Pete Winkelman talks to All Things Business about this season and the future of Stadium MK

Overall a very successful season for MK Dons but how were your nerves going into that last game of the season?

“We were all very nervous heading into the final game of the season as it was winner takes all. You could feel the excitement in the air. It was an absolutely amazing day and it was great to see the people of Milton Keynes come out and support the team with one of the biggest attendances Sky Bet League Two has ever had.

“It was so special to get the promotion here at Stadium MK in front of all our supporters, especially those who have been with us through thick and thin. It also meant a lot to those who came out to support their local Club when it mattered. I’m so glad we got the result and everyone in Milton Keynes could go home happy.

“My feeling now is very much one of relief. It’s been a difficult couple of years at the Club but we are now on the up again and all looking forward to next season.”

This is a big summer for Stadium MK, how much planning has gone into this summer’s concerts and how many people do you anticipate visiting Stadium MK over this period?

“Anybody who has seen the enormous amount of work that has gone on behind the scenes to make these concerts happen will know just how big the task is. Setting up the staging and transforming Stadium MK, for example, takes a huge amount of effort from many people and the results are just incredible!

“It’s thanks to the amazing effort of my colleagues at Stadium MK that we are able to deliver the warm welcome that Milton Keynes has become known for. I am sure the concerts are going to be something special for the 80,000 people who are expected to attend across the three shows, and that they will live long in the memory for all involved.

“That’s what Stadium MK is about – it’s about producing unique moments and fantastic performances live here in Milton Keynes.”

How has the football world changed over the last 10 years, and many businesses work to a 3-5-year business plan. How difficult is to plan ahead for the football club?

“It’s very difficult to look forward in football and, as we have seen in the last few years, planning so far ahead can prove to be pointless.

“It has always been an uphill battle and it will only get harder. With the additional money in the Premier League, more teams are trying harder to compete and achieve the dream. This causes hyperinflation to the wages in football and, in my time, it has just got more and more expensive.

“I am, though, pleased to report that the Stadium MK Group has been able to continue delivering an ever-ambitious business plan which has enabled us to keep our ambition for the emotional driver that is the Football Club.”

Pete Winkelman - Chairman of MK Dons
Pete Winkelman - Chairman of MK Dons

MK Dons Ladies are celebrating 10 years this year, how important is women’s football to you, the Club and the city of Milton Keynes?

“Our Women’s Football Team is organised and run by the MK Dons Sport and Education Trust, the charitable arm of the Football Club. This upcoming season will see the name change to MK Dons Women to capture the increasing awareness of the importance of women’s football, both in Milton Keynes and nationally. They will also be sponsored by Marshall Amplification and it will be great to see the Marshall brand return to the front of an MK Dons shirt and complement our Title Partner Suzuki GB.

“I am a big believer in playing our part in providing opportunities for every level of football in our region. We run a Girl’s FA Regional Talent Club, which is one of only 34 in the country and it was important that the girls had a complete pathway to play women’s football.

“MK Dons are the highest-ranked EFL side that facilitate their women’s team playing at their home ground. I am so pleased that we are able to give all our female players the equal opportunity to be competitive and grace the turf at Stadium MK.”

Describe Milton Keynes in three words?

“Passion. Community. Ambition.”

You’ve become a real pillar of the local business community, what is the best piece of business advice you were ever told?

“That’s a tough one! I have been lucky to have received many good pieces of advice from people in all different businesses, and it’s important to remember that every business is driven by people and their experiences, and that there is always something to learn.”

“I think my favourite one, and one I use daily in my own business, is that there is no right or wrong idea, it’s about the way you execute it. If you do something well, it’s always a good idea but if you do something badly, that’s when you question if the idea was worth it. It’s something I always ask of my team at Stadium MK - can we do it really well?”

How important is it to you, to create memorable moments at Stadium MK?

“I think Stadium MK was always to be the place of dreams. It was an ambition of Milton Keynes since 1973 and I took up the mantle as far back as 1997 – a long time before it became public. It’s about having a place where we can capture those dreams forever.

“Already, some of the things I dreamt about have come true. We beat Manchester United 4-0 here; we saw the national team of Brazil, with Neymar in their side who, at the time, was the most expensive footballer in the world. We hosted three matches for Rugby World Cup 2015 and, now, we’ve got Take That, Sir Rod Stewart and Rammstein coming to play here - Rammstein’s show here being their only one in the UK!

“This is what people’s dreams are made of and I am so proud that’s what Stadium MK has become.”