English League One football club AFC Wimbledon has called a special meeting next month after admitting that it may have to shift from its fan-owned structure if it is to fully complete its new stadium.
The Dons Trust Board holds a 75% stake in the club and is set to meet on December 9 to discuss its options after stating a further £11m (€12.9m/$14.2m) is needed for the stadium project by January. A club statement read: “As most of you have seen, our stadium is already taking shape. While we are totally committed to completing the project, we are also about to reach a point of no return.
“Our constructors need a financial commitment from us by January to enable them to complete the final phases and instruct their own sub-contractors. As it stands at the moment, we are unable to make that commitment.
“Because of unforeseen planning delays and increased building costs, we will need to raise a further £11m to complete the stadium as we all want it to be, with income-generating conference and banqueting facilities, an additional 5000 covered seats through semi-permanent stands and a showpiece fans’ zone, etc.”
AFC Wimbledon has played at Kingsmeadow in Kingston upon Thames since the club was formed by supporters of Wimbledon FC in 2002. The fans acted following Wimbledon FC’s controversial move to Milton Keynes, where it was subsequently renamed MK Dons.
The planned new £30m stadium is targeted to open ahead of the 2020-21 season. AFC Wimbledon is seeking to return to Plough Lane in south-west London, about 250 yards from where the club’s original incarnation played until 1991.
The initial capacity will be 9,000, but the stadium could be expanded to 20,000 by filling in all four corners to create a continuous bowl. The stadium has been designed by KSS Group with Buckingham Group Contracting responsible for the construction.
AFC Wimbledon has spelled out three main options to ensure the stadium work continues, including the potentially controversial prospect of bringing in private investors, reducing the Dons Trust’s stake in the club.
AFC Wimbledon in June launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the increased costs of its new stadium, stating that it hoped to raise £13m. Detailing its options moving forward, the club said: “Do we try to borrow all of the money that we need – either on a short or long-term basis? If we take this route, we almost certainly face very high repayments which will leave us with a playing budget barely capable of surviving in League Two. There are some sustainable loan options, but we are not guaranteed to get one, nor may we be able to borrow that much money anyway.
“Do we simply build what we can afford – the main West Stand and abandon the other three for now? Even if we did this, the main stand would be a basic shell, without any of the new revenue streams such as conference and banqueting, club shop or hospitality facilities that we badly need to bolster our playing budget. We could add these facilities in the future – if we can get the money and if the level of football we are competing in at the time will sustain them.
“Do we accept offers of investment from some private investors, who we got to know during our crowdfunding campaign? This would give us the majority of the money we need to build the stadium we all want – and leave us with a realistic playing budget to compete in League One on top.
“While these investors universally agree the Dons Trust must retain 100% control over our ‘crown jewels’ – i.e. any future decisions to relocate or rename our club and most importantly that the Dons Trust would have veto over any sale of the land, ground or stadium – they would also expect a substantial say in how our business is run. Ultimately, that would entail the Dons Trust owning a smaller stake in the club and having a more independent board with both investor and Dons Trust representation.”
Image: Galliard Homes