permanent replacement was sought. Stewart stood down from his position as chairman of the Dons Trust Board to take temporary charge of daily club affairs, while Michele Little took over as the new DTB head.
The scandal has left the club in turmoil. The next Managing Director will be the club’s third since April 2019 with Joe Palmer and now Macklin leaving after brief spells in charge.
There are no winners out of all this murky business. Macklin faces a major challenge to get work again in football after these explosive revelations, while there are ethical/legal questions over how Wells entrapped Macklin with the concealed covert listening device.
Wells served in all major conflicts since the Falklands before being jailed for six years in 2009 after his AK-47 assault rifle accidentally fired during a confrontation with his regimental quartermaster over what he believed to be the mistreatment of a female soldier.https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/soldier-jailed-for-firing-rifle-in-struggle-1707348.html
Wells believes he acted “honourably” in disclosing the private conversation to club officials to protect a vulnerable employee. Markham has had her photo plastered over the many press reports and is no longer working at AFC Wimbledon.
The Club has to start all over again to find a new Managing Director who can hopefully become a long-term solution. And in so doing look at the thoroughness of the Club’s recruitment processes and background checks — two employees who broke the rules, albeit in different ways, suggests there are improvements to be made.
[‘No Winners Out Of Macklin Mess’ was first published in the October-November 2023 issue of the Wombles Downunder fanzine. Details on how you can subscribe to Wombles Downunder.]