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AFC Wimbledon

Find out how Little Fire Digital helped bring AFC Wimbledon home.

The most successful fundraiser in the history of the English Football Association.

AFC Wimbledon and the Plough Lane Bond Website - Little Fire Sheffield helped bing the Dons home.

About AFC Wimbledon

AFC Wimbledon are one of the newer clubs in the English football league. In the early 1990s, Wimbledon FC‘s owners had sold the Plough Lane Stadium, from which the club had played since 1889, and the club had been forced to share grounds with clubs across London – leaving the fans desperate for a ‘home game’.

Finally, in 2002, the owners elected to move the club to Milton Keynes, forming the MK Dons.

In despair, from try-outs on Wimbledon Common, the fans founded their own club. From these simple beginnings, with a fanatical fan base, the club began to climb the leagues.

The Challenge

Somehow, and against all the odds, AFC Wimbledon – now playing in League One – had managed to acquire a plot on Plough Lane and begun the process of building an new stadium – a new home ground. But cash had started to run out – they needed a solution.

The club could have raised capital by selling shares of the club to raise money. But this would have meant, potentially, that the fans would lose majority ownership of the club they had built from nothing and, potentially, lose everything again.

The club chose to create a bond scheme – to borrow money from the fans – the Plough Lane Bond.

It Needed to Happen Fast

The club’s lawyers had advised that the process of building the site and making it legally compliant would take months. The club had just weeks to secure the funding.

It Needed to Be Secure

For the scheme to work, the club needed to allow fans to buy the bond online. Bonds need to be repaid with interest, then online solution needed to allow the club to do this.

It Needed to Be Simple

Despite being a more complicated product than a book any other retail product, the experience of buying a bond had to be as close possible to any other online purchase. Quick, simple and friction-free.

The Solution

Little Fire Digital have built a content management and e-ommerce solution which can be customised and extended to sell just about anything. With an extensible, configurable system, a bit of ingenuity and some graft we reckoned we could deliver.

We gave our word and it was on.

What Did Little Fire Digital Do?

Once we had installed the base content management system, we set about tailoring it to the needs of the project.

Created a New Product Model

Using an MVC framework we were able to make a product which exactly matched those required. Each user needed to be able to select the interest rate, the term of the loan and several other atypical product attributes. This enabled us to create a familiar buying experience for the client whilst selling a highly unusual online product.

Maintained Compliance

The process of buying a bond requires the purchaser to read and acknowledge detailed terms and conditions as stipulated FCA and the club‘s legal team. Little Fire built an interactive FAQ and an interactive set of terms which were both easy for the customers to navigate and straightforward for the website administrators to keep updated as the terms went though many iterations.

Stored Information Securely

Each bond-holder need to be repaid.

  • For the bond holders, we built a system where each could securely store their bank details – protected by layers of encryptions and multi-factor authentication – the customer can review and edit their own payment details.
  • For the administrators we built a full system for administering the thousands of bonds sold.
  • Given the sensitive nature of the data held we needed a full audit trail (every change to every bond is logged for review) and differential permissions (for website administrators, all financial details are redacted but the bond administrator can review balances due, review payment details and make repayments as they become due).
… and Built the Website

Working hand-in-hand with the club and their amazing team of volunteers, we coded like fury as they negotiated with the legal team. Fans produced copy and images which we optimised and integrated into the website.

It was a struggle, but by the end of January 2020 the Plough Lane Bond was launched,

The Outcome

Then Plough Lane Stadium © AFC Wimbledon 2021

On 3 November 2020, AFC Wimbledon played their first match at the at Plough Lane against Doncaster Rovers. The first ever goal at the new stadium was scored by Wimbledon’s Joe Pigott in the 18th minute of that match.

Thanks to the success of both tranches of the Plough Lane Bond, AFC Wimbledon has replaced all its external and secured debt. AFC Wimbledon is and will forever be owned by the fans who built both the club and it‘s rightful home.

Little Fire Digital had helped bring the Dons home.

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