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