Chelsea set to say goodbye to Stamford Bridge?
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Chelsea Football Club are in talks to quit their 105-year old home at Stamford Bridge and build a ground on the site of the soon- to-be-demolished Earls Court exhibition centre to hold at least 60,000 spectators, the Guardian has learned.
“There have been discussions about it and the club is clearly considering its next step,” confirmed a source close to Chelsea, who added that negotiations are at an early stage and no deal has been signed.
The club has met the site’s owner, Capital and Counties, in recent months and Chelsea and its advisers are holding “a series of key meetings to decide whether to pursue a bid or not”, according to a source close to the talks.
A new stadium would not be ready until 2015 because Earls Court is scheduled to host the 2012 Olympic volleyball competition before the exhibition centre is demolished.
Tonight [Chelsea chairman Bruce] Buck said it was “very difficult for us to make the philosophical decision that we are going to move on”, but conceded that the lack of capacity at Stamford Bridge left it out of pocket compared with other clubs.
“Certainly we wouldn’t leave west London or thereabouts and there are very few sites available,” he said. “We have to do things with our other commercial activities to make up the deficit that is created by the fact we don’t have a 60,000 seat stadium. We can’t say that we will never move or have a new stadium but at the moment, it’s not at the front of our agenda.”
However, Chelsea insiders said Buck is keen to boost matchday takings because Uefa is introducing rules limiting the ability of super-rich owners to bankroll clubs without squaring spending with revenues. (The Guardian)
Though it holds many fond memories for Blues fans, Chelsea have clearly outgrown Stamford Bridge. A stadium move has long been mooted, but no firm steps have really been taken.
However, with the forthcoming demolition of Earls Court Exhibition Centre, a fine opportunity has arisen.
Stadium moves are especially difficult for clubs in the centre of London. Firstly it is rare that a suitable area of land opens up near enough for a team to call it home, and secondly the price of land is higher than anywhere else in the country.
After all, Arsenal had to spend a huge amount of money in order to finance the Royal Mail and Islington Borough Council recycling plant moves in order to secure their Ashburton Grove site.
It is lucky that Chelsea are able to rely on the deep pockets of owner Roman Abramovich, because this represents a chance to move around a mile from their current location, and a location this ideal is unlikely to crop up too often.
There are two tubes almost directly outside the Exhibition Centre – Earl’s Court and West Brompton, while West Kensington and even Gloucester Road are certainly close enough to walk.
However, the target date of 2015 has to be considered optimistic at best.
Chelsea’s current stadium is in the London borough of Fulham & Hammersmith. Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre is in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.
This would create plenty of issues between the two councils, with the latter likely to consider 60,000 plus people gathering in one place twice a week for most of the year a major disruption for those living there. It is likely that they would prefer the current plan to build a residential complex, and Chelsea might struggle to win them over.
With stadiums rarely built within target time and budget, and work only able to begin after summer 2012 after the Olympic volleyball, as well as countless obstacles in their path, Chelsea may have to wait a few years to get their new stadium.
However, in such an ideal location it would be certainly worth striving for – so long as they can fill it.