Stormzy and Zaha team up to buy their hometown football club

Thornton Heath superstars offer AFC Croydon Athletic fans the hope of having their ‘Wrexham moment’

Thornton Heath teammates: Wilf Zaha and Strormzy at an awards event, will now be pitching in together

Croydon Athletic, the phoenix club based in Thornton Heath which has battled through tough times over the past decade, this morning announced that it has been bought by a consortium headed up by rapper Stormzy and Palace star player Wilf Zaha.

Stormzy and Zaha described Athletic as their “childhood hometown football club”.

In a statement posted on the club’s social media channels, the club said: “We are delighted to embark on a new era at AFC Croydon Athletic, subject to final FA and league approval.

“This has been the culmination of many months of discussions.”

Sources at the Mayfield Stadium told Inside Croydon that it has taken almost a year for the takeover to be announced.

“This could be our ‘Wrexham moment’,” one hopeful Athletic fan told Inside Croydon this morning.

On the up?: Athletic, in claret and blue, are currently in the 10th tier of English football

Wrexham were playing in the National League when Hollywood actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds bought the North Wales club in 2021. They will start the 2023-2024 season back in the Football League.

The Rams have a bit of a way to go before they match that kind of transformation, but given the achievements in recent seasons of Sutton United and Bromley, the potential for a high-achieving non-league side based in Croydon provided with the right backing appears obvious.

According to a statement issued by the club, the consortium includes Zaha, Stormzy and Danny Young, who until recently was the player liaison officer at Crystal Palace.

Given Stormzy’s frequent community events and Zaha’s youth football academy, it seems very likely that the Mayfield Stadium will soon be buzzing with activities linked to its new owners.

In claret and white: today’s statement

“A three-person consortium comprised of Wilfried Zaha, Stormzy and Danny Young has exchanged contracts with the existing ownership of AFC Croydon Athletic to acquire the assets of the club,” the statement said.

“The consortium will own, operate and develop their childhood hometown football club.

“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.

“There will be more updates to come from the consortium in due course on completion of the transaction.”

Manager material: Stormzy showed his passion for football at the recent Soccer Aid event

Inside Croydon understands that the “purchase” of Croydon Athletic by the consortium has cost only a token sum, but that the new owners will be providing the kind of investment which the club’s fans, players and backroom staff could, until now, only dream about.

In an interview last year, Zaha spoke of his charity works and his friendship with Stormzy and their shared approach to community.

“Since I started playing when I got a proper, decent, contract I’ve been giving 10per cent of my wages back to charity,” Zaha explained.

“My sister has got an orphanage but I kind of take care of it, so it comes under the umbrella of my foundation… I’ve tried my best to do what I can.

“I’ve got a little football academy that I’ve started here. Kids can come down and just enjoy playing football… Compared to other people’s academies it’s just started, but I know the possibilities are endless.

“Hopefully I can get it to be massive and loads of kids go there.”

Then, Zaha said, “It’s just an idea that I’ve managed to put together right now, but I’m just going to see how it goes and see what the bigger picture is.”

And of his friendship with the rapper, Zaha said that Stormzy “is just a friend from the area really. I’ve watched his growth from just putting videos out on YouTube, no one paying attention and me being his friend…

“I’ve grown up in Thornton Heath and he’s grown up in Thornton Heath and we’ve got so many mutual friends as well.

“We’re both heavily into giving back and we both believe in God, and so it’s like God has blessed us with the opportunity and we each like to help out.”

Croydon Athletic currently play in the Combined Counties Football League Premier South Division – the ninth tier of English football – where they ended last season 15th of 20 competing clubs.

Friends United: Zaha has known Stormzy for many years

Originally formed in 1986, the club reached the dizzying heights (for them) of the Isthmian League, where they won Division One South in 2010 – only to spiral into collapse when it was discovered that the club’s then-owner, property developer Mazhar Majeed, was involved in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing scandal and had been using the club for money-laundering.

HM Revenue and Customs swooped on the club’s books, and the manager and players, no longer receiving their pay from Majeed’s ill-gotten gains, walked. With bills unpaid, the gates to the ground were padlocked. The club was found to have broken 24 FA rules, and was hit with fines and a 10-point deduction.

On October 2, 2010, the club chairman, David Le Cluse, was found dead, with a bullet wound.

Unable to fulfil its fixtures, Croydon Athletic was wound-up. It was soon replaced by a fans group who created AFC Croydon Athletic, building the club from the grassroots upwards and kicking off from the 2012-2013 season.

Today’s announcement suggests that the past decade’s hard work could soon be delivering some exciting times, on and off the pitch at the Mayfield Stadium.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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4 Responses to Stormzy and Zaha team up to buy their hometown football club

  1. Peter Underwood says:

    Great news for the Rams, Thornton Heath and Croydon.

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    “Hopefully I can get it to be massive and loads of kids go there.”
    And that is the key thing. If you made a list of what could get children off the street and into doing something of benefit to themselves their families and their community, this would be at the top.
    Appreciate all three guys are busy with careers but personal visits occassionaly would assist and they are good role models for what dedication and determination give you.
    Well done and hope its a success for them and everyone who can benefit from those oppportunities.

  3. Dan Maertens says:

    Great News!

  4. Lewis White says:

    I see, AFC Croydon Athletic play in Claret and blue colours, just like Crystal Palace used to, back in the variably good-to-not-so-good old days. Lovely rosettes– why did Palace ever ditch those lovely colours? Not modern enough, I suppose.

    For AFC Croydon, the exciting thought is that it might be like an ecological niche– whereby a small mammal evolves to become a big player in the animal kingdom. Takes a while to happen, but with the right practice, (and — of course– excellent owner/managers) a mouse can become a magnificent horse if there is a horse-shaped ecological niche to fill.

    I nearly said ….. becomes the “King of Beasts”….. but that niche is filled, as the Lions are another S London football species. Pride of the Den.

    What ever– all the best to Zaha, Stormzy, and Danny….. and to the future of AFC Croydon, what ever colours they are playing in !

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