November Breakfast Briefing 2019

Date: 12 Nov 2019

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For the love of the game - Pete Winkelman fuels advocacy amongst MK businesses

After a well-documented difficult few weeks, MK Dons Chairman Pete Winkelman has spoken to business leaders from across Milton Keynes to highlight the need for the city to come together and help push the team forward.

Beginning his address by apologising to the audience at the Milton Keynes Business Leaders (MKBLP) event: “I’m sorry that I have not been able to get football anywhere near where I wanted it to be,” Mr Winkelman spoke about his frustration over social media, his plans for the National Bowl, and the future of the football club which now has a new manager at its helm.

A fervent ambassador of Milton Keynes, Mr Winkelman, who realised the new city’s original masterplan of creating a 30,000-seater stadium, stressed the need for Milton Keynes to have a team: “at the top of their game,” which would be befitting of a city which he acknowledged was incredibly ambitious.

“Milton Keynes is never more powerful than when it comes together to do business, for instance the planning applications for the new cancer centre and the new university. We are the best advocates for our own growth.

This city is all about being the best with a spirit to dream big, but within football when it goes wrong, it goes wrong quickly. There will be a moment when we find the right manager and we will have an opportunity to move forward and that’s when we will need the city, and local businesses, to get behind us. I want to market Milton Keynes around the world.”

Drawing parallels with the business people in the room, Mr Winkelman acknowledged that MK Dons was run like any other business, from making the right investments and hiring the right staff, to ensuring that customers were the key focus, however: “if anyone knows a billionaire – send him my way!”

While the stadium itself brings in a steady stream of revenue through concerts and events, providing the club with sustainability, building an infrastructure which will create a premiership team worthy of high investment, is at the top of Mr Winkelman’s agenda.

Speaking about the recent decision to redevelop the National Bowl as a training base for the club he commented: The bowl is a really big deal – and will probably be my last hurrah – we can’t continue to mess with this site we need to invest in it.”       

After two decades of building a city football club within Milton Keynes Mr Winkelman is a prominent figure, however he cites communication as one of his biggest frustrations within the city: “Twenty years ago, you could reach a wide audience through just a handful of channels; radio and newspaper. Today, these channels are weaker and social media brings everything down to interest, so the message is diluted. For instance, unless you are a fervent football supporter you don’t know that MK Dons offers every under 12-year-old a free seat.”

Testament to this is the recent England’s U21’s game against Austria: “The stadium should have been packed but not many people knew about it.” While the Liverpool game the month before was a sell-out due to the national exposure the premiership team brought with it.

“We need to build a culture of historic support within Milton Keynes but to start with you have to have that success. With the right people, we will get there, and then I will need the businesses of Milton Keynes to get behind us to sustain this success.”