Security has been heightened and fans have been urged to "occupy the high ground" ahead of AFC Wimbledon’s first home match against Milton Keynes at the Kingsmeadow stadium.
Although AFC Wimbledon, who were formed after the old Wimbledon team were taken to Milton Keynes in 2002, have met their rivals on the pitch before, this will be the first time the teams have played each other in AFC Wimbledon’s territory, and fans of the Milton Keynes side are not expecting a warm welcome.
In a statement posted on the AFC Wimbledon website ahead of the match on Tuesday, March 15, chief executive Erik Samuelson told supporters they had “won the respect of almost everyone in English football” for their conduct over the past 15 years, helping them to gain approval for the new AFC Wimbledon stadium in Plough Lane.
He said: “For nearly 15 years now, we have been striving to make up for the massive injustice that was done to us.
Chief executive of AFC Wimbledon, Erik Samuelson
“In that time, we’ve regained our League place – and done it the right way, starting at the bottom of the football pyramid and working our way up.
“And by working together, we’ve created a friendly and welcoming club with strong community values and the highest ethical behaviour.
“For 15 years, we have channelled all our frustrations into building something that is good, and is valued, and which people admire enough to go out of their way to help us in all sorts of small (and sometimes major) ways.
“We all know that building a reputation takes years; losing it can take moments.”
Just 650 tickets have been made available for supporters of Milton Keynes, who must arrive in designated coaches and will not be allowed into the bar areas. Any Milton Keynes directors who travel to Kingsmeadow for the match will sit with their supporters, and not with AFC Wimbledon directors.
Only home supporters will be permitted in the main car park, and 100 fewer tickets for home fans have been sold for the RyGas Stand to help with crowd management, and allow for the option of increasing the space between the two sets of fans on the terrace.
Fans of both teams were also restricted to buying one ticket per person ahead of the match, in an effort to keep tighter controls over who would be attending.
The heightened security measures come after AFC Wimbledon’s match against Charlton Athletic on February 12, when manager Karl Robinson – who previously managed at Milton Keynes for six years – was allegedly verbally abused by a volunteer for AFC Wimbledon’s ground staff.
During that match a banner was unfurled, containing what has been described as an “obscene word” on the AFC Wimbledon website. As a result, all banners or flags being brought into Kingsmeadow for the Milton Keynes match must be registered with the club secretary.
Mr Samuelson’s statement continued: “However much distaste we might feel towards the club that will be here on March 14, let’s continue to occupy the high ground – whether we do so because we feel that is how we should behave, or because we can see that doing things the right way has eased our path to where we are now.
“So they won’t get a friendly welcome to our stadium, as I’m sure you will be making very clear. But please, let’s not do anything that in any way undermines everything we’ve fought hard to build over the years.
“So, let’s give them a reception that makes clear how we feel, but let’s make sure that we do so in a way that allows us to retain everything that is good about the club we all love.”