Dons’ Long Game With Sell-On Academy Fees


In Academy Manager Michael Hamilton’s 2023 review he listed England call-ups for five academy graduates — Spike Brits (Under-17s), Michael Golding and Archie Stevens (U18s), Joe Whitworth (U20s) and Matthew Cox (U21s).

I was delighted and proud even though I’d never seen any of them play and I probably won’t for some time since they are all now at other clubs. I will be tracking their careers with keen interest.

It’s tremendous that the fans-owned club is producing so many quality players but sad too that the very best of them seem to be scooped up before they play in our first team.

Jack Rudoni

I’m sure that most of us would prefer doing it the Jack Rudoni way, where he played for a couple of seasons before leaving for a reported fee of £800,000. And witnessing Ayoub Assal’s talent before Qatari club Al-Wakrah triggered a release clause in his contract with a then record-club fee of £1million-plus.

Or like Ryan Sweeney, who played a dozen games then went to Stoke for £200,000. These figures are public knowledge, but the fees I quote throughout are based on good sources.

This made me ponder what the Dons got back in transfer fees on their investment in those five Academy-reared starlets, how much the Club might eventually make out of it and what would trigger those payments? So I did some foraging around and this is what I uncovered.

For the transfer of an academy product apparently the fee depends on the age of the player. Up to the age of 14 the Club can’t refuse to release a player to another club. Also, if we can’t agree terms then compensation is set according to a Premier League matrix which dictates fixed rates.

A relevant recent example is Michael Golding, one of the five who were called up by England. He left the Dons in 2018, aged 12, so his transfer would have been covered by the matrix. If he had been at the Club from age eight he’d have completed three and a half years by the time of his transfer. Under the matrix that would have entitled our club to just…. £10,500.

The matrix also specifies that in the absence of an agreement between the clubs the default position is that every appearance in the PL earns Wimbledon £15,000 up to a maximum of 100 appearances, that cashes out at £1.5m.

At the time of Michael Golding’s transfer, the requirements specified that if the player is sold then the club only get five per cent (minus what the Club had already been paid). Although that is all the Dons would be entitled to, I’m reliably told some of the wealthier clubs do come to the party and in many cases an extra payment has been negotiated for a first professional contract and another one for a first team debut.

Michael Golding

So when young Golding made his first team debut with Chelsea late last year (2023) he will have triggered another payment — sources tell me that the payment contributed a major chunk of Joe Lewis’s fee!

Once a player turns 14 and has been offered a scholarship, according to my sources, then other clubs just can’t whisk him away; the matrix in this case doesn’t apply. So in those circumstances the Club negotiate a deal and I understand that the club now ask for an extra payment for each stage of a player’s development.

This means Wimbledon could get a fee when that player earns his first professional contract, then his first senior appearance and perhaps even for an international debut. Also, a 20 per cent sell-on clause is pretty much standard in these negotiations.

For older lads I understand the Club have negotiated substantial fees. It’s public knowledge fees of £100,000 were agreed for Daniel Agyei and Will Mannion while club sources inform me that Josef Bursik (Stoke City) and Matthew Cox (Brentford) both went for £250,000.

Spike Brits

Last June the club announced a club record academy fee with Manchester City for goalkeeper Spike Brits — would you believe it was between £350,000 and £400,000!

Sadly, Agyei and Mannion were released by their clubs for free so Wimbledon didn’t get any sell-ons for them but I’m told we did get one for Bursik, where Club Brugge are reported to have paid Stoke £750,000. If true, the Dons would have banked a further £100,000 windfall.

For a club like ours, the hope is that one of our Academy graduates will be sold for a motza fee and the Dons will pocket a few million through the sell on deal.

There is speculation surrounding current first teamers Jack Currie and Hus Biler being targets for rival clubs, while Jack Rudoni is doing very well at Huddersfield and may well move on at some stage.

If so, I take it that the Club will get 20 per cent of the fee minus what we’ve already been paid by the Terriers.

While we all fervently hope to get a deal like that one involving Ollie Watkins’ transfer from Brentford to Aston Villa which netted Exeter City £4million, it appears Wimbledon are looking at getting their returns from Academy players sales over time.

Leo Castledine

For example, there’s Matthew Cox, who is currently on a season loan at Bristol Rovers and highly regarded; Joe Whitworth has already played two PL games for Crystal Palace while Michael Golding and Leo Castledine (son of ex-Don Stewart), are both at Chelsea and training (and making appearances) with the first team. I understand the club received £160k when Castledine came on as a substitute for Chelsea in their EFL Cup semi-final in late January.

All of them are said to have healthy sell-on clauses written into their transfers. Given the need to repay a large chunk of Plough Lane bonds over the next few years, such a deal would be very welcome… like you, I’ll be watching keenly what plays and pays out! — ROB SMITH