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AFC Wimbledon make their first appearance at their new Plough Lane home

AFC Wimbledon make their first appearance at their new Plough Lane home

It's been 32 long, arduous years but AFC Wimbledon have finally returned to their rightful home of Plough Lane. After moving out of their old Plough Lane stadium at the end of the 1990/91 campaign, opting to become tenants at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park in light of the Taylor Report, the Dons' faithful assumed the move was only going to be a temporary one. Few could have predicted that a generation of Dons fans would never see their team play in the Merton area.

Graham Stacey, a current board member of the Dons Trust which currently owns the club, admitted that "playing there is everything" to fans of AFC Wimbledon. Glyn Hodges' men made their first appearance at the new Plough Lane stadium against Doncaster Rovers on 3rd November. It's just 200 yards from the former Plough Lane ground, with the new stadium built on the site of the former Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium.

A "poetic" opportunity to return the club to its roots

The new Plough Lane is built on the site of a forgmer greyhound racing stadium

More than eight years since the club launched an ambitious bid to bring professional football back to Merton and Plough Lane, all of those hopes and dreams have become a reality. Stacey described the club's ability to purchase the Greyhound Stadium as "poetic", giving the club and the fans a chance to "be back where it started".

It seems that the transformation in the club's off-field fortunes is starting have a positive impact on the field too. The Dons found themselves in the top half of the table with 13 points from their opening ten fixtures, shrugging off the pre-season predictions of leading football tipsters like Tom Love, who predicted a 23rd place finish for the Dons' 2020/21 League One campaign.

All you need to know about the new Plough Lane stadium

In January 2020, the prospect of the Dons playing in their new Plough Lane home still seemed somewhat distant after the club confirmed it was still £11m short to finalise the construction. The AFC Wimbledon faithful once again dipped their hands into their collective pockets, raising more than £5 million with the Plough Lane Bond. Local entrepreneur Nick Robertson also contributed heavily, becoming a minority shareholder at the club after helping the club to seal the last contract in May.

The decision was taken to launch the first phase of the new Plough Lane stadium with a capacity of 9,300. Of course, there is no sign of even this modest capacity being met in the near future in the current climate, but it seems a sensible move to start with a sustainable size stadium with the flexibility to expand and improve the facilities as the team grows. Some of the stands, such as the South Stand, have been able to take shape very quickly due to their semi-permanent structure.

In terms of the new stadium's visual appeal, three sides of the stadium will contain blue seats with yellow seats interspersed to create a speckled aesthetic. The stadium's East Stand contains ‘The Dons' in yellow 3D effect, with its most impressive West Stand looming large on the opposite side of the pitch, containing executive boxes and state-of-the-art lounges and conference facilities. The West Stand will house 800 conferencing and banqueting spaces, which will make the new Plough Lane stadium the largest event space in Merton.

As part of AFC Wimbledon's new era back in Merton, the club is working hard to attract a new demographic of fans to the stadium. Its season ticket pricing was designed to appeal to the next generation of Dons supporters, with season tickets priced at no more than £110 for those aged 17 and under and less than £250 for those aged between 18 and 21.

With barely a dry eye in the house at Plough Lane as Glyn Hodges men kicked off against Doncaster, attentions will soon turn to on-field matters and the club's battle to stay clear of the League One drop zone and maintain third-tier football at Plough Lane for years to come. It may not be the Plough Lane of old, but it's certainly a return to home for the Dons.



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