Bear with me here. 45 odd years ago my parents-in-law bought a house in Northolt. They didn’t have much cash but they invested in their 3 bedroom semi-detached in order to move away from a poky rented hole in Acton.
Over those following years they had 3 children, all girls and have seen many good and bad times happen in and around that house. First days at school, last days at school, broken hearts, joyous hearts, good boyfriends, bad husbands, delightful grandchildren/naughty grandchildren (all the same thing).
They’ve seen weddings, received news of births and deaths and every aspect of life from that house in Northolt. My parents in law, their parents, their friends, their sisters and brothers, their children and grandchildren, and their friends and acquaintances have all formed part of the history of that house. During that time the house has been re-configured, re-decorated, rooms have changed use and appearance.
Over the years the girls grew up and married and headed south to the village I live in with the eldest of the trio. Then this summer, everything changed. My parents in law retired, circumstances changed and they made the earth shattering decision to move away. I say earth shattering because everyone was convinced they were so set in their ways they would remain there until they shuffled off this mortal coil. But no, despite the tears, the emotion and the sheer physical wrench and effort of moving, they moved into their new bijou semi down south. It was awkward at first, doubts crept in even en route but they persevered and now just 3 months later they know they did the right thing, emotionally, spiritually and financially. Sometimes tough decisions do work out for the best.
And this may well be the case for any prospective move for the club we all love. There are of course, opposing views on the recent announcements regarding the approach to Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO), some are very opposed to the idea of a move whereas others are taking a more liberal stance and seeing the positives it might bring. I won’t go into the arguments here, there’s more than enough flying around in cyber-space and soon, no doubt, in the written press as well. I understand the traditionalist viewpoint. Buildings and machines of all types become steeped in history, some good some bad and over time the people viewing that history judge the value of that history.
One man’s treat being another’s poison and all that. I myself find it almost criminal that great machines such as the Vulcan, Concorde and the Ark Royal are summarily scrapped or forced to survive on charity whereas stately homes are always seemingly first in line for the government bail outs. Heritage seems to only apply to things made from stone. However, despite that, I do see that in each case these fantastic machines had served their time. Technology moves on and a country can’t afford to be defended by legacy relics if everyone else is using the latest all singing all dancing stealth technology killing machines. My own stance on the situation about the stadium is quite progressive – I believe if we can move the ground, retain its name (even with additional sponsored naming rights) to somewhere reasonably close (so NOT Guildford for example) and it will give us the 60k plus capacity we seek then so be it. We live in times where TV money is under threat and where we’ll need revenue streams from multiple sources.
This means that much like Arsenal, Manchester United and the planned grounds for Liverpool and Spurs we must look to gate revenue as a critical (but not sole) part of the money coming into the club. To the naysayers who say we couldn’t fill a ground of that capacity……what rubbish. London is a hugely populous city and we have an equally sizeable catchment area to that of the north London teams. How could these naysayer fans know how many ticket sales are already lost because the matches had been sold out? I also hear from the Luddite community gripes about ‘atmosphere’ and ‘types of fan’. Well, atmosphere is generated by excitement and passion and we already have a very cosmopolitan cross section of society attending games. What are they after? A return to primate type chanting thugs intimidating families on the terraces? A place a dad or mum can’t take the kids because it isn’t safe? A local club for local people*? People on the gates saying ‘there’s nothing for you here*’ because they don’t like the idea of fans from a broad spectrum of life?
I’ve seen talk of forming an FC Chelsea entity, much like FC United of Manchester or AFC Wimbledon. That is even more ridiculous for me. How would that even be the same club to people like me, fans of 40 plus years? To me that would be akin to walking down to White City and deciding to support QPR! It’s a ridiculous notion. What’s worse though is that the more extreme Luddite-Nimbyist factions are using cyber space to effectively state that anyone standing in favour of any future proposals isn’t a ‘real’ fan of the club (see my previous article about ‘real fans’). Some of the abuse and insults I’ve seen coming from the ‘stayers’ to the ‘movers’ has been nothing short of disgraceful cyber-bullying. I thought some of the people I follow on Twitter were better than that. I respect the Save the Bridge campaigners, but they also need to respect those who want to look forward and are in favour of a move.
And then there’s the argument that it’s always been our ground, the ground came before the club, we’re the only Premier League team in its original ground. Well, is it the same ground? It’s the Trigger’s Broom argument – see here -
…which just about says it all on the ‘original ground’ argument.
I can also see the argument from the council about expanding the ground. Leaving Stamford Bridge on a dark night with 40,000 others is not a pleasant experience and treacherous for those holding kids’ hands trying not to lose them. Or for non-fans trying to walk in the area. Or for those like me who constantly find the bollards with the bits of us that weren’t designed to do so! So the idea of 60,000 all converging onto the same road seems like the recipe for a nightmare scenario irrespective of how good the crowd control is. If we move and we build from new, we have a chance to create something special. Roman Abramovich has been better than good for us. He saved the club to all intents and purpose, he funded players, infrastructure, academy and training ground for what seems little financial return. I suspect he just takes joy from being our owner and experiencing the success as we all do. Fan first, owner second. I’m not quite sure why so many seem so certain that this would be a bad thing when the man has put us where we are now.
Just imagine if we could build something spectacular within Battersea Power Station, retaining the iconic chimneys within a state of the art stadium, or a brand new Richard Rogers or Norman Foster designed landmark at one of the alleged sites? Something different from the en vogue Reebok style arenas we see so often, something that would take the breath away. An Allianz Arena for Chelsea FC perhaps? The possibilities are endless and exciting and that’s why I would, under the right conditions favour such a move.
If you look at Arsenal, their undeniably glorious history of success hasn’t disappeared with the bulldozers. It’s still there. It’s just that they’re choosing to make a new history devoid of success since moving to The Emirates! History doesn’t disappear just because something changes. Our history and heritage remains in place in the form of trophies and record books. Our museum contains more history than any other part of the ground and that can take pride of place in any new stadium. It’s down to us if we move to make a new history that builds on the glory of the past 100 years, but especially the past 15 rather busier, golden glorious years.
* Apologies to The League of Gentlemen characters Tubbs and Edward Tattysyrup!
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