K’s Left Homeless as Expected Kingsmeadow Sale Goes Through

Ryman League Premier Division side Kingstonian have finally received the news they have feared for a while now; AFC Wimbledon have agreed a £2milliom deal to sell ‘their’ Kingsmeadow ground to Premier League giants Chelsea. The Blues intend to use the ground for all their matches involving all but the senior men’s team.

AFC Wimbledon bought the lease to Kingsmeadow – the land on which it is built is owned by Kingston Borough Council – in 2003. Now they will make a substantial amount of the revenue they need in order to achieve their dream of returning to their home borough of Merton.

While it’s great for the Dons and all associated with them, it does leave Kingstonian in a very sticky situation. They will basically be homeless, as Chelsea have made it abundantly clear that they will not be offered a tenancy at the ground. This leaves K’s with no other option than to look for a groundshare arrangement whilst they try and find a permanent solution. There are a couple of obvious options; Hampton & Richmond Borough’s Beveree Stadium is just four miles away from Kingsmeadow, or perhaps King George’s Field, home of Corinthian Casuals. The latter would presumably be the more favourable to the club’s fans, as a move to Hampton would be a move out of their home borough. However, beggars cannot be choosers, and they may have to take what they can get.

This whole deal really leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. While I know that technically AFC Wimbledon have done nothing wrong; after all, they own the lease on the ground so it’s theirs to do with as they wish. However, I can’t help feeling that they have screwed over Kingstonian somewhat. I know that’s irrational, especially when you consider that the 2003 deal helped keep Kingstonian alive when they were in serious financial trouble.

That deal all those years ago did include certain caveats, some of which have been adhered to, some of which haven’t. One such stipulation was that Kingstonian would host a friendly against the AFC first team, keeping all proceeds which would go a long way to paying the favourable rent originally agreed as part of the lease. However, this hasn’t happened since 2008. The lease was for twenty five years – and renewable – but is something which is quite clearly going to be ignored.

And it’s not just the lease that is the problem here. According to the Wikipedia page for Kingsmeadow, while the freehold is held by the council, the leasehold safeguards the ground as a home to the borough’s football club. Obviously, Chelsea’s expensive legal team have managed to find a loophole in that particular statute, maybe the fact that it is AFC Wimbledon who hold the lease, and Kingstonian the tenants. The Dons will reportedly give K’s £1million in compensation, which will provide a decent basis upon which to raise funds for a future home.

Perhaps the biggest culprits in this whole mess are not AFC Wimbledon, or even Chelsea, even though they are both showing complete disregard for Kingstonian here. Maybe Kingstonian themselves have contributed to their own downfall. After all, they must have known that Wimbledon would want to return to Merton at some point in the future, so surely they should have negotiated some sort of protection back in 2003?

Maybe they assumed the council would back them up should such a situation arise. Maybe they didn’t expect any potential move for Wimbledon to happen so soon. Presumably they didn’t envisage the surge of popularity of youth and women’s football, and therefore never foresaw Chelsea wanting their ground. I mean, did anybody see it coming?

It’s a horrible position that Kingstonian Football Club find themselves in, and I genuinely hope – even as a Hampton fan myself – that they can sort out a temporary home soon, and a permanent base as soon as possible. I would certainly be proud if my club stepped up and offered them a home, even if it would mean them moving from Surrey to Middlesex.

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About James Bartaby

Hey, I'm James and I'm relatively new to non-league football, having only taken in my first match in September 2011. Despite it being a 0-4 defeat for Hampton & Richmond Borough, I became a huge fan of the club and NL in general. So much so that they are now the first club that I mention when talking about which team I support! I just got massively disillusioned with top flight football in this country and the attitudes of the lawmakers and top clubs in general, and I wanted to start taking my son to see decent football. I am now the club's Deputy Press Officer, and loving every minute!

Posted on November 20, 2015, in Opinion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The friendly was stopped because Ks were allowed to stay rent-free by other means. They’ve effectively been rent-free the entire time Wimbledon has owned Kingsmeadow, and able to take income from their games and the bars during their games. And if you know it’s irrational to have a go at Wimbledon, then why do it? Rent-free, major compensation from the ground sale – what more do some people want? Are Wimbledon supposed to sacrifice our own future for Ks, even though that might actually be bad for both clubs in the long term? (Ks don’t really want to groundshare with us or anyone, never have, and understandably so.) The usual suspects are using this as a stick to beat Wimbledon with, but it really isn’t justified, as you seem to know but can’t properly bring yourself to say.

  2. It’s also worth making the point that the escape clause in the contract that has allowed Wimbledon to sell the ground before the end of their tenancy was something insisted on by K’s when their initial deal was agreed for them to groundshare.

    It was clearly their intention not to be tied into a long term deal as being a junior tenant at a ground which is too big for your club is not conducive to success. Now that this has come about they will have the funds to do something about it.

    Whilst I can agree that superficially the ‘Wimbledon leave club homeless’ story is somewhat ironic, it’s a bit rich now to blame them for doing something that neither club is against & without which they could not possible hope to fund their return to Merton.

  3. Speaking as a Wimbledon fan you say some good things and some not so good things. Firstly, you say Ks are being made homeless and will now have to look for a groundshare. They’ve already been groundsharing, as you also mentioned so it doesn’t make sense.

    About the 25 year lease, their chairman explained it has a break clause which is “standard business practice”. He seems to claim it was a good thing for Ks, but who knows.

    Favourite part is mentioning the 7 figure sum being paid at the end of one paragraph followed by saying we’ve shown “complete disregard”. Contradicting yourself massively.

    Everyone involved with Ks have known for years this would happen, it’s not a massive secret or surprise that it’s happening. Maybe not necessarily Chelsea, but there was no way we would stay at Kingsmeadow for much longer than we have meaning the deal in place for them was not permanent by any means.

    But I will also say it’s not “Kingstonian’s” fault at all. Previous owners definitely, current owners partly, but players and fans definitely not. You can’t put fault on an entire club for being in a bad situation, a lot of which has been out of their control. And while you’ve partly alluded to it, nobody has slammed Chelsea in the same way people have (incorrectly) criticised Wimbledon. We bought the lease and rightly let Ks stay in their ground, now Chelsea are buying it, aren’t letting Ks stay, but it’s Wimbledon’s fault. Even a lot of Ks fans who don’t like us are blaming this more on Chelsea which speaks volumes.

  4. One other point – Kingsmeadow, as it was in 2002 when Wimbledon moved in, was already unsustainable for Kingstonian. Wimbledon have made improvements to bring it up to FL standard again, yes, but Kingsmeadow was too big for Ks in 2002 as well. Basically, all we’ve done is postpone Ks having to face the situation for more than 10 years AND provided them with a big cash boost to help out. Saints? No. But not villains either.

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