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AFC Wimbledon to return home

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AFC Wimbledon have received planning permission to build a new stadium close to their historic home in Plough Lane.   To be built on the site of an old greyhound stadium, the new ground will have a capacity of 11,000 with scope for expansion to 20,000.   The plan includes provision for 602 residential units and a leisure club.

AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson believes it is one of the most significant moments in their history, having formed in 2002 after Wimbledon relocated to Milton Keynes and were rebranded MK Dons.

“We are all absolutely delighted,” Samuelson told the club’s official website. “This has been a momentous day for our club and the most important event since we re-formed it 13 years ago.

“Following the sale of our former Plough Lane site and the decision by the FA to allow Wimbledon FC’s Football League place to be moved to Milton Keynes, our fans did something unprecedented in the football world - we decided to re-form the club, enter the football hierarchy at the lowest level and repeat what the old Wimbledon FC did with massive success, namely make our way up through the many leagues into the Football League.

“We started with nothing, no team, no stadium, no manager, not even a strip to wear.

“But what was different this time was that the club was formed by and remains owned by the fans, in other words we are firmly rooted in our community."

Plough Lane

Contrary to the impression given in the first paragraph, the greyhound track on which the new stadium is to be built is currently in operation and Irish businessman Paschal Taggert has plans for a £100 million development including  greyhound and banger racing tracks, housing and a pre -school.

While Wimbledon football fans' emotional attachment to a return to Merton is understandable, the business case is rather more questionable. They will be moving into a heavily congested footballing area. Any growth in attendances will have to be made against competition from Chelsea (who will be aggressively marketing a new 40% larger stadium in the not too distant future), Crystal Palace. Brentford, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers. When Wimbledon FC were last in the Borough, as a top division club, they struggled to get close to five figure attendances. 

It could be argued that Kingston upon Thames and its Surrey hinterland offers considerably greater long term potential for supporter growth than  a return to SW19.