London Broncos exciting ground-share partnership with AFC Wimbledon was officially approved last night.
Just minutes after Merton council planning chiefs rubber stamped the move, AFC Wimbledon chief executive Joe Palmer said: “This is brilliant news for us and the start of a whole new era in the history of Wimbledon sport.
“We have the chance to build something really special – on and off the pitch. Rugby League is a fast, exciting game and the Broncos will be playing against top teams. It’s a privilege to become partners with a club of such pedigree.
“Off the pitch, the Broncos share the same values as us. They very much want to be a valued and important part of the wider community. There’s so much we have in common – not least the fact that we’ve both been searching for a proper home for far too long.
“I really believe the Broncos will help enrich our lives at Plough Lane.”
Joe’s words were echoed by Broncos chief executive Jason Loubser, who said: “From our first meetings with AFC Wimbledon, and seeing the early stages of the stadium build, it became obvious to us how special the Plough Lane project was.
“Over the course of the last 12 months we have learnt just how important the stadium is to the club, the supporters and the community of Wimbledon and the London Broncos are excited to be able to soon call Plough Lane home.
“The community values that are so close to AFC Wimbledon’s hearts are the same values we also deeply cherish. We very much want to become a valued part of the surrounding infrastructure and neighbourhood and have spent recent months supporting the Dons Trust with their amazing food-bank project and having our players assist on a weekly basis.”
Dons Trust co-chair Xavier Wiggins added: “We are delighted to welcome London Broncos to Plough Lane. We hope that they can build a successful future at the ground, not only on the pitch by returning to the Super League, but also off it by continuing their excellent work alongside Dons Local Action and others in the community.
“It’s been fantastic to see Broncos players manning stalls and joining community volunteers already and we look forward to both clubs working together for the benefit of local residents in the future.”
Planning officers accepted that the ground-sharing partnership would help both clubs flourish – and therefore be a huge asset to the borough.
“Financially, this will give us the vital funding we need as a football club to help us build a successful team for the future,” added Joe. “But we are not the only beneficiaries of that: the more successful we are, the more people will come to Wimbledon and the more they will spend with our local businesses, in our bars, shops and restaurants.
“The Broncos will bring the same injection of people into the town when they are playing – but they will also offer a very different sporting event to anything ever experienced before in Wimbledon.
“They will generate interest and then excitement and that will also lead to commercial investment. This partnership really is a win-win for everyone and the start of a new era for sport in the borough.”
The Broncos were agonisingly relegated on points difference from the Super League in 2019 and currently play at the Ealing Trailfinders stadium after an almost-nomadic experience which has seen them share grounds with Fulham, Charlton, Brentford and rugby union’s Harlequins to name just a few.
Joe confirmed that both clubs would now be able to explore the possibility of sharing resources, particularly in the commercial and marketing departments. He added: “There are so many areas where our expertise can complement theirs – and vice-versa – and we’d be mad not to examine that in more detail.
“Between us we can be a real force for good – a beacon on and off the pitch. I truly believe this is the start of a long and mutually-beneficial partnership.”