Work on at ‘The Dons’ new residence


AFC Wimbledon update April 2020 Image: AFC Wimbledon

Work continues to be on at the Plough Lane Stadium site – all set to be the future home of AFC Wimbledon later this year. The progress is good with the pitch continuing to be laid, the roof is on (apart from a couple of final panels) and the ground floor has now been cladded.

New Plough Lane is a stadium in Wimbledon, southwest London, which is presently under construction as of March 2020. Once built, it will be the residence of AFC Wimbledon. The club has purchased and cleared the site of the former Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium in anticipation of construction.

AFC Wimbledon is an English professional football club, currently based in Kingston upon Thames, south west London, which has played in League One, the third tier of the English football league system, since winning promotion in 2016.

Joe Palmer, Chief Executive of AFC Wimbledon, said in a club statement, “Naturally, many of you want to know what is happening with the new stadium build – and when we will finally be able to move into Plough Lane. The new challenge we face as a nation in coping with COVID-19 means this is more difficult to definitively answer. As it stands, construction work has still been progressing on our new home, following Government guidance relating to the wider importance of continuing construction works, if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible. Needless to say, we have identified several options to meet various outcomes and will be able to update you at such time that the future becomes clearer.”

Palmer’s statement further read, “The roof covering is completed and cladding has been completed for the ground floor. The pitch foundations are well in place and should be fully ready by July, as planned. The workflow, however, has understandably slowed for a number of reasons.”

His statement added, “Firstly, the guidelines for social distancing in the workplace, which is being strictly adhered to, mean fewer operators are on site working on particular tasks. Secondly, our constructors, the Buckingham Group, rely heavily on sub-contractors and the supply of crucial building materials and these have been heavily impacted as they slow down themselves.”

Palmer’s statement further added, “In terms of financing the finished stadium build, whilst this remains challenging, we are in advanced discussions with a lender and will provide a separate update in the near future. Our completion date has been revised to accommodate these factors and we are now looking at October 23 – which was our original completion date. I say ‘looking at’ because I’m simply not in a position to give guarantees while so much remains unknown and that means of course, that this date could yet further change.”

Palmer further informed through the statement, “This brings me to the club’s current financial strategy. From the beginning of April, and in line with other Football League clubs, most of our non-playing staff was furloughed under the Government’s COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme. We have now reduced staffing down to a minimal working group, enough to give us the essential cover we need to keep the club ticking over. One of the key discussions amongst English Football League (EFL) clubs has been in relation to furloughing players, with several clubs having done so already. We have taken the approach of most league clubs and are approaching negotiations with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) on this matter as a collective group, with the aim of better securing some additional solutions to player finances. However, the feedback is that there are no issues in relation to furloughing players and we will likely move forward with this soon.”

The London-headquartered KSS Design Group – which specializes in architecture, interior design, branding and graphics – is the architect behind the New Plough Lane Stadium.

Nick Marshall, Director, KSS, stated, “The football might not be coming home for a few months, but KSS Design Group is really proud to have supported Buckingham Group Contracting Limited with the full redesign and delivery of this landmark project for ‘The Dons’. We look forward to completing the project soon and hope that we have given the club, trust and fans something to be proud of.”

KSS is a member of Coliseum, Global Sports Venue Alliance, and a sponsor of the European edition of Coliseum Summit to be held on September 2-3, 2020, at Ascot Racecourse in UK.

AFC Wimbledon plans

Meanwhile, the Football League has written to every club asserting it is determined to complete the season, even if that means games being played throughout June, July and possibly beyond. Should this be the scenario, Chelsea (Chelsea Women play their home matches in Kingsmeadow) has agreed in principle to let the club play its remaining fixtures of the 2019-20 seasons at Kingsmeadow (where AFC Wimbledon currently plays). Should fans be allowed to attend – and, of course, which everybody desires – then current season tickets will still be valid. If the matches have to be played behind closed doors, the current proposal from the League is to ensure all matches are streamed live for fans to watch from their homes.

A statement on the club website mentioned that the League estimates they will need a period of 56 days to complete the season and is advising that the recommencement of training sessions should not commence until May 16th “at the earliest”. Clearly, this date may well be pushed back, depending on how the UK responds to the current epidemic. On the playing side, the individual player contracts usually expire on June 30 this year. Whilst discussions are still taking place with the various footballing stakeholders, it looks that in principle clubs will be able to extend those contracts on the same terms until the finalization of the season, but will still await further approval.

Coronavirus count

The United Kingdom (UK) is also fighting a hard battle against coronavirus with cases to date standing at 124,743 and total deaths – 16,509.

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