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Dons to return to Wimbledon

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AFC Wimbledon have revealed plans to make Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium the club’s new home. It is more than 20 years since professional first-team football was last played in the Borough of Merton. Wimbledon FC left to ground share with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in 1991.

In May 2002 an FA Commission controversially allowed Wimbledon FC to relocate to Milton Keynes, becoming MK Dons. AFC Wimbledon were subsequently formed and, in only 10 years, have gone from holding open trials for players on Wimbledon Common, to the Football League. The club is owned by supporters via the Dons Trust.

The Dons’ aspirations to redevelop the Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium centre round a planned 22,000 capacity stadium which will host sporting and non-sporting events for the wider community. Initially, the redevelopment will have a capacity of 12,000 which AFC Wimbledon can expand if required. The stadium will be part of a larger development which will help fund construction.

The Dons’ vision is articulated in the club’s response to the London Borough of Merton’s ‘call for sites’ which requested anyone interested in developing a land site in Merton to set out their ideas in writing to the Council.

Important step

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

“AFC Wimbledon is proud of its prudent financial management, supporter participation, active volunteering and community engagement. All of this follows from our model of fan ownership. We are very grateful to Merton Council who have provided strong support for our aims and who have demonstrated over the last few months that they understand our needs and share our vision for the next big step in our growth.”

Cllr Stephen Alambritis, leader at Merton Council, said: “We are delighted with the level of interest in the greyhound site and the investment potential for the borough. There is all-party support for AFC Wimbledon’s ambition to return to their roots and come back to Merton. I understand the largest response to the consultation on sites came from supporters of AFC Wimbledon who want a football stadium with community facilities in the borough.

“Not surprisingly, they identified the site of Wimbledon Greyhound stadium as their choice of location. The council will now assess all responses received and work with local residents and landowners, and other interested parties, to find the best solution to continue the sporting legacy on the Wimbledon greyhound site.”

The AFC Wimbledon submission is published in full on the AFC Wimbledon website and will shortly be published at Merton Council’s website.

Thanks to Simon Lexton for the image used under CC license.

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