As one of our songs goes;
“The Wombles had a dream,
To watch our football team.
Back at Plough Lane, where we belong,
The journeys been long.
And the F.A. were wrong,
Were AFC Wimbledon,
And we have come home.”
Following the publication of the Taylor Report in 1990, which introduced new safety measures for football stadia including the regulation that the stadia of teams at the highest level be made all-seater by August 1994, the board of the club decided that Plough Lane could not be economically redeveloped to meet the new standards. The work required to modernise Plough Lane would have been difficult and expensive, but not impossible as the board claimed. A supposedly temporary groundshare with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park was announced the same year, to begin from the start of the 1991–92 season. This arrangement was only expected to last for a few seasons, but it would ultimately last for 12 years and would end in a very different fashion to what might have been expected at the outset. Wimbledon’s final first team match at Plough Lane came on 4 May 1991, coincidentally against Crystal Palace. 10,002 spectators saw Crystal Palace beat Wimbledon 3–0, before swarming onto the pitch to bid farewell to the ground.From Wikipedia
Tonight November 3rd 2020 we played our first game back in Plough Lane for almost thirty years
I only ever went to one game at (old) Plough Lane, and I can’t even remember who we played. I had recently moved down from Scotland after getting married and fancied going to watch some football. Vinnie Jones was booked, but that doesn’t really help to pinpoint the game. I then disappeared off to the Solomon Islands and by the time I came back the Dons were playing at Selhurst. It was there that I started supporting them. Mainly because of the 157 bus. It ran from the top of my road to Selhurst.
It has been a long and at times a hard journey. The old Wimbledon FC ground-shared with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park for twelve years, then were franchised to Milton Keynes. The Wimbledon fans decided to start our own club AFC Wimbledon like a phoenix from the ashes of the original club.
Open trials were held on Wimbledon Common, and from that we ended up with a team. We started in the Combined Counties League in 2002, nine years later we were back in the Football League. In 2016 we won promotion to League One. We have stayed there since.
Initially we were tenants at Kingsmeadow, ground-sharing with KIngstonian. We later bought the ground from them. Though many of us have fond memories of our time at Kingsmeadow, It was never really home. When the chance came to go back to Plough Lane the Dons’ Trust grabbed it with both hands.
Our problems were not over. There were delays in planning approval, mainly caused by our current Prime Minister (at the time he was Mayor of London). After it was approved we still had the problem of paying for the place.
We are a fan owned club though, the only sugar-daddies that we have are ourselves. Our crowdfunding/share issue raised about £2.5 million, but that still left us with a shortfall of about £11 million. The Plough Lane Bond was set up, allowing fans to lend to the club over periods of up to 20 years and to name the rate of interest we wanted. In my case I had a lump sum from my pension that was sitting around, safe but earing almost zero interest. I decided that, while the bond wasn’t as secure as the bank, it also wasn’t too risky, and I would get a reasonable return on my money. (I didn’t put all my lump sum in, it isn’t that safe) That and an investment by a local businessman closed the gap to a sum we could afford to borrow at commercial rates. By the way it is still open if anyone would like to earn a bit more interest than your savings account.
We had two more ground-shares to go through. Because the stadium wasn’t ready for the start of the season, we played our first home games at QPR’s Kyian Prince Foundation stadium and we also played Brighton in an EFL Trophy game at Crawley.
That takes us to tonight and our game against Doncaster Rovers at Plough Lane.
Just one big problem. I should have been there in the West Stand – Block 106 – Row J – Seat 28. Instead I watched an entertaining, but ultimately frustrating match in front of my computer. Due to Covid-19 no fans are allowed at the moment. When we will be allowed back is anyone’s guess. I hope we can get back before the end of the season, but I won’t hold my breath.
When we are allowed back that will be the time that it will really feel that we have come home.