If it is going to happen, it will be a while yet. Stamford Bridge always has been, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, Chelsea’s home. Since the arrival of Roman Abramovich, there has been constant mutterings of potential moves away, but nothing as yet has materialised. Because of the financial shortcomings of the relatively small capacity, there is added impetus on generating revenue through commercial interests, but the question remains over how long this can be sustained.
Chelsea manage to sell out Stamford Bridge on a regular basis, but at just over 41,000, the club are significantly behind their rivals in terms of attendance figures. They are in fact sixth; behind Man United, Arsenal, Man City, Newcastle and Liverpool in terms of average attendance, and those regular gate receipts over the course of a season, and the course of a number of years, will add up.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck made a public statement saying:
“The club has been here since 1905 and so it’s very difficult for us to make the philosophical decision that we are going to move on. Certainly we wouldn’t leave West London or thereabouts and there are very few sites available.
“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.
“I 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.”
In an ideal world, the club would consistently add to what they already have, in the way that Old Trafford has grown during its respective history. There was a period in the 90s where it felt United increased their capacity every other week; Old Trafford is now a juggernaut of a stadium. Stamford Bridge however faces its own restrictions.
In inner London, with nearby rail links, space is at an absolute premium. Adding 15,000 seats is simply not an option, not to mention the problems the increase in numbers would have on the surrounding area on match day.
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I personally don’t have a problem with my team moving to a new location. There has already been reassurance that it would be relatively close (Earls Court, Battersea, Chelsea Barracks have all been mentioned), and clubs have shown that stadium moves can work. Making a new stadium a home is an exciting prospect. There is great tradition at Stamford Bridge, and the club have never known another home, but there would be an opportunity to start a new chapter in the club’s history.
There have also been murmurings that should if the club leave the Bridge they would have to relinquish the name ‘Chelsea Football Club’, but I don’t believe this would be an actual problem and would almost certainly be avoided. The club are in the transition of becoming financially independent, not having to rely on Abramovich’s pockets, but eventually will have to succumb to making a definitive decision regarding an increase in attendances.
Arsenal, Man City and a whole host of clubs across the country, at all levels of the game, have shown how seamless moving to a new home can be. As one of the biggest clubs in the continent, the club will have to eventually change their policy. It is not a problem at the moment, but it is not helping either. It may benefit the club, to continue to research and develop their options, rather than put it all in the back of their minds.
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