AFC Wimbledon have been granted permission to return to Plough Lane in a landmark decision by the local council.
The area was the home of Wimbledon FC until 1991 when the Taylor Report demanded all-seater stadiums for top-flight clubs, a decision which led to a groundshare with Crystal Palace and triggered a long-winded demise for the South West club who were relegated from the FA Premier League in 2001. After drawn out consultations to move the club back home the decision was made to move the club 90 km north and rebrand MK Dons, who compete in the Championship today.
Last night Merton Council Planning Committee’s decision to approve plans for a 20,000-seater stadium in the borough was greeted by chants of “Dons are coming home” at Wimbledon station and a big banner hanging from top of Centre Court shopping centre!
AFC Wimbledon’s stadium plan is for a 20,000-seater stadium with an initial capacity of 11,000. The plans also include the provision to build 602 residential units, along with retail and commercial space and a leisure club.
AFC Wimbledon chief executive Erik Samuelson believes it is one of the most significant moments in their history.
‘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.
‘We have never lost sight of that and so we have focused the majority of our community works on Merton because this is our home and we are delighted that we have been granted planning approval to return to Wimbledon.’