Imber Court – the home ground of Metropolitan Police, is one of the more interesting grounds in the higher reaches of non-league football. As one might imagine, it is a police facility, and is based in an area which is overrun with police-related activities. It is located just outside London in East Molesley, near Wimbledon.
The area around the stadium is home to Met Police Cricket Club, an outdoor police gym, and a police swimming pool. Most intriguingly, the ground neighbours the Met Police mounted branch, in which police horses are trained. This fact can be deduced by the state of the streets in the immediate area.
The stadium is very easy to get to by train, as it is only a ten minute walk to Esher station. Although it is also possible to access the ground by going to Thames Ditton, I would recommend going to Esher as it is a straightforward walk in which one only needs to follow the main road for ten minutes.
There is also a more regular service from Esher, especially if you are trying to travel south. It is possible to get a train directly to Woking or Clapham Junction from Esher so only one change is necessary to get to the Portsmouth/Brighton region. Another positive is that Esher is in zone six of London, so can be accessed with a London travelcard – which comes out as cheaper than buying a return ticket to Esher from Chichester.
The ground itself is reasonably well maintained – for a club at that level – and all four stands are covered from the elements. The one slightly annoying part of the ground is that there is only one entrance, which is found right in the corner of the ground, meaning that you have to walk most of the way around the stadium from the train station to get to the entrance. The roof was also quite low, which made losing footballs a regular occurrence during the match.
The stadium has one stand with seats, and people are free to stand wherever they want at ground level. The atmosphere left much to be desired, as most of the home fans sat in silence in the stand. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a club which used to be run by the police, they do not have very many fans, and boast average attendances of around 100. By those standards, the match against Havant was very well attended, with 166 being the official attendance.
Of the 166, I would estimate that about 40 to 50 of them were away fans. There was no trouble between home and away fans, maybe because the Hawks supporters were being careful to stay on the right side of the law given their geographical position! The ground has an official capacity of 3000, but I very much doubt that will ever prove to be a constraint judging by the current attendances.
The pitch was quite well kept, and the ball did not seem to be bobbling about any more than at any other lower league ground. The prices were, in my opinion, a bit steep, with entry costing £10 for adults and £5 for under 16s. If I were running a club with average attendances that low, I would be doing all I could to try and bring in some new supporters, especially youngsters.
The only problem with the stadium was that they seemed very poorly supplied. With there being no shops between the ground and the train station, I decided to eat in the stadium. However, having waited in the queue for the kitchen for a few minutes, I was apologetically told that they had run out of food five minutes after kick off. Maybe they are simply not used to having so many hungry away supporters, but it was a less than impressive start to the match!
On the whole, I enjoyed going to the ground. It was very simple, with not too many facilities, but such as toilets or bins, but what they did have was well maintained. It was very easy to get to the ground from the train station, and Esher station was well supplied with trains to get to and from the South Coast. The cub seemed fairly poorly supported which stopped there from being any kind of atmosphere, but everyone seemed friendly. I would be very happy to go back there, ideally when Havant are in a higher division!