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banner Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Fans veto plan fails to score
A Wimbledon FC player in action
Wimbledon proposed moving to Milton Keynes
Calls for football fans to get a veto if their club plans to move away from their traditional home have failed to win over delegates at the Liberal Democrat conference.

Colchester MP Bob Russell was one of those on Thursday promoting a motion calling on the Football Association and Football League to prevent clubs from moving without the backing of the majority of their fans.


What we want to see is football clubs that are part of communities

Alex Folkes
Lib Dem delegate
The motion presented in Bournemouth, which also pressed for fans' representatives to be given a place on all Premiership and League club boards, follows plans for Wimbledon Football Club to move to Milton Keynes.

But it was stopped in its tracks when the conference hall voted to refer the proposals back to the party's Federal Policy Committee.

Proposing the motion in a debate which saw fans proudly parading their loyalties, Wimbledon supporter and delegate Alex Folkes said his club was the latest in a long line of clubs threatened for its very existence by its owners.

"What we want to see is football clubs that are part of communities," he said.

Poaching football's interests

And Mr Russell branded the franchising which allowed owners to move their clubs as another form of the government's private finance initiative.

"It is poaching football's interests," he continued.

The importance of a football club's local roots was underlined by Newcastle councillor Peter Arnold, a Magpies fan "man and boy".

Lamenting his club's consistent inconsistency, he suggested it could be because some of the players were "over-paid mercenaries, well past their sell-by date" in a time when there was no premium on loyalty.

But Milton Keynes councillor Graham Mabbutt strongly opposed the motion in a speech hailing the merits of his home town.

Home needs

Arguing that south London already had many league clubs, he said all his town needed now was a major sports stadium.

"Milton Keynes is in desperate need of a football club. Wimbledon is in desperate need of a home. Put the two together and you have a winning formula."

The reason Milton Keynes wanted to move was because Merton Borough Council had been unable to identify a new home for the club, he added.

Meanwhile, Harrow delegate Laurence Cox argued it was not just Milton Keynes which was missing out on a league football.

Instead, the siting of such clubs reflected the population distribution not of the last century but of the century before that, he said.

Other opponents of the plans argued they were so restrictive they risked forcing some clubs out of business.

Hemel Hemstead councillor Neil Steward successfully pressed for the motion to be referred to the policy committee, saying its wording was ambiguous.

He added: "What right does a political party have to demand that a football club works in a certain manner?"

See also:

26 Sep 01 | UK Politics
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Lib Dems consider women-only lists
09 Jun 01 | Talking Point
Liberal Democrats - a new opposition?
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