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AFC Wimbledon sets date for first match at new stadium

AFC Wimbledon’s first match at its new Plough Lane stadium will be against Doncaster Rovers on November 3, the League One club has confirmed today (Tuesday).

AFC Wimbledon is currently playing home matches at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, home of Championship club Queens Park Rangers, while work is finished up at its new 9,000-capacity home.

In a statement released today, AFC Wimbledon chief executive Joe Palmer said that the club’s home match against Blackpool on October 27 is likely to be its last at QPR’s stadium, with the Doncaster match the following week pencilled in as Plough Lane’s opening fixture.

The new stadium is set to be “largely completed” by October 25. Before then, the stadium’s electricity will be connected and the floodlights erected, with a test event for a behind-closed-doors match also planned.

“The test event will include a dry run of a behind-closed-doors match during the week following completion, when we will have all our essential backroom staff at the ground and the team will arrive as if it is getting ready to play a game,” Palmer said. “If that all goes smoothly, then we hope to be issued our final safety certificates to stage matches behind closed doors.”

Palmer said that the club is not expected to receive a formal handover from construction contractors Buckingham until early December as there are some elements that still require completion, including the installation of rail seating, the construction of the perimeter wall behind the east and north stands, and the installation of a new five-a-side pitch in the north-west corner of the ground.

Although fans will not be in the ground for AFC Wimbledon’s opening fixture at Plough Lane, Palmer is hopeful that supporters will be allowed back in stadiums in the not too distant future.

“Pressure is being continuously applied on behalf of Football League and National League clubs, with local MPs up and down the country lobbying the government to ease COVID regulations,” he said.

“While everyone’s number one priority is safety, there is a powerful argument for a more pragmatic approach to live, open-air sport – and a real push to see fans back before Christmas. I cannot predict whether this will succeed but I will absolutely keep you updated should there be any changes or developments.”

AFC Wimbledon played at Kingsmeadow since the club was formed by supporters of the former Wimbledon FC in 2002. The fans acted following Wimbledon FC’s controversial move to Milton Keynes and subsequent rebranding as MK Dons.

Wimbledon FC played at the now-demolished Plough Lane for a number of years and the new stadium has been built on the site of the former ground.

The new stadium, which has been designed by KSS Group, could be expanded to 20,000 by filling in all four corners to create a continuous bowl.

Image: AFC Wimbledon