Tuesday 25 March 2003
Dons Trust Members Vote To Make Kingsmeadow The Home Of AFC Wimbledon
Members of the Dons Trust, owners of AFC Wimbledon, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the purchase of Kingsmeadow Stadium at a special general meeting (SGM) held at the Wimbledon Theatre last night (24 March). 1,000 members turned up to the SGM to have their say in the immediate future of the club.
The Dons Trust Board will aim to exchange contracts once they are confident of the financial and legal implications of the purchase of the long leasehold interest in Kingsmeadow, the ground AFC Wimbledon currently share with Kingstonian FC. Voting for the purchase of Kingsmeadow means that the fans of AFC Wimbledon, who consider themselves the rightful inheritors of the history of football in Wimbledon, will have a ground of their own enabling the club to progress at least as far as the Nationwide Conference. The Dons Trust members last night made it clear that if the deal is done, the right of Kingstonian FC to play at Kingsmeadow would be protected.
Members were asked to consider three options ? a new groundshare agreement at Imperial Fields, home of Tooting & Mitcham United, a renegotiated groundshare at Kingsmeadow or the purchase of the long leasehold interest in Kingsmeadow.
The Dons Trust Finance Working Group conducted a lot of research into the financial viability of purchasing Kingsmeadow and presented their initial recommendations to the members on how best they could raise the anticipated £3 million to purchase the stadium ? the recommendations being share issues and donations. Research among AFC fans has indicated a huge proportion of the monies required can be raised by an investment with a return. Fans from Premier League and Nationwide League teams helped in the research and the results demonstrated a strong indication that they would also help contribute to the purchase of a stadium for AFC Wimbledon if it meant protecting the fabric of the sport and demonstrating their resistance to franchising in football.
To qualify for promotion to the Ryman League from the Seagrave Haulage Football League, AFC Wimbledon requires at least a three-year ground agreement. As the deadline for having such an agreement in place was 31 January, the club renegotiated the groundshare agreement at Kingsmeadow and, with Brentford having an option to play at the ground next season, explored other options, which resulted in a groundshare agreement with Tooting & Mitcham United. At a planning committee meeting of Merton Council on Thursday 13 March, permission was denied for AFC Wimbledon to play at Imperial Fields. Since the signing of these agreements, The Dons Trust and AFC Wimbledon were also offered the opportunity to purchase the long leasehold interest in Kingsmeadow.
Louise Carton-Kelly, Chair of the Dons Trust, said:
"The commitment from the Dons Trust members last night epitomised all the ideals of the Trust; the members involved in lively and interesting debate and making clear decisions for the future of their own football club. I am delighted that the Kingstonian fans are in the process of setting up a supporters trust with guidance from Supporters Direct. We at The Dons Trust look forward to working together with them to create a secure future for football in South West London."
Kris Stewart, AFC Wimbledon Chairman said:
"Last night?s vote marked the beginning of a massive task for all Dons Trust members and Wimbledon fans. Having decided to grab this fantastic opportunity with both hands, we all need now to work exceptionally hard to ensure that we raise the funds we need as soon as possible. Having a secure home will be of enormous benefit to AFC Wimbledon and supporters can rest assured that such a home will be protected by The Dons Trust."