You might assume that absolutely everything in football has come to a grinding halt amid the coronavirus crisis: not just games, but the whole business of running a football club, never mind taking it forward with something like the building of a new stadium.
But while Brentford have been forced to pause work on their new ground, a few miles south at Plough Lane, the site of Wimbledon’s resurrected home, construction continues.
“The truth is it’s still being built,” Wimbledon director Ivor Heller told the Totally Football League Show this week. “Work is still going, they haven’t shut down the site. There are some challenges and there are some possibilities that things will slip but progress has been made over the last six weeks and we’re still going to open the stadium and play in it next season…and all is going to be good in the world by then…I hope.”
Indeed, according to Ivor it all fits in with a club that is dealing with the current situation in a much better fashion than some similar clubs have been able to.
“We’re coping surprisingly well,” he said. “We’ve always run a very tight ship, we’ve got a very small workforce, we haven’t got a big playing squad and we’re by far not the highest payers in out league – in fact I think we’re the second-bottom payers. That makes it easier to control, and although we are losing some income we only had four home matches left, which is where our major income comes from. It’s not pleasant, but it’s doable.
“We had a board meeting this morning, which was all very positive, and we can see a way to put a decent budget together for next season, and we think just by being able to do that, with our low cost-base, we’ll probably move up the budget table just by staying where we are.
“There’s no sense of panic and we feel very much in control of the situation, but of course we don’t know how long this is going to go on, we don’t know feasibly when football is going to start again and what sort of product it’s going to offer when it does.
“I personally would like to see that cleared up very quickly, because I think giving people something positive to aim for is important. But football must not start again until it’s safe, and we must not put a single life at risk by starting football again. If there’s any percentage of risk, we shouldn’t start again.”
But while there is a constant sense of uncertainty around the game, Wimbledon have been at the heart of some community initiatives, partly driven by fan groups and partly by those associated with the club.
“It’s unbelievable what our guys are doing. I’m not sure how many supermarkets it’s at but it’s at least 10 or 12: they are doing deliveries to literally thousands of homes now, they’re also helping to support ambulance stations at Kingston Hospital, St Helier Hospital and St George’s Hospital. They’re raising money via donations as well to try and feed people who can’t afford to feed themselves, and people that can’t get out.
“I had a phonecall from a lady who used to be a Merton borough councillor, who now lives in sheltered accommodation, and she got a delivery of food and she was beside herself. She rang me to thank me even though it wasn’t me who delivered it obviously. It’s making a real difference in the community and we’re leading that thrust in Kingston, Wimbledon, Morden and Mitcham. It’s incredible what’s going on – it’s a fans’ initiative really.”
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