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Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Dons fans told to stay away
Wimbledon fans demonstrate outside Selhurst Park before the gillingham game
Demonstrating Wimbledon fans express their anger

Wimbledon boss Stuart Murdoch has asked angry supporters to stay away - even though the Dons mustered just 668 fans for their opening-day defeat by Gillingham.

Murdoch feels the feuding over the Dons' controversial proposed move to Milton Keynes could split the club, and affect morale on the pitch.

Gillingham's 1,808 supporters vastly outnumbered the Wimbledon fans in the crowd.


The divorce has taken place, can the two parties now get on with it?
Wimbledon boss Stuart Murdoch

Wimbledon's supporters association organised a boycott of the match, with several hundred enraged Dons fans hurling abuse at the players during an angry demonstration outside the ground.

Murdoch called on those supporters to leave the club alone.

He said: "The divorce has taken place, can the two parties now get on with it and live happily ever after?

"It's a sad situation for everybody but this has happened and it's been decided.

"In the situation this football club is in, there's no way staying here will do any good.

"I hope the Wimbledon fans who are Wimbledon fans return, but to those who no longer are, I wish them well on a Saturday afternoon with their new club.

"I have sympathy with them because as a supporter you want to see football in your own area.

"But don't make our life any more difficult by doing the sort of things that have gone on outside the ground."

Wimbldeon fans surrounded by empty seats
Plenty of room for these Dons fans

Wimbledon supporters association Kevin Rye insisted the demonstration was about more than venting anger against the club.

Rye fears Wimbledon's relocation could set a precedent for franchising football clubs under a similar system to American sports.

He said: "The purpose is to start a nationwide campaign against the franchising of football in this country.

"This is not a unique solution to a unique problem. It is bigger than Wimbledon."

Almost forgotten in the furore was Gillingham's win, sealed by Guy Ipoua's goal.

Sympathetic Gills boss Andy Hessenthaler said: "The tempo of the game from both sides was terrific.

"It can't be easy for them, but it doesn't matter who you play in front of, you've still got to do a job.

"Something has got to be resolved because you can't play in front of nobody."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Steve May
"It was all very soul destroying"
Wimbledon chairman Charles Koppel
"I still think the club has a bright future"
Don's captain Neil Shipperley
"We tried to prepare for it"
Wimbledon fan Kevin Rye
"This has been the murder of our football club"

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