‘Stamford Bridge Is Falling Down’

‘Stamford Bridge Is Falling Down’ – Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for a book about Chelsea’s decline from 1971-75 “This is a fore...

‘Stamford Bridge Is Falling Down’ – Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for a book about Chelsea’s decline from 1971-75

“This is a forensic chronicle that will add wonderfully to our understanding of this period of Chelsea history”. Rick Glanvill, official Chelsea historian

'Stamford Bridge Is Falling Down' will hopefully interest Chelsea supporters who remember the decline of the club in the early 1970s, but also younger fans keen to learn more about a pivotal four years in the club’s history.

In May 1971 Chelsea were at a pinnacle. Twelve months after winning the FA Cup, they had beaten the mighty Real Madrid in a replay to win the European Cup-Winners’ Cup. Their a much admired squad mixed flair, hard work and physicality. The club had glamour and ambition, the board having started thinking about a magnificent redevelopment of Stamford Bridge.  It was generally assumed that the side, managed for forward-thinking coach Dave Sexton, would challenge for honours in the years ahead.

Four years later that side had been broken up, Sexton had been sacked and, unbelievably, the team had been relegated. Worse, after the East Stand had been rebuilt, the club finances were so parlous that Chelsea FC was in real danger of going under.

How on earth did this happen?  How could a club seemingly so well-run get in such a mess? How could a squad that in summer 1971 included the likes of Peter Bonetti, John Phillips, Ron Harris, Eddie McCreadie, John Dempsey, David Webb, Marvin Hinton, Paddy Mulligan, John Boyle, John Hollins, Alan Hudson, Charlie Cooke, Peter Houseman, Peter Osgood, Keith Weller, Ian Hutchinson and Tommy Baldwin fall apart so spectacularly. The purchase of the likes of Chris Garland, Steve Kember, Bill Garner and David Hay could not stop the rot, nor could the emergence of youngsters like Gary Locke, Mickey Droy, Ian Britton and Ray Wilkins.

This book explores the causes of the decline in those four seasons, causes that are many and varied. Incompetence, pig-headedness, arrogance, unprofessionalism, recklessness, bad luck, bravado, irresponsibility, stupidity, hopeless football and poor communication all played their part. Despite what were often the best of intentions, the Chelsea board, their advisers, the players and the manager all bear varying degrees of responsibility for the chaos that consumed and nearly destroyed the club. 

The more research I did, and the more people I spoke to, the more it became clear that the reasons for the decline and near fall of the club in the early and mid-1970s were complex. The 200+ competitive matches Chelsea played in the four tempestuous seasons between 1971 and 1975 are covered, but the rationale of this book is to be much more than reporting the displays of a team in decline. The redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, which commenced in 1972, deprived manager Dave Sexton of the cash required to rebuild his team. Star players like Alan Hudson and Peter Osgood became disaffected, openly critical of the manager and, in the end, mutinous.
A series of problems, some self-inflicted, were to manifest themselves in declining performances, diminishing gates, disaffected players and, critically, over-ambitious and grandiose stadium redevelopment plans as club finances crumbled. Much of this was played out in the back, and occasionally front, pages of the national press. In 1970 and 1971 Chelsea made headlines because of their football and their trophies. Positive on-pitch headlines ebbed away as less than positive on- and off-pitch headlines became more prevalent. 

The team declined just when the board needed it to succeed, to sparkle, to attract supporters. Instead, it became caught up in a vicious downward spiral, a perfect storm of under-achievement that culminated in relegation and near financial disaster. The matches, the personalities, the decisions, the events, the divisions and the fall-outs are all examined to identify exactly what went so wrong.  

I wrote the book as a Chelsea supporter, but not one who regularly watched that side. I have been a Stamford Bridge regular since 1976, but in the early 1970s had to content myself with a few games a season. Objectivity is not always easy, especially when human failings are demonstrated, but I have attempted to utilise evidence uncovered rather than emotion aroused. A number of supporters from those days have shared vivid reminiscences with me, though the bulk of the research involved working through contemporary newspapers and magazines, as well as a host of relevant books. 

I am seeking to crowdfund a hardback version of the book, including 24 photos, an index and a slip cover. To finance that, I am trying to raise at least £5,000 through Kickstarter.  A single copy for the UK costs £25 (including p&p) - prices for one or two signed copies, and for different parts of the world, are shown on my Kickstarter page. Backers will also get their names listed in the book

Crowdfunding is a means of financing a product, in this case a book, through the producer receiving advance pledges from individuals interested in purchasing it.  Kickstarter is the most well-known and globally-recognised web platform for crowdfunding projects, and will be used to try and raise the necessary money to produce the ‘Deluxe’ hardback version.  More info on Kickstarter here 

I need to raise £5,000 to produce the hardback version. This would mean that a minimum of 200 pledges of a cover price of c£25 (which includes UK p&p) will need to be made to enable publication to take place. Pledges are of course welcome from worldwide Chelsea supporters, and differential international costs (£30 for Europe, £35 for US & ROTW) are made clear on my Kickstarter page.  The Kickstarter page is open for pledges until 9th July. 

In essence would-be purchasers make a pledge during that thirty day period, entering their card details into the secure Kickstarter system. If the fundraising target is reached, then once the campaign closes, the pledgers become backers, the money is deducted from their credit card and a firm order is placed with the printers for the requisite copies of the hardback book. If the target is not reached, no money is deducted from pledgers’ accounts.

I have chosen a provisional set of photographs for the ‘deluxe’ version that hopefully encapsulate Chelsea in that period, and the photo order will be firmed up if the target sum is reached.

The plan is that the hardback books will be dispatched to backers in good time for Christmas, hopefully earlier. Pledgers will receive regular progress updates until the dispatch date.

This project blog gives further background, details on the book and information on the pledging process

Twitter: @IfdBridge Any questions to:

Tim Rolls

Tim first watched Chelsea in 1967, he has been a regular match-goer since 1976 and is a home and away season ticket holder. He writes for cfcuk fanzine and is ex-chair of Chelsea Supporters Trust. ‘Stamford Bridge Is Falling Down’ is his second book.

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