Rap superstar Stormzy and Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha are set to become the latest celebrities to own a non-league football team in the UK. The duo are part of a three-man consortium who will own AFC Croydon Athletic, a south London side who play in the ninth-tier of English football. They will be joined by former Crystal Palace head of player care Danny Young.
Through several meetings, the new owners convinced the existing committee and board of directors that their visions aligned for the club’s 3,000-capacity Mayfield Stadium in Thornton Heath – fittingly where Zaha scored his first-ever professional goal playing for Crystal Palace reserves. All 35 members of the club’s committee voted in favor of the takeover.
The club announced contracts had been exchanged with the existing owners, and that the consortium will “own, operate and develop their childhood hometown football club.”
An official statement added: “Whilst completion is subject to legislative and governance procedures, the three consortium members are excited about developing a community asset in the borough that gave them their own opportunities. They hope to take the entire community on this exciting journey with them.”
“Everyone’s been excited; some people literally can’t believe it,” Paul Pickering, the current director of AFC Croydon, told The Guardian. “They’re saying: ‘It can’t be real – is this actually happening? Is it April the 1st?’”
Stormzy and Zaha will be hoping to promote the team from the Combined Counties League Premier Division South when the season starts later this summer.
Zaha, 30, was born in Ivory Coast but raised in the borough, and is involved in community projects in the area through his foundation and academy. He tweeted: “Let the journey begin.” Stormzy also hails from the same area of south London.
The trio continue the recent trend of celebrities buying football clubs in England – joining the likes of Michael B Jordan and Ryan Reynolds. Jordan, star of the Creed films, is a part owner of AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League, while Reynolds and Rob McElhenney own Wrexham, which has just been promoted to the football league. The Hollywood actors bought the club in November 2020.