Wednesday 21st October 2015 ko 19.45
Kent Invicta League
A.C. LONDON 3 (Ramos 1 23 82)
LEWISHAM BOROUGH 0
Entry & Programme £4
When the leagues declare their line-ups for the season ahead just occasionally you see a club that just makes your eyebrows raise, and there can be little doubt that AC London certainly fit that category. Formed by the 16-year-old Prince Choudary in 2012 as a youth team the club has expanded into adult football for this season, entering the Step 6 Kent Invicta League. Choudary at 20 is now the youngest chairman/manager in senior English football, but for me the more remarkable side to the rapid rise of the club is where they’ve chosen to play.
They play at what’s now called the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, or if you’d prefer the 15,500 capacity Crystal Palace Athletics Stadium. It is an odd choice, 85 spectators a huge distance from the action and lost in the swathes of seating. And considering that the lion’s share of the crowd were groundhoppers you do wonder what the attendances will be like when the novelty wears off.
As lousy as a place to watch a game as this is, there is no lack of footballing history about here. This stadium was built in 1964 on the site of a football ground that staged the FA Cup final from 1895 to 1914 inclusive. Crystal Palace FC were formed in 1905 to play at the original ground and only moved in 1915 due to the ground being commandeered by the military due to World War I, eventually settling at Selhurst Park in 1924. There have been some moves to move the club back, most recently in 2010, but so far the club have restricted their activities to the playing of occasional reserve games here, the last in 2001. Tottenham Hotspur also pondered on moving here around that time but soon thought better of it.
Therein lies the issue of the stadium; it’s obviously far too big for AC London’s needs, and just about everyone there wondered how long Prince Choudary can afford to keep playing here. But in a wider sense it risks becoming a huge White Elephant. The Olympic Stadium has far better facilities for athletics, and next door the Grade II listed aquatic centre has been superceded by the Olympic aquatics centre. You look at the volume of clubs that have used the facilities for a short time then left, the London Monarchs American Football club for example, and question the need for this place.
On the pitch it was difficult to see the numbers on the backs of the players’ shirts, but it was abundantly clear that AC London had far too much for their struggling visitors, Joel Ramos completing an excellent hat trick. But as I trudged back to my car after it was all over, I couldn’t help but wonder how a club can attract fans to watch games at stadium with no atmosphere, no catering, and only 3 functioning floodlights. The footballing world steps over the corpses of over-ambitious clubs who overstretched themselves, and you look at AC London and wonder.