The Blog

MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon Is No Rivalry

The first round draw of the 2014/15 League Cup threw up the second meeting between MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon - despite the history, it is no rivalry.

The first round draw of the 2014/15 League Cup threw up the second meeting between MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon - despite the history, it is no rivalry.

Sunday 2 December 2012 marked the first meeting between MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon since the demise of Wimbledon FC in 2004, and the birth of the former. Twelve years after the beginning of the end.

Pete Winkleman, MK Dons' chairman, led Milton Keynes Stadium Consortium in 2000 in a proposal for a Football League-standard ground in the city which was offered, and rejected, by Luton Town, Crystal Palace, Queens Park Rangers, Barnet and Wimbledon. However, despite the initial response, new Wimbledon chairman, Charles Koppel, was more receptive to the idea of moving the club, who had been ground-sharing with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park since 1991, 56 miles northwest to Milton Keynes.

Koppel announced in August 2001 his intention to move the club to Milton Keynes and, on 28 May 2002, Wimbledon's relocation was confirmed - ripping the club out of south London. As a form of protest, fans launched a new club - AFC Wimbledon - to compete in the Combined Counties League Premier Division, while Wimbledon FC contested the 2003/04 season in the First Division at the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes (starting the season at Selhurst Park before playing their first game at their new home on 27 September 2003 - a 2-2 draw with Burnley). Wimbledon became MK Dons on 21 June 2004 after suffering relegation to League One.

AFC Wimbledon fans regard MK Dons as the symbol of all that is wrong with modern football, and as the death of their once beloved club. Discontent, however, is not exclusively on one side, as MK Dons fans argue that those who follow AFC abandoned their club, pointing to the fact that the new Wimbledon was formed two year before the old club officially died.

The truth is that the old Wimbledon remained alive in name only. For all intents and purposes, the club had died the moment the move was confirmed.

While one of the most famous clubs in English football was gone, although MK Dons are officially a continuation, the story and spirit remains very much alive with AFC Wimbledon, gaining Football League status just nine years after formation - making them the first, and only, club formed in the 21st century to compete in England's top four divisions.

Fourteen years. That's all. Fourteen years. To some, it may seem a lifetime ago.

To most, especially AFC fans, the animosity is still raw. Not directly with MK Dons, but towards those who helped build the decade-old club. MK Dons are a constant reminder of what happened to their club. They had no problem with Milton Keynes having its own football club - they already did in Milton Keynes City FC, competing in the Spartan South Midlands League - the eighth-tier of English football. Following a lack of local interest following Wimbledon's relocation, MK City folded in July 2003, although the name lives on as one of the largest youth sides in the area.

Just as in 2012, AFC Wimbledon fans are refusing to make their way to stadiummk - and they have every right to do so.

Much of the media have been quick to build up the two clubs second meeting as a clash between fierce rivals, but it's not. While their births came out of the same dark chapter - Winkleman himself has since openly admitted to being wrong in how his consortium went about bringing professional football to Milton Keynes, although remains adamant that Wimbledon fans should have fought harder to keep their club - that is where the connection ends.

MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon have met once in their history in an FA Cup tie. The latter's fans would rather play the former on a level playing field in league competition, having worked their way through the non-league system, in contrast to MK Dons who began life in the third-tier of the pyramid.

There is plenty of animosity surrounding the fixture, but by no means is this a rivalry. This is the result of what happens when a club is ripped right out of its fan-base.