As you all know, Chelsea Football Club has put forward a proposal to Chelsea Pitch Owners to buy back the freehold to the land in a major move announced yesterday.
Snippets of the official statement released on the website explaining the move are as follows:
Chelsea Football Club today (Monday) made a proposal to buy back the freehold land on which the football stadium at Stamford Bridge sits.
The freehold is currently owned by a company called Chelsea Pitch Owners Plc (CPO) which was set up in 1993 after the future of Stamford Bridge as a football stadium had come under a very real threat. This was seen off after a long and financially draining fight.
The idea behind CPO was to put the ownership of the site freehold into many friendly hands to protect it from property developers.
Roman Abramovich’s ownership and long-term commitment to the club removes the once real danger that the team could find itself homeless or at a substandard ground, therefore we believe the CPO safeguard is no longer necessary.
Chelsea FC will, in return for the freehold, effectively write off the remainder of a £10 million loan given to CPO 14 years ago to assist CPO’s purchase of the freehold.
Stamford Bridge hosted our first home game in September 1905 and has been our only ground since. But the success and rising popularity since Abramovich bought the club in 2003, plus changes to regulations that impact on how football is financed and the limitations of the current stadium site, mean that while there are no plans to move and no discussions over any potential sites, buying back the freehold removes a potential hurdle should a suitable site become available in the future.
It has always been the desire of the club’s owner and directors that Chelsea should remain at Stamford Bridge as long as the stadium meets our needs. Many potential ways for increasing capacity have been studied.
The investigations continue but adjacent railway lines, buildings and limited exits are major obstacles and mean that matchday income is limited by a ground capacity that is smaller than many of our rivals.
The proposed transaction would also make it possible for CPO to offer to buy back shares from shareholders if it so wishes.
The club will enter into a legal commitment to CPO that no relocation will take place before 2020 unless it is within a three-mile radius of our current home.
That commitment will also set a new stadium capacity at a minimum of 55,000, and at least 10 per cent of those seats will be made available exclusively to families and supporters under 21 years of age.
So basically, the club want to buy back the freehold that they initially helped the CPO to obtain. This was long before Roman Abramovich took over the club that he now owns.
Bruce Buck has spoken of that fact also and said:
“This [buying the freehold] is something we should have done five years ago when we were clearing up the financial housekeeping of Chelsea, like the Eurobonds issue and other kinds of financing that we had on the books that really weren’t appropriate for a club now wholly owned by Roman Abramovich.
That’s the bottom line. We could not move unless the club had the ability to redevelop this site. That would be a precondition to getting the money to help us move.”
Buck obviously realises that this move will cause concern to CPO members and Chelsea fans alike so he went onto explain:
“Some shareholders will not react positively and there will be a group of fans who consider this to be a precursor to Chelsea moving and they will not want Chelsea to move. At the moment we have no discussions ongoing with any developer and we still have not made the decision that, yes, Chelsea definitely want to move. But, just like any business, we have at least to be prepared for a move if something right comes along.
There are only ‘x’ number of sites in London that we would consider and, by 2020, we expect those sites to be gone, So we would have no restrictions after 2020 in terms of where we could move. But we are confident that most of these shareholders are fans of Chelsea and will understand and approve what we’re trying to do.”
Finally in quotations taken from Chairman Bruce Buck and also Chief Exec Ron Gourlay, featured within the official statement they had the following message to the fans and members of the CPO:
(BUCK) ‘Chelsea should always be grateful to those who invested in CPO. We know only too well how close the club came to losing our home prior to the formation of CPO, but that threat has now gone under Mr Abramovich’s ownership and with the CPO structure in place we cannot plan with certainty for the future. I hope all shareholders vote in favour of the proposal.’
(GOURLAY) ‘I am sure all Chelsea fans have enjoyed the football and success we have witnessed at Stamford Bridge since 2003 and Chelsea Football Club and Mr Abramovich are determined to ensure that the club continues to compete at the highest level of world football.
‘We continue to look at options for expanding the Bridge and I should be clear that we have not identified a site for a new stadium elsewhere.’
So there we have it. The CPO meeting will take place at the end of the month where all the members are asked to put forward their vote. The club needs 75% of the vote from the members if their offer is to be accepted.
The question remains whether or not it will be. Trying to look at things from both sides here it’s a difficult situation.
I would personally prefer for Stamford Bridge to be redeveloped and extended to make our capacity bigger to ensure we can keep up with the likes of United and Arsenal but that venture could come into plenty of problems.
Looking from the other side of the fence I think that is the realisation of the current problems we will have based on the new UEFA financial fair play ruling that will come into place where a club MUST live within its own means.
United’s capacity is around 75,000 and Arsenal and Newcastle have around 55,000. Chelsea’s current capacity of 41,800 is way short of those teams and I guess the club is looking at gate receipts and turnover for years to come. You would imagine a new 60,000 seater stadium would generate around £50m EXTRA per season and is something we do need to consider.
The key thing for me here is their promise to not do anything until 2020 BUT being able to if they can find a site within a three mile radius. That starts alarm bells ringing for me as Earls Court is just around the corner. How many really big events do we see at Earls Court 1 & 2 now as hardly any music events take place there because of the popularity of the O2 arena?.
The problem the CPO has to face as well as us the Chelsea fans is that it does all come down to money. As the new financial restrictions come into place the likes of Arsenal and United will become stronger and stronger because of their turnover. Chelsea will always be restricted so it could lead to season tickets, membership and matchday ticket prices going up so we will have to suffer.
I hope that something can be done to allow our original home to be extended and we can stay where we are as going to watch a Chelsea home game not being at Stamford Bridge would feel wrong to me.
However like I said, seeing it from their point of view, it all comes down to money. Do we want to see Chelsea take a step into a new 60,000 seater stadium, earn the extra revenue to enable the club to stay ahead and build on our current standing within European football? Or do we want to dig our heels in and fight what the club is trying to do?.
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club