Chelsea have lost their bid to buy back the Stamford Bridge freehold after a dramatic EGM with Chelsea Pitch Owners shareholders.
The general feeling among the fans is that Chelsea will have to leave the Bridge at some point to get a bigger ground which will increase the revenue that will allow us to continue to compete with the elite of European football
I expected a top architect would be able to come up with a design to resolve the issue regarding the stadium size. I though that it might actually be possible, however, the big stumbling block is the health and safety rules which prohibit more than circa 40k people exiting on to one road, i.e. they require more exit routes to be available. This is why I thought the walkway/bridge to Fulham Broadway or even West Brompton was a feasible solution. According to Bruce Buck these are not viable, so if we require a bigger capacity to ensure we make more money which is required to remain competitive but we cannot find any ground within a 3-mile radius, exactly what is the club expected to do?
Assuming that the fans actually want us to remain as a competitive force in European football and we cannot find a suitable site with a 3-mile radius, the only logical option is to expand our search area? It isn't deal but I fully understand this argument. It is possible that the board could have stated a limit of 5, 7 or 10 mile radius from the current site as obviously there are many people who fear we could relocate to Glasgow (wild example I know but it makes my point).
Some sections of supporters believe that by voting ‘No’ the CPO are not acting in the best interest of Chelsea FC. One such supporter sent me this email:
- "Whilst I am very grateful for the actions of the CPO investors at the time, please correct me if I am wrong, but I understood that the creation of the CPO was initiated purely as a legal maneuver to prevent any aggressive actions by one or more predatory property companies to protect Stamford Bridge from development. I am well aware of the past situation regarding Mahler estates etc. To clarify, I do not believe that the CPO s were ever issued, or intended to be used, as either collateral, leverage or to have any power related to dictating the future commercial interests of Chelsea Football Club. It was purely an emergency measure designed at the time to create a legal quagmire for the vultures. The scheme obviously worked, but I am now somewhat alarmed that some CPO holders have moved the goalposts to imply that, for their 100 pounds, they consider that the issuing of the CPO shares was intended to, or actually gives them the right to dictate the future of Chelsea FC. I agree that protecting the future location of Chelsea FC is very important and rightfully an emotional subject. I also agree that Chelsea FC should not be moved out of the immediate vicinity; however from a business perspective Chelsea FC cannot realistically negotiate anything unless they have the full control, authority to do so and that means owning the rights to the pitch etc.."
In respect of the responsibilities of the CPO Directors and that the CPO should maintain a collective influence over the club to ensure that the club remains in West/South-West London, surely the clubs commitment to move to a site within 3 miles of the current stadium up to 2020 and it's overall stated objective to remain as close to it's roots as possible thereafter confirms what the clubs major objective to any possible move is. The sticking point still remains as to what "exactly" happens post 2020. There has to be some realism though from the CPO that if by 2020 the club has not found a new site and there is a need to move to protect the clubs future and all sites within a 3 mile radius have been exhausted there will be a need to extend the search zone and both sides should be agreeing an extension of perhaps 5 miles to the original 3 mile objective.
I understand that legally this move must be done in agreement with the CPO but I don't think the CPO should act as a barrier to the clubs progression, ensuring that the club remains as close to it's original roots as possible is understandable but the club needs some maneuverability. We need a sensible solution to this and the protectionist view of "this is our home", "Battersea is not convenient to me" or "we can't move away from the pubs we know" won’t help find a solution.
Those moaning about the CPO and accusing them of a lack of gratitude are showing a huge lack of gratitude themselves. As Abramovich has never given an interview no-one knows why he bought the club but I would suggest it wasn't as a gesture to the fans to stop their club going bust. He probably bought Chelsea as a businessman or for a toy and most likely a combination of the two. Clearly he has become a huge fan and has enormous affection for the club but does he have an unconditional love that lifelong Chelsea fans who bought into CPO have? We do know that the CPO bought their shares purely to protect the future of the club and so to get on their backs when they continue to act with the same motive is incredibly naive and, dare I say it, ungrateful.
Although there is a risk of upsetting our incredibly wealthy owner, for whom we should be grateful for our recent success, the CPO voted "No" as the proposal from the club was vague and represented it's own risks in that post 2020 we could feasibly end up playing our home games outside of London. The bottom line is that there is a better compromise to be reached and until the CPO have more assurances then why should they give up what they acquired through good will during Chelsea's most worrying times? Imagine they gave up their bargaining power on blind faith and in 2 years Abramovich was gone due to an accident, illness, economic downturn? The club could be in the hands of people like Hicks and Gillete before we know it and totally out of the control of the fans. What we have is unique and shouldn't be given up on blind faith and vague promises.
I am concerned by what has occurred in recent weeks but I am more critical of how this has been handled by the club than by the CPO. Clearly people are worried by Abramovich’s response to this but if it is negative then surely that vindicates the CPO vote in my view.
With regards to the "rich fans" (and by this I mean the 20 individuals who purchased over 10% of the shares in the last week) having a say. This would have some validity if they were long term CPO shareholders, but they only bought the vast quantity of shares they did for one reason, and that was to skew the vote, and actually the meeting was on the point of being adjourned yesterday on the basis of the legality of the CPO Board allowing this to happen, when their lawyer stated that they needed over 80% of the votes in the room to vote yes to carry the motion, which clearly wasn’t going to happen. So on that basis; they should not have the same rights, unless of course you think taking specific actions to pervert the democratic process is acceptable. With regard to general polls supporting the move, wherever they appear, you have to recognize that these days they are influenced by large numbers of people who will not be affected personally one way or the other, whether we move to a new stadium or not, yet they appear all to eager to back an option which will have a negative impact on most match going fans.
If you want to widen the franchise on the vote, make it for season ticket holders and members, and then I think it’s fair to say you will find the vast majority would not want have voted Yes to yesterdays proposal. As said many, many times before CPO are happy to move to a larger stadium as long as its in the right area. Its just that Roman is going to have to take the fans views on the matter a little more seriously than he has done so hitherto, and on that basis we should indeed all be able to work together to come to the right solution for the club and its supporters.
As keeps being said all parties want what is best for Chelsea FC in the long term, but the club HAS to maintain a connection with its roots, it's community, it's history. It has to serve the best interests its paying customers, not forgetting that the atmosphere generated by the fans in the ground, and the tradition of those clubs is a big part of what makes English football such an enjoyable television experience for a global audience. Its also helps attract the worlds best players. So let's not throw that all away and become a US style soulless franchise.