By now, you’ll doubtless have heard that AFCW could be buying Kingsmeadow. You won’t need me to go into the details of it, it’s too long and laborious for starters.
As one may reasonably expect, people are salivating openly at the opportunity of buying – nay, owning our own ground. Who cares if it’s Kingsmeadow? After all, we’re nice and cosy there, Ks appreciate us, it’s easyish to get to from SW19, and we can get our own bar receipts as well. Suddenly, getting pissed at Ks could benefit the club in more ways than one. Finally, finally, finally, we have something.
So, what’s SW19’s take on this? Well, if you’re a regular reader since 1999, or you’re a psycho-analyst, or if you simply have the utmost misfortune to know me, you can guarantee that there’s a massive “but” coming from the wastelands of SM4. I should be really, really happy that we can finally get our own ground, but (that word) lo and behold, I’m not. Seriously, I’m not. Let me explain…..
In a nutshell, I consider buying Kingsmeadow no different to WFC buying Selhurst Park. I make no bones in admitting that owning a piece of land in KTwhatever fills me with dread. It’s just deja vu all over again – the very fact that it’s somebody else’s ground we’re buying for a start, taking it over, spending money on seats, licks of paint and whatnot. It doesn’t appeal, and to be totally honest, this could backfire bigtime on us.
So, why my scepticism? I’ll approach this on three fronts : firstly, the business, “proper”, oh-so-formal side. We would need to raise Â£3m at least by 31 December 2003, in truth nearer Â£4m. This on top of the immediate Â£250k that Khosla needs up front. Can it be raised? Maybe, if everyone was to dig deep in their pockets. And will they? Not everyone will, and I will nail my colours firmly to the mast here – I will not put one penny into buying Kingsmeadow. Statement of fact. I believe it’s the wrong move (as you’re probably starting to gather).
Getting Â£4m could I suppose also be raised by share issues, which in itself would cause problems – firstly, I doubt if every AFCW fan would be able to raise the dough by this method. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised to see outside investors wanting a piece of the AFCW pie – not that I personally have a problem with this, providing checks were put in so that we don’t have another Hammam/Koppout sniffing round trying to sell the family silver. However, others may well baulk at somebody else other than “us” getting involved. Isn’t that totally against the whole AFC Wimbledon utopian ideal?
Speaking about the utopian ideal, I suppose I’ll have to state what I actually want. Simply put, I want our own ground in Merton. Yes, it’s idealistic, yes, it may not be “achievable”, yes, I know I ought to be happy about Kingsmeadow, sit down, shut up and eat my samosa. But buying Ks doesn’t feel right. Granted, it’s different to the exact feel I had over T&M, which started off euphorically and ended up as popular as finding Charles Koppel in your bed with a satisfied grin.
But it feels hollow, and this comes onto my second point. Having a slightly romantic view in football these days may be sneered at, or dismissed by those obviously excellent businessmen who run football, but it really is the culture of football. And understanding the culture you’re plying your trade in determines your success or failure : look at a certain club who abandoned us. Ask why the FA Cup even now still brings out people. Ask why the Champions League appears to be the least interesting cup competition going. In football, romanticism sells, just think what moving back to Merton really would do.
What I’m trying to say is, buying Kingsmeadow won’t bring us that rather quaint colonialistic phrase of “closure”. Even if you were to rename Kingsmeadow to Plough Lane, somehow persuaded the Post Office to change the postcode to SW19, it would still not be “ours”. We would, quite frankly, still be looking over our shoulder thinking what might have been if we’d persued Merton. We would definitely get restless at Kingsmeadow, because if we’re being honest, a purchase will mean we’ll be there permanently.
It could be argued that Wimbledon FC in the 1990s never fulfilled its potential because it was at Selhurst Park, in a permanent state of transition. It can certainly be argued that Wimbledon FC benefitted from Plough Lane in the 1980s. I’ve heard comments that we can reach out to the local Kingston community as well as Merton if we were there for a while. Last time I heard a similar comment, the borough in question wasn’t Kingston but Croydon. Didn’t exactly have the desired affect.
Could AFCW genuinely, seriously, flourish if there is still that element of doubt and what could have been? Are we in danger of forgetting just how bad SP got? I would be disappointed if we were to end up at Kingsmeadow for good, and if you’re disappointed in something, you can’t put yourself 100% into that something ever again.
The third reason is that quite simply it gets Merton Council off the hook. We cease to be their problem and that will be the ultimate get-out clause for them. Remember that at the end of the day, it was them who submitted to Hammam and changed the covenant on Plough Lane (coincidentally, is it really true that there’s a similar type covenant on Kingsmeadow?). Had they stood firm, we could still have been at Plough Lane today. We all know that a team called Wimbledon showed NO interest in Merton, despite their lies, but Merton aren’t totally innocent in all of this. Never trust anything related to politics. It always amazes me how fans are quick to distrust Merton Council, which could go to show people’s true feelings on the matter. Still waters run deep.
“So” you may well think “that’s all very well and good but you’re not thinking about the future of the club”. Actually, I am. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have spent the last hour or so writing all this. I will be voting for a groundshare at Ks because it will keep reminding people that we really do need Merton. This whole buy-out thing leaves more questions than answers. Why is raising Â£4m for Kingsmeadow “achievable” yet only a couple of million more isn’t so “achievable” for Merton?
I’ve heard figures of Â£16m bandied about for Merton sites, though I seriously doubt if we’d need to pay that up front, certainly not by 31/12/03. And given the way that we’ve all gone on about Merton, how much more motivated will people be to attempt to raise funds? As stated previously, I refuse point blank to pay even 1p towards buying Ks. But I’ll sure as dammit try and get a couple of grand together for a similar project in Merton. Stubborn? Yeah, probably. Being unrealistic? Maybe. But then if we were collectively not so stubborn and unrealistic, we wouldn’t have had an AFCW to begin with.
Other bugbears : what about the Stadium Working Group? They say they’ve found three sites in Merton, are their efforts about to be thrown out of the window? If Franchise did the same, you can bet that this site would be accusing them of cynicism and smokescreens. Thankfully, I haven’t accused AFCW of doing the same. Not yet anyway. Once we spend Â£4m, we won’t be able to get it back, especially if land prices plummet (for those who aren’t as paranoid as me and firmly believe that we could sell Kingsmeadow on in the future). Hopefully, the SGM will cover all this.
I have to say, I am fearful of buying Ks, and I honestly believe that we will end up with it. The will is there. All I can say is, I hope everyone knows what they’re doing. I’ve been here before, at least 10 years ago. And I don’t want to come back in 2013 stating “well, you know, we could have gone for Merton after all……..”