Wimbledon set to move to Milton Keynes by October
Saturday 26 July 2003
Wimbledon could move to Milton Keynes by October after the intervention of the music entrepreneur Peter Winkelman, whose consortium have agreed to pay for renovations to the National Hockey Stadium. These should be completed two months into the new season, allowing the long-awaited move to go ahead.
This investment has allowed the Dons to seal a provisional agreement with the stadium's owners, the National Hockey Foundation, to use their venue until a permanent 30,000-seater home in Denbigh is built.
Winkelman said in a statement: "We are delighted to have reached an agreement that will give Wimbledon the chance to play our home matches at the National Hockey Stadium until the stadium at Denbigh North is completed.
"I would like to thank everyone at the National Hockey Foundation for the manner in which they have approached our discussions and for deciding that they can help."
Winkelman has already stepped in to pay Wimbledon players their wages since they went into administration last month, and his Stadium MK consortium is one of those involved in talks to buy the club. The Dons still hope to agree a return to Selhurst Park with co-tenants Crystal Palace until their temporary home has the new stands, turnstiles, security features and grass pitch needed to meet Football League approval. Wimbledon hope to play their opening First Division home fixture against Crewe at Selhurst on 9 August.
The joint administrator at the club, Andy Hosking of Grant Thornton, said in a statement: "Whilst there is clearly still a lot of work to be done we should now be in a position to write to all season-ticket applicants in Milton Keynes in time for the start of the new season."
The NHF initially pulled out of a deal with the London club last month when Wimbledon missed a deadline to invest in the stadium, but a meeting of trustees on Thursday paved the way for a change of mind.
Brian Hinkles, the NHF chairman, said: "This... will benefit not only Milton Keynes and Wimbledon Football Club but will also ensure a healthy future for the Stadium and hockey in this country for many years to come."
As far as Wimbledon returning to Selhurst Park, it is thought that this week's transfer of Neil Shipperley from the Dons to Crystal Palace will pave the way for such a move since it may wipe out the club's debts under a previous tenancy agreement.
Wimbledon's administrators, however, admit that the paperwork has yet to be completed on the transfer, and time is running out for an agreement to be reached, with the new season just two weeks away.
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