AFC Wimbledon target return to Merton


The club have applied to redevelop the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, according to a statement released yesterday.


By Andrew Murray

AFC Wimbledon are targeting a return to Merton according to a statement released yesterday.

The club, owned by the not-for-profit company The Dons Trust, have applied to redevelop the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium.

The proposal, submitted to Merton Council, sets out plans for the initial development of a 12,000 capacity stadium to be later expanded to a 22,000 multi-purpose facility.

“This is an important step in a journey we started some years ago,” said Erik Samuelson, AFC Wimbledon Chief Executive.

“We have a long way to go and many major hurdles to clear but we want to build a stadium that is embedded in the community and operate it in an inclusive way.”

The fans-owned club was formed in 2002 when the original Wimbledon FC controversially relocated to Milton Keynes.

Over the course of 10 years the team has gained five promotions culminating in their Blue Square Bet Premier play-off victory last year which elevated them into the Football League.

They have played all their home games at Kingsmeadow but claim the small footprint of their current stadium cannot meet fans’ demand.

The proposed new ground will form part of a larger development that will help fund the stadium construction.

The Dons’ return to the borough will depend on council deliberations with other submissions for development of the site also being considered.

Council Leader Stephen Alambritis said: “We are delighted with the level of interest in the greyhound site and the investment potential for the borough.”

Wimbledon Greyhound stadium dates from the 1920s and has a capacity of 9,000, although attracted crowds of 40,000 in its heyday.

The site covers approximately 12 acres with the stadium occupying roughly two-thirds of the area.

“There is all party support for AFC Wimbledon’s ambition to return to their roots and come back to Merton,” said Councillor Alambritis.

The club’s ambitions have the strong support of the fans.

Simon Wheeler, Chair of the Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA), recognised Wimbledon Greyhound stadium as the most stable site for the club’s future development.

“It ticks every single box for the club and the community,” he said.

“If (we return to Merton) we will have succeeded in securing a long term future for the football club.”

Mr Wheeler pointed to the poor leadership of the club during the Milton Keynes move and claimed a return to the borough would be a vindication of supporters’ loyalty.

“It’s all about showing the world what fan power can achieve,” he said.  

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