AFC Wimbledon launch bid to return to Merton

AFC Wimbledon have announced plans to return to the London Borough of Merton by building a new ground at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium.

The Dons hope to build a multi-purpose venue with an initial capacity of 12,000, which could be increased to 22,000 seats at a later date.

The League Two side currently play at Kingsmeadow in Kingston upon Thames.

Chief executive Erik Samuelson said: "This is an important step in a journey we started some years ago."

League football has not been played in the borough since 1991, when the original Wimbledon FC were forced to move away from Plough Lane following the publication of the Taylor Report, which recommended that all top-flight sides should play in all-seater stadia.

The council will now assess all responses received and work... to find the best solution to continue sporting legacy on the Wimbledon greyhound site

Councillor Stephen Alambritis Merton Council Leader

The club shared Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace until 2002, when they were given permission to move to Milton Keynes.

AFC Wimbledon, who were formed in response to the relocation, have played all their home games at Kingsmeadow and bought the ground from Kingstonian in March 2003.

The club rose from the non-league ranks by winning five promotions in the space of nine seasons, culminating in a return to the Football League with victory in the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off final in May 2011.

The club now aim to acquire the Greyhound Stadium site but face competition after other parties who have expressed an interest in developing the site.

Samuelson continued: "We have a long way to go and many hurdles to clear but we want to build a stadium that is embedded in the community.

"To realise that ambition we have developed a cohesive and well thought through strategy.

"We are grateful for Merton Council who have provided strong support for our aims and who have demonstrated over the last few months that they understand our needs and share our vision for the next step in our growth."

Merton Council Leader Stephen Alambritis said: "The council will now assess all responses received and work... to find the best solution to continue sporting legacy on the Wimbledon greyhound site."