AFC Wimbledon dream return to Merton gathers momentum

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By Umrish Pandya

AFC Wimbledon’s dream return to the Greater Wimbledon area is gathering momentum as Merton Council welcomed fresh plans to redevelop the Greyhound Stadium.

The Dons had stated their ‘vision’ of transforming Wimbledon’s Greyhound Stadium into a permanent football ground in August.

Now, for the first time, the Greyhound Racing Authority (GRA) has published a proposal which includes plans for a future football stadium to capacitate the dispossessed club.

Neil McCann, 45, an AFC Wimbledon supporter, said: “This is great news for everyone who makes the club what it is.

“We are easily the best supported club in our division and it’s about time we had our own stadium to go with our fans and players.”

The proposals also include leisure facilities, 500 new homes and a “substantial” retail store as well as the focal 15,000 seated football stadium.

The Dons currently reside in Kingston-upon-Thames, sharing a football ground with Kingstonian FC.

However, their ascension into the English Football League has strengthened desires to finally ‘come back home’ to Wimbledon.

Councillor Andrew Judge, of Merton Council, said: “This suggestion by the owners of the Greyhound Stadium site that space could be provided for a football stadium is very positive as it would open up the possibility of AFC Wimbledon returning home to Merton.”

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, leader of Merton Council, also confirmed that ‘there is all party support for AFC Wimbledon’s ambition to return to their roots and come back to Merton’.

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AFC Wimbledon has had a remarkable ten year history since it formed from the ashes of Wimbledon FC and the notorious ‘Crazy Gang’.

Now the fan-owned club will work closely with the GRA and other interested parties in the development scheme over the coming months.

Speaking in August, Erick Samuelson, Chief Executive of AFC Wimbledon, said: “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.”

The GRA’s proposals stress the importance of maintaining the sporting legacy of the site by including community benefits such as coaching courses to promote sport among young people.

For Dons fans however, the homecoming they have long been dreaming of has all but nearly come true.

Mr McCann added: “It would mean so much to the fans if we could move back to Wimbledon with a permanent home. We deserve it.”

View details of The Greyhound Racing Authority’s plans:  www.merton.gov.uk/sites_policies_stage2a

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