There is a treat in store for AFC Wimbledon fans at the Sunset Festival, which kicks off in a fortnight, as the club’s former chief executive and one of its founding members Erik Samuelson tells the extraordinary story of how the phoenix club rose from the ashes of Wimbledon FC, on 19 September.
Samuelson, whose new book All Together Now is included in the price of a pair of tickets to the event, part of the Bookfest running between 15-19 September in Covid-safe marquees on Wimbledon Common, will be in discussion with comedian Geoff Norcott (The Mash Report), a supporter who attended the club’s remarkable 1988 FA Cup Final victory over Liverpool.
Initially the club’s finance director since its founding in 2002, Samuelson took over the top job five years later and oversaw four promotions in 12 years in the role, including the club reaching the football league in 2011, one of the swiftest ascents to the professional leagues in British football history.
He also led the campaign for the team to return to Merton from its temporary home at Kingsmeadow in Kingston, which saw the club’s first game played back at Plough Lane in November 2020 at a purpose-built stadium near the site where the original ground stood, and which welcomed fans back last month.
The club’s move back to the borough enjoyed active cross-party support during the years that they played in Kingston upon Thames, with the application to return to Merton being unanimously approved by the planning committee.
His book chronicles the ups and downs of the club’s first two decades, during which it was feted for its groundbreaking community enterprises, was mentioned in Prime Minister’s Questions and acquired such fans as England midfield star Declan Rice and American author John Green (The Fault in our Stars), who donated thousands to the club and had a stand named after him at the old ground.
Samuelson, once a partner at City giants PriceWaterCoopers, received a nominal annual salary of £1 while working for the club and chairs its charitable arm, AFC Wimbledon Foundation. His book has been called “outstanding” by legendary BBC football commentator John Motson, and Henry Winter of The Times said it gave “great insight into the heart and soul of football, the heartache and hope.”
Book tickets: AFC Wimbledon: All Together Now (wimbledonbookfest.org)