Plough Lane sporting usage

Here is an updated version of an email sent to members on Saturday. Early indications from the temperature test suggest members are broadly positive about discussions continuing with London Broncos ­– but there have been many questions and concerns, too. We can confirm that more detail will be shared shortly, and the potential deal will be discussed at the AGM on December 17. Crucially, we can also confirm that there will be a formal vote should the deal progress and before any decision is taken.

 

Plough Lane sporting usage: have your say.

As Plough Lane nears completion, AFC Wimbledon CEO Joe Palmer sets out some opportunities and now the Dons Trust want your views.

“Through the build process, the club have been approached by several sporting teams about the potential to use Plough Lane as a stadium on a ground share arrangement. We have always kept an open dialogue with these clubs, while making it clear that we would require agreement from the Dons Trust membership to proceed with any proposal.

“We have now reached a point in discussions where we want to ask for your thoughts.

“We have an offer on the table from the London Broncos Rugby League team which, from a purely financial point of view, would mean increased long-term financial security for us and the ability to service our debt whilst also supporting the playing squad budget.

“I’m conscious we keep asking our fans to support the club financially – and am always immensely grateful for the support you offer – but our longer-term aim as a club has to be to become more self-sustaining. As such we are looking to maximise revenue in and around the stadium, and this will undoubtedly help significantly.

“I also realise however that for nearly 30 years our fans have been waiting for our own stadium in Merton that would be home to us, and us alone. Our stadium displaying our history and our branding is important to all of us.

“It is therefore important to us to gauge your views, and we are conducting a simple ‘temperature test’ to guide us before we proceed or reject the offer.”

In the event that the temperature test indicates that members would like us to proceed with discussions, there will be a formal vote before any decision is made.

 

The club have prepared a short Q&A below.

Q: How much is the potential deal worth to the club?

A: We cannot give exact figures but the increased profit to us would greatly strengthen the financial position of the club, enable us to meet bond repayments easier and put us in a better position when seeking to refinance the bridging loan.

Q: How long would the deal be for?

A: The current contract on the table would be for ten years with a break clause earlier on in the term for either party.

Q: I thought other sports were not allowed to be played at Plough Lane?

A: The club and Trust have always taken the view that we wanted the stadium to have the potential for multi-use and as a result the stadium has been future proofed for hosting additional sports like rugby. Some sports will require additional planning changes and regardless of whether this specific deal is agreed, we would be looking to undertake a planning permission change so at the very least we could host one-off events.

Q: When would the London Broncos look to start at Plough Lane?

A: They would look to start playing at Plough Lane in time for the 21/22 season. The rugby league season runs mainly throughout the summer and the 21/22 season is due to run from March until October.

Q: I’m worried about our beautiful pitch being destroyed and would hate to see rugby markings on it…

A: While there will undoubtedly be more demands on the pitch, we have spoken to our head groundsman who assures us that as a hybrid pitch, it will be more than capable of standing up to extra rugby league games. Rugby league pitches take a lot less damage than rugby union pitches. With regards to the visible line markings, there are modern solutions that now mean any rugby markings will be temporary and not visible during our home games.

Q: What impact would this have on other AFC Wimbledon teams such as the ladies or youth teams playing at Plough Lane?

A: Whilst we are still in discussion as how to best maximise usage of Plough Lane for all our teams, as rugby league is mainly a summer sport, we do not foresee any issues.

Q: Would we make any alterations at Plough Lane to support rugby league?

A: Not really, Plough Lane was designed to accommodate other sports. Our dressing rooms are larger than required for football and were built with future proofing for other sporting uses in mind. There may be a need to upgrade the floodlights to meet rugby league requirements.

Q: As a debenture holder, would my seat be guaranteed for London Broncos matches?

A: We are still only at a discussion stage with the London Broncos and if any kind of agreement were to be reached, debenture holders would get priority ahead of other club ticket holders for any potential opportunities (this would not guarantee your current debenture seat).

Q: I don’t want Plough Lane to be plastered in London Broncos advertising and branding…

A: The joy of Plough Lane is that our advertising hoardings and scoreboard will be electronic and therefore can be altered on a match-by-match basis. When sharing with Chelsea Ladies at Kingsmeadow we used a series of displays where images could be swapped in and out depending on who played there. A similar system would be used at Plough Lane. There would however be some things on permanent display.

Q: Who would own Plough Lane?

A: Plough Lane would still be solely owned by AFC Wimbledon

16 comments

  1. Having considered all the factors and that this deal is only a maximum of 10 years I think it is a no brainer.
    The club has to have financial stability and this deal appears to supply it. It is still our stadium just regular visitor for a period.

  2. I’m all for it, anything that helps the club financially and secures our future is good, let alone we have the shares debt to payback eventually.

  3. It makes sense to maximise the revenue from our assets. A football stadium that only hosts a revenue generating event once a fortnight is a financial burden, but one that is used double amount then generates revenue to be spent on the squad. In my opinion critics are possibly looking a gift horse in the mouth, it’s a win win.

  4. It is welcome there is to be a vote, my frustration is why did the DT sign off the statement implying there might not be? Also if we have been having these discussions for a while why could we not have had some genuine consultation on the principle? I appreciate commercial confidentiality but more transparency needed on value and on signage, personally I do not think we did not notice Chelseafication of KM in later years so be open mock it up show us what it might look like. If we can get a deal that helps our viability and protects supporter ownership and members vote for it I am all for it but please please can we learn from this and events of last year

    • Hi Sean,
      Personally, I would rather the initial statement had stated that a formal vote would happen – it was always the intention. I can give you my word people on the board would never have let this deal proceed without a formal vote.
      However, what I would clarify is that the deal wasn’t in the table two weeks ago. What the DTB did do was attempt to get as much info out as fast as possible. I hope you can tune in to tonight’s AGM as we expect to be able to share much more detail. GS

  5. Very positive about this. Revenue is needed and it will be great to support and help another organisation.

  6. The 2 main concerns from me are what it does to the pitch, which has been addressed, and finance, given their nomadic history and the fact they struggle to maintain a top league status, I hope the deal is pay before they play and if they don’t or can’t for some reason then they dont set foot on the pitch, I’d hate this to turn into an epic expensive failure trying to get them out or chase the money they’d owe. Other than that I’m not precious about only us playing there or even only our branding being on display, regardless of that it’s ours and the security of that is what’s all important.

  7. Not against a deal in principle. My major concern would be about the long term sustainability of London Broncos. if we create a financial model for our club, what would be the risk if London Broncos were to get into difficulties. for instance, if they don’t get promoted to Super League could they really afford the rental terms? it’s all very well saying we could spend more on the playing squad as a result of income from rent whilst meeting our obligations in terms of bonds and loans etc, but what if that income was to suddenly dry up? Also I would want further re-assurances about the pitch. There is a difference between the pitch coping and it being a good surface for football. After all what would be the point of investing more on the playing squad if they are playing on an awful pitch?

  8. I’d like to know why a lot of us are only hearing this now. I’ve had no notice about it. I understand all the financial reasoning and the WE the fans can’t keep putting in the deep fanatics need at times. My biggest concern is the pitch. We’ve waited (some of us) for over 30years for a great playing surface.

    • Hi David,
      The deal was really came to the table around two weeks ago. An email was sent to members on Saturday, once it looked like negotiations could be firmed up (the temperature test was the Club/DTB asking for authorisation to continue discussions) . We have time. There will be a lot more detail shared at tonight’s AGM and there will be a formal vote before any decision is made. Also, planning permission would take a while in any case. I hope that answers some part of your questions. Regards, GS

  9. How many matches per season and which days of the week?

    Would we get a share of bar takings, TV revenue, hospitality packages and any other income streams resulting from this arrangement?

    What are the potential costs to AFC Wimbledon?

    • Hi David,
      I’m hoping you’ll get the answers to this at tonight’s Agm but I can confirm there would be a % on bar takings so the bigger the crowds the better we do. There would be other add-ins, too. Costs such as planning permission would be borne by LB. we would pay for due diligence, lawyers on our side etc. The infrastructure is largely in place. Hope this helps. GS

    • Hi Mark,
      The short answer is no, I believe. Joe Palmer will explain all at tonight’s AGM but we have screens everyone, including one at the main entrance, which could display the LB logo on LB matchdays but not be there any other time.
      So nothing permanent. Regards, GS

  10. Hi there
    I am a London Broncos supporter, coming in peace, and also a football supporter.
    The London Broncos are a 40 year old club, that has played top flight Rugby League for 20 out of the last 25 seasons although is currently in the second tier.
    In the last five seasons, the club finished 2nd in 2016; 2nd in 2017; 2nd in 2018 (being promoted to Super League). Then in 2019 the club was statistically the strongest team ever to be relegated, with 10 wins out of 27 including 2 wins v champions St Helens, 1 v Wigan and an away win at Leeds Rhinos. 2020 finished with a win away to York and the team in a promising position.
    2021 has seen Leigh Centurions moved to the top flight and there is a high probability of London Broncos winning promotion back to Super League.
    The club’s owner, David Hughes, has been a major shareholder since the 1990’s and the sole owner since about 2008.
    The club has had to move grounds over the past 15 years because Harlequins RU declined their purchase option and discontinued the partnership, which kind of forced the club from the Stoop.
    We then had a deal at Barnet where 100% of gate money went to Barnet and then at Ealing another poor commercial deal was agreed.
    London has not been a bad tenant but has had greedy landlords.
    The club’s financial viability is not predicated on Super League rugby or bust.
    If the clubs can work together in partnership, there would be genuine opportunity to see a winning team and probably top flight Rugby and there will be a couple of thousand guys every few weeks spending up at your ground.
    Best Wishes
    Mark

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