AFC Wimbledon are to begin the new English Football League season at QPR’s stadium as work continues on the construction of their new Plough Lane home ground.
The second-tier League One team will switch to the Championship side’s 18,500-capacity Loftus Road (officially the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium) for at least the first month of the new campaign. With completion still on schedule for October 25, the club is targeting a first match at its new 9,000-capacity home shortly afterwards.
While it is almost certain the football season will begin on September 5 with EFL Trophy games played behind closed doors, the deal between the two clubs does permit Wimbledon to welcome limited capacity crowds if allowed.
Joe Palmer, AFC Wimbledon’s chief executive, said: “We’re very grateful to QPR for giving us the opportunity to share their ground for the start of the season and also to the EFL for their understanding during this difficult period.”
AFC Wimbledon has played at Cherry Red Records Stadium 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 new £30m stadium had been targeted to open ahead of the 2020-21 season, but construction and financing issues led to its debut being pushed back. 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.
Looking ahead to the upcoming move, Palmer said: “The construction works are proceeding well, but with the uncertainty of the Covid situation, we wanted to give ourselves some more breathing space to complete the works and required test events before playing our first match at Plough Lane.
“It’s going to be an incredible moment in the club’s history and we wanted to make sure that we’re further down the road than where we would have been for the start of the season, to ensure it matches the occasion.”
The new 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.
Images: AFC Wimbledon