Not much going on publicly with the Plough Lane planning application right now – the applicants are currently trying to polish up their scheme after it failed to convince statutory bodies (like the Greater London Authority, The Environment Agency, Transport for London, NHS England, Sport England, Wandsworth Borough Council and all local residents’ associations) of its merits.
So perhaps we could take a few moments to look at one of the claims put forward by AFC Wimbledon and its fans: namely, that the stadium will only be used for a few fixtures a year, certainly not every week or weekend, and the football season only runs for part of the year anyway. Their argument goes that locating a new 20,000-seat stadium right on our doorsteps will in fact create little in the way of inconvenience for people living close by.
Which would be great, if it were true.
In fact, the football season runs from August to May, meaning that league matches will take place during 10 out of 12 months of the year. So what about June and July? Can we look forward to at least eight weeks out of 52 when we won’t have to compete with out-of-town fans nabbing our parking spaces and filling up already overcrowded local trains and buses? [Remember, some two-thirds of AFCW’s fan base lives outside Merton]
Sorry, but no. One of the mysteries of football is that even when the football season ends, football teams continue playing pre-season friendlies. For example, AFC Wimbledon is playing five such matches – four of them at home – in July and August 2015, before the season proper kicks off on August 8.
A year earlier (we learn from Wikipedia), AFC Wimbledon played six pre-season friendlies through July and August including one match at home against Chelsea when almost 5,000 fans attended.
Given that the Wimbledon Tennis Championships have now been moved back a week so they continue further into July, odds are that henceforth AFCW’s July matches will clash with the tennis. And should they move into a new Plough Lane stadium, just across Wimbledon Park from the All England Club, that will mean a hell of a lot more competition for public transport and local facilities including parking, road and pavement space.
Meanwhile, we are willing to bet that the club’s traffic movement studies (which they had to re-do after problems were raised with the first set of statistics) have not taken into account the ‘perfect storm’ of a match being played at home, during term time, when the lawn tennis championships are on.
Another case of smoke and mirrors regarding this ill-considered application for a site that our local ‘community club’ is attempting to shoehorn itself into while showing scant regard for its effects on the local community?