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STAMFORD BRIDGE: Demolish and start again or move?

As all know, Chelsea and the CPO have met over recent months to discuss the situation with Stamford Bridge. The club had offered to buy bac...


As all know, Chelsea and the CPO have met over recent months to discuss the situation with Stamford Bridge. The club had offered to buy back the shares the CPO hold within Chelsea that had safeguarded our future when we had financial constraints, and after a vote the offer was rejected.

Now, after another meeting held recently, Chelsea have taken the step of revealing for the first time in full, the difficulties they are up against at the moment with redeveloping the Bridge. You can read the full statement including plenty of diagrams and explanations here but to break this down in summary, the statement reads:

Chelsea Football Club has made a presentation to the directors of Chelsea Pitch Owners, highlighting the work the club has carried out since 2004 analysing the potential to increase capacity at Stamford Bridge.

We are not in any way stating that the club has made a decision on the need to move. This is certainly not the case and the Board and the owner are, as we have continually said, keen to stay at Stamford Bridge.

In November 2011, Hammersmith and Fulham Council issued a press release to the effect that they proposed to examine with us whether there were planning options to expand Stamford Bridge, recognising that 'such a project must be economically viable, benefit local businesses and not unreasonably affect residents'.

Chelsea Football Club supports the above criteria and, in fact, has been investigating expanding Stamford Bridge with the same criteria in mind for the last eight years.

Since November 2011, the club has had four substantive meetings with senior members of Hammersmith and Fulham Council (including the leader and the deputy leader) and senior planning officials reviewing the club's work. The council is now briefed on the club's perspective on options available for Stamford Bridge expansion.

It is clear to the Board of Chelsea Football Club that a complete new build of a 60,000 seat stadium at Stamford Bridge has little chance of acceptability. We believe that, after our discussions with the council they have come to the same conclusion. A 60,000 new-build would cost over £600 million and require the club to play away for at least three seasons and, even if the economics were acceptable, the planning risks would likely be insurmountable.

Expanding Stamford Bridge to 55,000 also has a number of challenges. The cost per seat of expanding the stands is very high. The incremental revenues provide an unsatisfactory level of return, would not even cover the hypothetical financing costs, and the planning risks are significant. We believe the council recognises these challenges.

The club's exercise over the years has been to analyse a large spectrum of possible expansion options, even some which would appear to be unworkable. The Board recognises that our work will not satisfy every fan, but the Board also believes its work has been thorough, appropriate and in the best interests of the club and all of our fans.

To reiterate what was said at the beginning of this summary, the club are not in any way stating we have made a decision on the need to move.

The CPO has responded to the statement almost instantly and has said:
On Friday 24 February Chelsea FC invited CPO board members Steve Frankham, Rick Glanvill, Dennis Wise and Gray Smith to a meeting where extensive and detailed presentations were made by Ron Gourlay and Bruce Buck from the club, as well as architects and planning advisors working with them, regarding the potential expansion of Stamford Bridge. CPO board member Bob Sewell was away.

Areas covered included: present club finances and the challenges to revenue generation of the present stadium capacity; potential benefits to supporters' match day experience; planning, safety, heritage, environmental, political, disruption and access issues surrounding the expansion of Stamford Bridge; the increasing demands of live TV coverage.

We were shown designs and figures from many different plans exploring ways to expand all parts of the Bridge, along with explanations of the costs involved set against future income, and benefits to match goers.

These schemes ranged from finding 2,500 new seats in corners of the ground to the total demolition and rebuild of a 55-60,000-seater stadium on the same site.

The presentations were very open, with regular input, questions and points made by the CPO board. All were responded to with clarity and transparency by the club and the experts they had brought along.

From the presentations and discussions, which lasted several hours, it was clear that an immense amount of time and money has been allocated to exploring how to expand Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea FC's conclusion is that none of the schemes would achieve the goals of giving greater access and a better experience to supporters, and increasing matchday income.

Like many of our shareholders, we have hoped and felt that there might still be some way to expand the capacity of Stamford Bridge.

Having seen the detailed analysis, we all felt that a persuasive case was put that this might no longer be feasible or viable. Since so many of the planning issues concern the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, we are requesting further information and comments from them regarding Chelsea's presentation.

We hope that as far as possible Chelsea make the materials we have seen available for scrutiny by all shareholders and supporters so that the issue can be debated further.

I think it's clear, we can either look to demolish the current ground and redevelop it on the same site BUT be faced with playing our "home games" somewhere else for a few seasons or we look at an alternative site.

It's not an easy situation but I am pleading with all the Chelsea fans and CPO members to think of what is best for our club. The financial situation has changed and in order to maintain our status within English football, to keep attracting world class players here and to maintain and continue to build on our recent successes we have to move forward.

Whether that is to demolish the Bridge and start again or to move to another location close by, we have to consider what IS best for our club. We cannot think of the past any longer. It's time to look to the future.

What do you think after reading both statements?

KTBFFH

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