The Dons have been central to Wimbledon's cultural heritage for nearly 125 years. The club has been proud to be associated with Merton and the surrounding boroughs, first playing on Wimbledon Common before making a home on Plough Lane shortly before World War 1.
Over the years, the name of Wimbledon FC became synonymous with achievement. The supporters who had cheered the club to success in the amateur game watched as the team rose up through the divisions until, on 14 May 1988, the world looked on as the Dons won the FA cup at Wembley Stadium. Even more astonishingly, within four seasons they had become founder members of the FA Premier League.
With Wimbledon's proud reputation for developing local-born players and its award-winning Football in the Community programme, the connection with local community continued to flourish until the Football Association allowed a town in Buckinghamshire to take Wimbledon's Football League place.
Formed by its supporters in response to that uprooting of Wimbledon FC from its community, the newly formed AFC Wimbledon was determined to keep its roots in the area. It is a commitment that is enshrined in the aims of the Dons Trust.
AFC Wimbledon's work in the community has gone from strength to strength since the club re-formed in 2002. A combination of dedicated volunteers and the club's Community Football Scheme have helped deliver a wide range of projects in Merton and the surrounding boroughs, achieving benefits in the areas of sports participation, health, education and inclusion.
After being promoted into the Football League in 2011, the decision was taken to consolidate all these activities into a charitable trust, governed by a board of trustees. This Trust is now known as the AFC Wimbledon Foundation.
We have 7 full time staff, a 20-strong team of coaches and a large number of volunteers who reach out into the community.
AFC Wimbledon Foundation's Executive Director, Philip Rudling says that “the work of the Foundation in the local community epitomises the Dons' ethos; it now serves as one of the main providers of football coaching for kids in Merton and Kingston. It’s my job to lead the foundation team and harness the power of sport, in particular football, to engage the whole community and change lives. We are passionate about ensuring everyone has access to our projects regardless of their background.
"We are now working regularly in 30 schools, providing over 6000 hours of activity to approximately 25,500 of our community every year. With huge ambitions to grow those numbers in the future. The activities include Saturday morning and holiday courses, Walking Football sessions for over 50's, we also have London's first female-only Down's Syndrome team, child health project, a successful Apprenticeship scheme the newly launched Traineeships programme.
"We have a small but dedicated team of people that truly believe in making a difference and they work hard within our community to realise our ambition.
"We are extremely excited by the opportunity to return to Plough Lane, which will help establish our main aim over the next 3 years which is Inclusion for all, whether that be sport participation, employability programmes, education and health projects or getting the opportunity to come to a game. If we Club Together we will continue to change lives!”