Thursday night’s decision by Merton Council to approve AFC Wimbledon’s plans for a new stadium on Plough Lane increases the prospect of their current tenants, Kingstonian FC, having to move out of the Borough of Kingston completely.
Indeed it is not so fanciful to say that it also raises questions if the club could even survive having to ground share at either King George’s Field, Tolworth – Corinthian Casuals’ ground – or at Beveree, home of Hampton & Richmond Borough, some 4 miles distant.
And what has brought about this almost apocalyptic state of affairs?
Wimbledon aren’t to blame, its always been known they want to move back to where they started, which is where every club should be. Can’t fault them for that. What is the issue is to who wants to buy the leasehold to Kingsmeadow from them, their current home.
Premier League club Chelsea have been in discussions with AFC Wimbledon over buying the lease for at least a year and using it for their successful Ladies team matches and also presumably their Development Squad and Academy as well.
The rumour is Chelsea do not want to share with anyone and this puts Kingstonian in a real bind. They do not have money to develop another ground, even if there was space in the Borough, and are not really likely to be able to do. Kingston Council haven’t the money or land to develop a second ground for K’s and public opinion is fickle in this regard.
As part of the deal, the Dons are likely to give K’s money to help in this, but it would be insufficient for even the land, should there even be some available.
However, if a ground share is necessary, then King George’s Field is unlikely to have the step 3 ground-grading needed for the Ryman Premier League without some work (although this might be something the council could help with), leaving the quickest option to be a move back to Beveree, where the club ground-shared with the Beavers in the 90’s whilst Kingsmeadow was being developed. Not an ideal solution for either club.
So we end with Chelsea. A large, externally funded, multi-billion pounds club, wanting a place for their Ladies team and being big enough and selfish enough to arrogantly get what they want. No thought for the grass-roots club they are going to probably consign to a bleak future, away from their home and fans. Its not as if the Ladies don’t have a place to play, as they currently use Wheatsheaf Park, Staines, to play matches.
Its obvious Chelsea will get what they’re wanting and in the current climate of ‘Working in the Community’, they’re managing to kick one community in the unmentionables for the sake of teams that their average glory-hunting supporter has little to do with or care about.
Chelsea will probably think about installing a 4G pitch, making it accessible all the time. The Ladies play on Sundays, the Academy and Development teams will play during the week leaving Saturday vacant in all likelihood. So why couldn’t K’s be allowed to continue using the arena, as a gesture of goodwill?
Oh I forget, Chelsea haven’t been much for gestures of goodwill, have they? Excepting the first team’s shocking defending…
But I digress.
I feel for Kingstonian. I wouldn’t want them to go out of the Borough that their home and if they ultimately, down the road, go out of business because of this, this would be a shrieking sin. As a Hampton supporter, I know there’s been some grand tussles between the clubs and I hope they continue as every club needs a local rival.
The Premier League? You can stuff that where the sun don’t shine.