Kingsmeadow, Our Home

It looks like my club, Kingstonian, are preparing to leave the ground that we built, Kingsmeadow. Even during the very darkest days of the last twelve years, I never truly believed it would come to this, not out of naivety or miguided optimism, but because there seemed no logical way that we’d ever find ourselves in this terrible position.

For Kingstonian, moving away from our home makes little sense. There’s a covenant protecting the ground for use by the senior club in the borough – us, when Wimbledon have gone home. It’s an excellent football ground, a stadium that sounds like thunder when people sing in it, somewhere that can be genuinely intimidating and a real home fortress. And with Wimbledon gone, I’m sure we could make it our actual home again: our own, welcoming, decently priced tea bar; use of the Kingston Road turnstiles; the seats out of the Kingston Road End and a return to terracing; paint the place red and white all over again; insist on our own Bar Manager and make it a great place to drink again. And to put it simply, now that Richmond Road is a petrol station, it’s our home.

Furthermore, I’ve always assumed that buying a new piece of land in Kingston – a town where land is exorbitantly expensive – and then building a new stadium would surely cost more than buying back Kingsmeadow. The very idea always seemed to me to be a complete impossibility.

As for Wimbledon, I never believed they’d actually throw us out. Of course, any Kingstonian fan will tell you that Wimbledon are nowhere near as morally pure as their popular image: after all, they bought Kingsmeadow in the first place, thereby rewarding Khosla for asset-stripping our club with a prize of several million pounds. Although any club in their position would have done the same, it was still a morally reprehensible course of action, removing any sense of Wimbledon inhabiting a higher moral ground than other clubs. However, I – and most other K’s fans – still believed that Wimbledon were a little bit different from any other club because of their unique history. We thought: there’s no way that Wimbledon would kill another club to make a profit, because that would make them as bad as the MK Dons they detest so much. Surely when it actually came to the crunch, something would be sorted out enabling K’s to stay at Kingsmeadow?

But Wimbledon are planning to throw us out. They can spin it any way they want – in the same way they have spun buying Kingsmeadow in the first place into ‘saving Kingstonian from extinction’, in the same way you could argue that the meteor that killed all the dinosaurs and 90% of life on earth could have been said to have ‘saved a few small mammals from extinction’ – but they are throwing us out. If you enter negotiations to sell our ground, our home, to a club, Chelsea, for whom a few million quid is spare change, you’re not giving us a chance to buy the ground back.

When the story broke of Chelsea buying Kingsmeadow, I was devastated. This killed my pipe dream of K’s entering into some sort of agreement to buy back the ground – perhaps not in one big payment, but as a sort-of mortgage over many years, giving Wimbledon a decent income, and our club a chance to raise the necessary funds. But there’s been no confirmation, beyond speculation, of what Chelsea buying the ground would actually entail. Would Chelsea object to entering into a partnership with K’s, where we tended for the ground, made it our home again, and we got the bar and food receipts from our home games? Would they mind if we wanted to convert the Kingston Road End to terracing? We don’t know, and I really don’t think our board know the answers to those questions either. My gut feeling is that Chelsea wouldn’t want us around, or would make life extremely difficult for us at any rate: their development teams play on Saturday afternoons, for starters, and I can’t think they’d want the facilities to be Kingstonian’s, having spent so much on the ground. Having said that, it’s entirely possible that we could negotiate a deal with Chelsea to stay and prosper at Kingsmeadow. At this point we don’t know either way.

As such, the co-chairman’s statement – please click here to read it if you haven’t already – is, to put it politely, badly misjudged. It removes any obligation – an entirely justified moral obligation – on Wimbledon to do the right thing and to look after Kingstonian. Last night, following the Wimbledon v Liverpool game on Twitter, your average football fan discussing the issue tended to say something glib like “the ground’s too big for Kingstonian so they’re moving out” when defending Wimbledon’s sale of the ground. We’ve made it look like we actually want to leave, when the opposite it true. We’ve been bullied out of our ground, and instead of complaining loudly about it, or fighting back, we’re still sucking up to the bully in the hope he’ll pick on one of the other kids and let us go with him to the cool party on Friday night. Whatever the content of the message, its tone is pathetic.

All three of the co-chairmen are good men who have the best interests of Kingstonian at heart. I therefore have to trust them when they say that they have a plan, that they have somewhere for K’s to go, that there is a future for my magnificent football club. But short of building a new ground, quickly, somewhere within Kingston (not Chessington, Tolworth, Worcester Park or Colliers Wood, but Kingston-upon-Thames itself) then I cannot possibly see how giving up Kingsmeadow is in the best interests of Kingstonian FC. We are in grave danger of becoming a South London version of Hendon, a once-great non-league club with 200 die-hard fans reduced to roaming as nomads among the local non-league clubs, groundsharing as tenants, dying slowly but surely, and no longer representing our community as we once proudly did. If that’s the plan, you can count me and many others out.

We need to stand up for ourselves and fight, in the same way we fought Khosla. This is a club that has refused to die once. It will refuse to die again, unless we let it.

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16 thoughts on “Kingsmeadow, Our Home

  1. I say speculation is kinda useless unless and until 1) the AFCW purchase of the dog track goes thru (highly unlikely) and 2) the chairmen tell us 2a) what they want to do and 2b) whether they care a shit about what the supporters might think (also unlikely)

    “All three of the co-chairmen are good men who have the best interests of Kingstonian at heart”

    I am sure you are right. I look forward to them proving it.

  2. Speaking as a Chelsea fan, I hope that – if we do buy Kingsmeadow – you win the right to stay. Chelsea always used to have a good relationship with Kingstonian. Can I suggest putting your case to the Chelsea Supporters Association (CSA) and the Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST) – both are on the net and on Twitter? They may be able to put some leverage on the club

  3. Just one point of fact. The covenant, at least when I read it a decade back, references “senior football in the Borough.” It does NOT specify any senior club.
    And one general point. Our board have had detailed discussions, according to their statement. So they’ll have based their opinion of costs on something. Might be worth finding out what that something was. They could be right, after all.

    • The point is that the three co-chairmen have not consulted on what Kingstonian fans actually WANT. I know the minimum that I’d want if we left Kingsmeadow, but does anyone know what the majority of our fanbase thinks?
      They may very well be right that building a ground in an industrial estate in Tolworth is cheaper than buying back the ground. But that, IMO, would be a disaster. If, on the other hand, they have managed to create some sort of deal that is a no-brainer (i.e. a great new ground of our own in Kingston-upon-Thames for an affordable price) then I will be the first to jump for joy and apologise profusely. But even then, that wouldn’t erase the ill-judged nature of the club statement, which removes us from any strong bargaining position we may have had.

  4. My experience of the AFC lot is also one of bewilderment. You hit exactly the right note about their lack of empathy with others after their past.

  5. “you’re not giving us a chance to buy the ground back”

    You’ve had 12 years, mate, how long do you want? Have any proposals been put to Wimbledon over that period? Or now? I may be wrong, but not to my knowledge.

    I think Wimbledon fans do generally feel an obligation to sort Ks out, and any sale would need to be approved by the Trust. Many of us, myself included, would initially have not accepted a deal unless there were provisions made for Ks, but you’re totally right when you say your own owners’ stated desire to leave removes any such obligation. Get your own house in order before criticising others.

    I don’t think us buying another club’s ground was an ideal situation either, but you’ve played there rent-free for a decade, and at the time we were the lower club in the pyramid. I think it has become more difficult for us to say our presence isn’t damaging Ks at all as we’ve leap-frogged you in the league, to be honest, but then we *are* trying to leave as soon as possible. Incidentally, your own former Trust chair brands the anti-Wimbledon sentiment among your fanbase “disgraceful” here: http://twohundredpercent.net/?p=9392

    • A very reasonable comment, I must say. I disagree 100% with Mark Murphy’s article on 200% on this issue. He’s entitled to his view, of course. I don’t think there’s a general anti-Wimbledon sentiment, more a case of us needing to stick up for ourselves now rather than towing the party line.

      • The MM article was broadly what I thought happened can you say more specifically what you disagree with?

      • Entirely my fault – that article is factually correct, although I disagree with Mark’s interpretation of Wimbledon buying the ground.

        The article I disagree with was another one, written later on. Can’t find it now, which makes me seem a bit silly.

  6. Have to say, you’re painting AFC Wimbledon out to be the devil when it actual fact they have a good relationship with Ks, are helping them find a new ground and rumour has it as helping Ks fund a move somewhere too. The fact is, and nobody can argue this, AFCW have been excellent tenants. The question you should be asking is why haven’t Kingstonian saved the money required to buy Kingsmeadow? AFC Wimbledon have always planned to move, it comes as no surprise, so why haven’t funds been put in place to buy back your home? Sadly, the Chelsea option seems like the only realistic opportunity to sell the ground as, bluntly put and sadly, Kingstonian don’t have anywhere near the amount of money needed to buy it back. AFC Wimbledon are no angels, but Kingstonian and those running the club need to take a great deal of responsibility for leaving the club potentially homeless. Of course Chelsea might let you stay, but it’s unlikely in my opinion.

    All the best K’s, I, among with plenty of other football fans (Wimbledon or not) would hate to see the death of you. Hopefully the owners have a plan in place as, like I said above, this should come as no surprise.

    • I don’t disagree with much of what you say there, Nick. I’ve been a long-term advocate of us developing a stadium fund, so that we would look serious at precisely this moment. Sadly those in the powerful positions at the club saw it a different way, and most sadly of all the K’s Trust money was never used for such a purpose, which in my opinion is a ridiculous state of affairs.

  7. In your article you quote: “they bought Kingsmeadow in the first place, thereby rewarding Khosla for asset-stripping our club with a prize of several million pounds. Although any club in their position would have done the same, it was still a morally reprehensible course of action, removing any sense of Wimbledon inhabiting a higher moral ground than other clubs.”

    Are you saying that Khosla should have continued to own the ground then?

    • I can’t say what you should or shouldn’t have done – I’m not in the Dons Trust.

      What I am saying is that by handing a football club asset-stripper a cheque for £2.5m, your club has no claim to any moral high ground. That sounds like an obvious statement, but a large number of your club’s fans still like to inhabit the moral high ground despite it, hence it needs saying.

      I don’t think any of us know what would have happened had you not bought the ground. The ground couldn’t have been made into housing, so has no real inherent value (apart from the bars) unless another football club was willing to buy it. Supply and demand: Khosla owned the only football ground near Wimbledon you could buy, and therefore held you at ransom. The only reason Khosla bought K’s in the first place was that he saw you lot coming.

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