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.