Kit launches don’t usually make the national news, but when you’re a club with an incredible backstory like AFC Wimbledon, they do. When the club recently introduced their Admiral kit to the public, Sports Interactive and Football Manager were front and center.
The partnership with the gaming mogul is one of the longest-standing shirt sponsorships in the Football League, going on 13 years. It is a powerful arrangement, one that is beneficial to both parties.
“We give them massive exposure and they bring honesty and integrity,” Commercial Director Ivor Heller remarked. “They are the most wonderful group of people.”
Partnering again with Sports Interactive was a no-brainer with the choice to go with Admiral coming down to bringing an iconic brand and a unique kit to the club. Admiral is a classic in English football circles and has experienced meteoric growth in the North American market.
And Admiral was worn by the original Wimbledon FC from 1991 to 1993. This was a period of great success for the club as they competed in the First Division and FA Premier League with stars like Warren Barton and John Scales.
Bringing Sports Interactive and Admiral on board is big news, but not bigger than the club itself.
The club and its supporters are known worldwide for their incredible resilience, having become the standard for “phoenix” clubs.
After having their team stolen away and rebranded as MK Dons, the club reformed under the name AFC Wimbledon and earned an unprecedented five promotions in nine years. Their return to the Football League has garnered international attention as the feel-good story of English football. Their model and philosophy has become the standard for others to follow. But that is not the end of it, not by a long shot. AFC Wimbledon has bigger plans.
“There was never any doubt that we would return to the Football League,” Heller stated. “The end game is to get back to our roots, to build a fantastic stadium in Wimbledon.”
Getting back to “their ancestral home,” as Heller calls it, is the final piece of the puzzle. It would mark the end of a long journey. The team hopes to be in their new home, if all goes as planned, for the 2017-18 season.
The here and now is just as exciting. The 2014-15 season is sure to be a monumental one with a talented squad returning and some quality additions signed to stir things up a bit. Their most recent addition is former Arsenal keeper James Shea, who most recently spent time with Harrow Borough.
AFC Wimbledon takes pride in helping players resurrect their careers and they hope they can do that with Shea, who is a great prospect even though he did not see significant time with the Gunners. Maybe this is one of those situations where a great “act” is turned down like when Dick Rowe and Mike Smith turned down the Beatles. Maybe Wimbledon has just signed the next big thing in English football on a free transfer.
And they also have a July 19 fixture with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea to look forward to. That one is sure to be a sellout for the Dons.
A great kit from a great brand, a promising squad, and a bright future all show that AFC Wimbledon has a lot going for them. Hopefully the reunion with Admiral will spark of renaissance for both sides as they strive to be the very best.