AFC Wimbledon founder given freedom of Merton

Mayor Gill Manly with Ivor Heller

The London Borough of Merton last night gave its highest honour, freedom of the borough, to Ivor Heller, one of the co-founders of AFC Wimbledon who played such a key role in the resurrection of the club and its climb back to the football league.

Ivor, who was recently named Life Vice President by the club and was one of AFC Wimbledon’s four founder members after the club reformed, was a key figure in AFC’s return to Plough Lane and has been an integral figure for decades.

His work with the Leyton Road Centre (previously High Path) in Colliers Wood demonstrates his commitment to the community, and his tireless work has also helped to raise £600,000 for St George’s Hospital and it’s Time for a Change appeal for children.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Cabinet Member for Transport and former leader of the council, who proposed Ivor for the freedom of the borough said: “From when I first met Ivor in 2008 his passion was clear for the community – not just for the football club. He is community through and through and that is what helped make AFC Wimbledon a proud community club.

“Ivor was always so down to earth with no airs or graces and I think it’s great that the work he has done for AFC Wimbledon and the community has been officially recognised. For many years Ivor brought people from the High Path Centre to games and this has continued since this facility transitioned to become the Leyton Road Community Resource Centre. He deserves to be referred to as ‘Mr Wimbledon!’”

From left: Janice Howard, Anthony Colman, Councillor Ross Garrod, Ivor Heller and Harry Cowd

We also honoured previous Leaders of the Council with freedom of the borough: Anthony Colman, who served as Leader from 1991–1997; Harry Cowd (1980–1988); and Vincent Talbot (1965-1971)) – the first Leader of Merton.

Alderwoman Janice Howard was also being honoured. Janice was elected in May 2010 and served as a councillor until May 2022. She was Mayor of Merton from May 2019 to September 2020, an extended year due to Covid during which she chaired the first Full Council meeting held on Zoom.