Chelsea Appears Unlikely To Leave Stamford Bridge; Expansion A Possibility
Chelsea Owner Roman Abramovich "appeared to concede defeat in his quest to relocate Chelsea after commissioning a study to explore the possibility of expanding Stamford Bridge," according to Ben Rumsby of the London TELEGRAPH. In a "dramatic about-turn, the club announced that it would consult local stakeholders about the possibility of redeveloping a ground that has been their only home since they were formed 109 years ago." Chelsea had insisted previously that the "exorbitant cost of expanding their 41,837-capacity ground made doing so economically unviable" and the club "actively explored" moving to nearby Battersea Power Station and Earls Court (TELEGRAPH, 6/18). In London, Charles Reynolds reported Chelsea has failed with attempts to "buy the freehold to their ground as well as attempts to relocate to Battersea Power Station and Earls Court." The club is "looking at alternative plans to expand their current SW6 ground to 60,000 seats." Chelsea has previously been "accused by the Chelsea Pitch Owner, the fan-group who own the land beneath Stamford Bridge, of not properly exploring the possibility of staying at their current West London home" (INDEPENDENT, 6/18).
CLUB RELEASES STATEMENT: Chelsea said in a statement, "This study will review the potential for improvements to publicly-owned areas along Fulham Road and the area around the football ground, including the possibility of decking over the railway lines to the east and north of the ground. This could create landscaped public walkways and cycleways, while also reducing pedestrian traffic on Fulham Road and nearby streets on matchdays" (SKY SPORTS, 6/17). ESPN reported UEFA's introduction of Financial Fair Play rules has made expansion of its stadium a "crucial issue for Chelsea, who risk falling behind their domestic and European rivals unless they can boost match-day revenues." Abramovich has had previous attempts to buy the stadium thwarted by the Chelsea Pitch Owner, which fears that "any purchase by the Russian will be a precursor to a move away from the area" (ESPN, 6/18).