Tag Archive | "CPO"

Out Of The Blue

A quiet Tuesday evening in June.  The nation awaits the next instalment of World Cup games later that night and the publication of the fixture list for next season the following day.   Then, out of the blue, a statement is published on the Chelsea FC website announcing that Roman Abramovich has commissioned a “study of the area from Fulham Broadway town centre to Stamford Bridge and beyond … 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.”

It goes on to say “The study will also assess the feasibility of an expansion of the stadium within the existing historic site boundaries, potentially to enlarge its capacity, enhance its facilities and improve the movement of people and vehicles on match and non-matchdays.

As a first step, a consultation will take place with local stakeholders, including community and residents’ groups, for opinions on the existing conditions in the area.”

Cue sensation on Twitter, with some contributors speculating this step is as a result of the change in political climate in SW6 occasioned by the recent council elections when the Conservative party were spectacularly booted out of Hammersmith & Fulham Council following their scandalous decision to close the hugely popular Sullivan School and replace it with a “free school”, undoubtedly run by some of their sympathisers and funders.  The press swiftly picked up the feasibility study story, World Cup notwithstanding, and the Chelsea Supporters Trust quickly issued a measured statement welcoming the news and urging “the club to actively involve Chelsea supporters in the study (and the implementation of the study results), which is clearly of significant importance to all Chelsea supporters” and expressing their willingness to work with all parties.  The CST do mention in their statement the fact that they have been actively engaging with the local community over the last year, knocking on doors, talking to residents, and trying to build links which will stand them in good stead to act as a bridge (no pun intended) in what undoubtedly be a long-drawn out process.

In fact anyone hoping to be playing in a rebuilt stadium in a couple of years’ time is going to be sorely disappointed.  The feasibility study will probably take a year to complete, planning applications will need to be submitted, tenders obtained and, most importantly, finance raised.  It is highly unlikely that the owner is going to rebuild Stamford Bridge (if indeed that is the decision ultimately taken) out of his own pocket – an issue we discussed in “May You Live In Interesting Times” earlier this year, which now looks uncannily prescient and is where the matter of Chelsea Pitch Owners is likely to raise its ugly head again.  In fact, the question any supporter thinking of purchasing a share should be asking themselves right now is “do I buy a share”.  And on the balance of probability, if you’re thinking of making a quick buck, the advice would have to be no.  If a rebuild of the stadium goes ahead, TheChels.Net still expect Chelsea FC to float on one of the South East Asian stock exchanges, which demands companies hold a minimum of US$2 Billion in assets.  Without the lease of the pitch and turnstile furniture, the club will fall short of that target and there is no doubt a further proposal will be made to shareholders if and when outline planning permission is granted.  And here, the Directors of CPO will have an onerous responsibility.  Once the lease is gone, it will never return to supporters’ hands, so every care needs to be taken to ensure that just in case some catastrophic unseen event occurs, some clause is written into the sale to ensure that the lease does return to CPO.  The time may now also have come to have Stamford Bridge listed as an Asset of Community Value, as an increasing number of football stadiums, even ones as iconic as Old Trafford and Anfield, have over the last couple of years, and this is an avenue that both the Directors of CPO and those charged with the running of the Chelsea Supporters Trust should explore.

In Other News

The Chelsea Supporters Tournament will take place at Cobham on World Cup final day, Sunday 13th July 2014.  This year, a record number of teams applied to take part with the result that participation was decided by lot.  TheChels.Net will be making the pilgrimage to Cobham and will report back next month.

CST News

The Chelsea Supporters Trust AGM will take place during the first weekend of the football season (date and venue to be confirmed).  If you are interested in standing for the election of the board, you must be a voting member of the Trust and your nomination must also be endorsed by another member of the Trust.  You will also need to submit a Manifesto of no more than 800 words (although fewer words are acceptable!) explaining why you think you are a suitable candidate.  If you need assistance with the process, either get in touch with the Trust Secretary, Paul Jeffrey, at secretary@chelseasupporterstrust.com or you can get in touch with any other Board members – you can reach me via Twitter, where I am, as always, @BlueBaby67.

And Finally

Readers may remember that last year we reported on the untimely death of Matthew Harding Lower season ticket holder Jim McSkimming.  However, as often happens, sunshine follows rain and on Sunday Jim’s daughter Suzy gave birth to an adorable little boy, named Jack James.  Many congratulations not only to Suzy and her partner Dave who are both Matthew Harding Lower season ticket holders, but also to her sister Jo, who gave birth to twins last week. Let’s hope to see the new generation of the family in the (possibly re-built) stands at Chelsea in the years to come.

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Chelsea Pitch Owners 2014 AGM Report (or ‘CPO Comes To Its Senses’)

Meeting Report

The Chelsea Pitch Owners 2014 AGM took place on 31st January 2014 in the Harris Suite at Stamford Bridge in the presence of approximately 120 shareholders. Chairman Steve Frankham (SF) declared the meeting quorate at 11am and opened the meeting by introducing his fellow Directors.  He went on to thank the assembled shareholders for notifying their attendance in advance, thus assisting with planning for the meeting and helping to keep costs down. He advised that on legal advice, no tweeting would be permitted from the meeting and the Chairman’s statement would be published on the CPO website around 1pm.  SF went on to outline the format the meeting would follow, which would be along the lines of last year’s meeting, being Chairman’s Statement, questions from the floor and then the vote.

Business commenced with the Chairman’s Statement, the main points being as follows:

  • 721 new shares sold in financial year between August 2012 and July 2013, 92% of which were individual shares.
  • The calendar year of 2013 was second most successful year for share sales after 2003.
  • Working arrangements within CPO have changed, with recently-appointed Secretary Charles Rose (CR) being tasked with cutting costs.
  • Efforts continue to clean up the shareholder register – 15% of shareholders have either wrong details or no details at all.
  • At part of cost-cutting measures, three quotes were obtained from auditors, with Hanaways re-appointed.
  • Legal costs continue to be biggest outgoing, but Sean Jones (SJ) and Gray Smith (GS) are able to assist here with their professional expertise.
  • High costs were incurred through the issue of Section 793 letters [letters to shareholders asking if any other party held a beneficial interest in their shares], but was felt to be a worthwhile investment, with the Board believing that the time has now come to draw a line under this issue and move on to expanding the membership.
  •  The ‘Written In The Stars’ Dinner realised a profit of £6,000 and the forthcoming ‘One Special Night’ dinner with Jose Mourinho sold out in 48 hours. SF appealed for any shareholders with ideas for further fundraising initiatives to come forward.  SF confirmed that CFC have agreed to scrap the 2009 agreement whereby any profits from CPO events were donated to the Past Players Trust. He also clarified the issue of a donation to the PPT which was made from the profits of a book he co-authored, and was not connected with CPO.  He went on to thank a number of individuals both inside and outside the club for their assistance with share signings and donations of memorabilia.
  • SF cited that marketing shares continued to be the board’s priority, and advised that the Board were not privy to any information in respect of StamfordBridge, including any planning applications.  He advised that the Board continue to have regular meetings with Bruce Buck, who has no news regarding a new site or ground expansion, and concluded by stating that the interests of shareholders would prevail.

The Chairman’s statement concluded, the meeting went on to take questions from the floor, with a limit of 90 minutes allowed.

CR read out questions by email from Dave Patton and Geoff Hedges regarding CFC’s plans [i.e. any future proposal].  CR stated that they would look at any proposal in detail, but it is difficult to formulate a strategy for an unknown proposal. SJ added that any proposal might include a request to end CPO, but he would wish it to continue.

A floor questioner asked how, in the event of CFC requesting and being granted planning permission to expand Stamford Bridge, this might affect CPO.  The majority of Board members responded that they would look for CPO to continue in some form in the event of ground expansion.

James Greenbury referred to the short notice given prior to the October 2011 EGM, and asked if the Board were willing to give a sizeable timeline in the event of any future proposal.  He also asked if shares would remain on sale in such an event.  SF responded that they wouldn’t let that happen again.  The Board would consider cessation of sales. GS added that last time the then Board had not been sufficiently neutral to the proposal made by CPO.

Dave Spring asked the Board to give an undertaking that at least 30 days’ notice would be given in respect of any EGM resultant of a proposal by CFC, and asked the Directors whether they would support any proposal made by CFC.

SJ responded that the matter of notice and any such undertaking would be subject to legal requirements.  He agreed that the last meeting was called very quickly, which was not a good idea as such a matter required proper debate.

Mr Spring then requested that the Board make a commitment to share sales being suspended immediately on receipt of any future proposal.  CR stated that circumstances were now different in that requests to buy large blocks of shares were very rarely received, and those individuals who do apply for a large number receive a phone call from a director.  He went on to say that he voted against the proposal last time and would do so again.

SF confirmed that he would not rush into voting for any proposal this time as his eyes were much more open now.

GS stated he would vote against any proposal.

RG stated that shares remained on sale in 2011 as it was felt unfair to deprive individuals of an opportunity to have a say, in which view he sincerely believed.  He reiterated that whilst he didn’t regret the decision to continue share sales, but he regretted the over-selling.

Mirek Malevski asked if any of the owners of the so-called ‘Concert Party’ shares were in attendance. SF said the meeting would address this, but stressed a line needed to be drawn under the issue.

SJ commented that there were two strategies to deal with the disputed shares.  The first was dilution, which had three advantages, firstly that it works, secondly that it doesn’t cost anything, and finally that CPO are better off as a result.  The second is the legal route, which was addressed by issuing the S793 letters.

Shareholder Mark Barrington stated that all he cared about was CPO and it was critical that the Board ‘got a grip’ as there were too many large blocks of shares held.

CR stated that he believed that concentrating on the disputed shares is damaging to CPO, CFC and its fans.

Ralph Ellman put it to Rick Glanvill (RG) that he had said continuing to sell shares in 2011 was an error. RG stated that this was not the case; that he deeply regretted the over-sale of shares but not the continuation of the sale of shares itself.  GS went on to say that CPO had now sold in excess of 1100 shares in the 19 months since sales had re-commenced, and, as a result he would now support a future suspension of sales on the grounds that he believes that most people who would want to engage would have had sufficient opportunity to buy a share, a view which RG concurred with.

Adil Pastakia requested further clarification from the board on how they would feel about a future proposal. SF responded that he would want CPO to become more involved in the process.  Mr Pastakia asked, in the interests of transparency, how many shares SF controlled.  SF responded that CPO has a legal obligation to represent its shareholders.  CR advised that most proxies are mandated [i.e. votes already cast and not at discretion of Chair]. Approximately 2,000 proxy forms were received, but 1,900 were already mandated. He added that in a break from usual practice, the result of the proxy vote would be announced prior to the commencement of voting from the floor.

Shareholder Bill Carroll stated that he would wish to consider a proposal and not dismiss it out of hand.

Another shareholder, Colin King, asked what the legal position with regard to any attempted takeover would be.  Andrew Edge, representing CPO’s legal advisors, commented that it is very unusual for share sales to be suspended and there is no legal obligation to do so, albeit CPO is different to a stock market quoted organisation. However, the bottom line is that it will be for the Directors to make a decision. He added that the Directors are also legally obliged to consider any proposal properly.

Shareholder Tim Rolls asked what the Board’s relationship with CFC is like.  SF replied that CPO needs to cover its costs and are currently raising funds to do so; the Board has a relationship with CFC, e.g. being able to secure the presence of Jose Mourinho for the fund-raising dinner. He stressed that CPO are receiving a lot of support from the club.

SJ described the relationship as ‘cordial’ and went on to say that Bruce Buck respects the need for confidentiality.  Initially he would have thought CFC to be less than co-operative, but has been pleasantly surprised. Mr Rolls stressed that there is a difference between being supine and cordial. SJ commented that he is subservient only to his wife [laughter].

Mirek Malevski asked if the Board were concerned that Roman Abramovich only wants the freehold of CPO. CR reiterated that CPO are awaiting any further proposal from CFC.  Mr Malevski asked if the CPO shareholders would be the first to hear of such a proposal.  CR voiced his concern that there was always the possibility that a third party might brief the press. GS commented that it has to be possible for the club to have a confidential relationship with the CPO Board. SJ commented that Mr Abramovich wanted the freehold before, but CPO said no.  He believes the same will happen again.

Darren Mantle referred to the inducements shareholders were offered in the previous proposals, and asked the Board if they felt increased inducements would be made.  GS commented that the meeting could conjecture all day but the organisation would have to deal with each proposal on its merits.

RG was again pressed on the issue of share sales continuing in the run up to the 2011 EGM. He reiterated that this decision was taken to enable as many small shareholders as possible to have a say.

Shareholder Chris Taylor commented that the Articles of Association stated CFC would bear CPO’s reasonable costs and wondered if this was still the case.  If not, was it possible to change the Articles?

CR responded that in those days CFC and CPO had a close relationship, with CPO having its own staff and offices.  However, CPO has been in the doldrums, and the days of CFC meeting unreasonable costs have ended as a result of FFP. Ultimately, if CPO make a loss, then they can’t pay off the loan. SF commented that CPO retains a percentage of its income against costs, but GS stated that CPO is unable to put up the rent.  Chris Taylor asked them to qualify “reasonable costs”.  GS commented that CPO were under a constant obligation to take reasonable steps to pay the loan, otherwise CFC could ultimately pull the loan.  Mr Taylor commented there must be a figure relating to costs somewhere in the accounts, and CR replied that there was no transfer last year as they had the cash for costs. The issue of CFC only paying CPO a “peppercorn rent” arose, causing some disquiet in the room.

Shareholder Mike Brown commented that there seemed to be a huge amount of animosity in the room, which he found upsetting.  All he wanted was to find out exactly what the club was doing, and requested the Board stay as close to CFC as possible.

Dave Spring queried amendment of the Articles of Association to allow for electronic communication, and requested confirmation that no other changes would be made.  GS confirmed this was the case.

A question was put from the floor regarding the establishment of a Trust fund to pay off the loan. CR replied that he was aware of this suggestion, and had not had an opportunity to look in to it as yet but would do so.

Dave Spring thanked CR for his efforts since becoming Secretary of CPO. He added that anyone who couldn’t see the necessity of separation between CPO and CFC doesn’t understand CPO.

Shareholder Derek Martin added a comment in support of SF’s earlier clarification regarding a donation to PPT.

Jim Cowan reminded the Board that at the past two AGMs he had made a plea for a long-term strategy to be implemented.  CR advised the meeting that although a meeting had taken place with Mr Cowan with a view to taking this forward, it was not pursued due to lack of money and time.  Mr Cowan reiterated his question, to which CR responded that the Board have spent much of their time fire-fighting on a number of fronts, concentrating on selling as many shares as possible.

GS commented that CPO is an unusual company in that its obligations are to look after the shareholders, protect the asset, and pay off the loan.  This strategy is clearly defined and the Board are doing the best they can to adhere to this.

Colin King asked if there was likely to be an increase in the cohort of the Board to assist them in their workload, to which SF responded that there were no plans in this regard.

A questioner from the floor asked if any progress had been made with regard to the “Pay As You Can” scheme targeted at younger/less affluent supporters.  CR confirmed that a pack was being assembled for this, but the scheme needed tidying up. The same questioner stressed the urgency for greater numbers of younger supporters to become involved in CPO, given the decidedly middle-aged demographic. CR added that the Board were targeting 1,000 share sales a year and hoped to develop a waiting list.

A question was put to the Board in respect of an incident at last year’s AGM in which officers of the Metropolitan Police sought to establish the presence of a particular shareholder at the meeting, and asked if it was the policy of the Board to assist the Metropolitan Police in harassing shareholders. GS and CR pointed out this question was irrelevant, as the individual in question was no longer a shareholder, having transferred their shares to a relative.

Mark Wyeth QC reminded the meeting that the remaining loan sum is currently £1.8 Million [NB the actual remaining sum to be repaid is £8.4Million], and asked what would happen in the event of an individual presenting this sum to the Board. SF commented that they’d have done their job. Mr Wyeth commented that things would undoubtedly have to change. GS said he’d like to see it, but it would create a new set off problems.

CR read a further email question from Mike King, regarding the AGM and its timings, and also requesting that the resolutions could be set out more clearly. His response was that although there were some limitations (i.e. not possible to hold meetings on match days) the Board had been trying to increase transparency, and if anyone had ideas about future AGMs, they should get in touch via the website, as they were always open to discussion.

A question was put from the floor regarding the accounts item “creditors”. CR advised that he couldn’t answer this question immediately, but would obtain the requested information.

CR also confirmed that Rawley & Co had been employed to re-value the property and he would undertake enquiries as to how their valuation was arrived at.

Dave Spring asked if the Board would approach Bruce Buck and point out that if CFC had to pay a commercial rate of rent, this would run into millions of pounds, but they charged CPO for hire of the meeting room.  He added that 90 minutes was too short a period for questions, and suggested the time be extended to two hours.

One shareholder pointed out that he was proxy for four shareholders who were at school; SF reiterated his comment that the board were open to suggestions regarding future AGMs, which was supported by CR.

With the 90 minutes for questioning concluded, SF moved to the formal business of the meeting.  During this time a shareholder put a question privately to CR regarding the matter of the vote being counted away from Stamford Bridge.  SF and CR discussed this off-microphone and advised that they had received a request that in the event of any future contentious vote [i.e. an EGM] taking place, that this would be carried out at Stamford Bridge as before.  SF stated that this would be likely to be the case.

He then went on to name the resolutions and stated that shareholders had 10 minutes in which to cast their votes.  Following this, at approximately 12.45pm, the meeting was closed.

The results of the vote were posted on the CPO website on Saturday 1st February, and are briefly as follows:-

Ordinary Business (requiring 50% of vote to pass)

Resolution 1.1 – To receive the annual accounts

For                   Against

2889                 183

Resolution Passed (94.6%)

Resolution 1.2 – To Re-Elect Steven John Frankham

For                   Against

2606                 466

Resolution Passed (84.8%)

Resolution 1.3 – To Re-Elect RGC Smith

For                   Against

2938                 130

Resolution Passed (95.76%)

Resolution 1.4 – To Re-Elect Richard John Glanvill

For                   Against

2482                 587

Resolution Passed (80.87%)

Resolution 1.5 – to Re-Election Sean William Jones

For                   Against

2863                 207

Resolution Passed (93.26%)

Resolution 1.6 – To Re-Elect Charles George Rose

For                   Against

2865                 209

Resolution Passed (93.20%)

Resolution 1.7 – To Re-Appoint Auditors

For                   Against

2722                 335

Resolution Passed (89.04%)

Resolution 1.8 – Remuneration of Hanaways

For                   Against

2738                 310

Resolution Passed (89.83%)

Special Business (requiring 75% of vote to pass)

Resolution 2.1  – Authority to Allot Shares

For                   Against

2707                 344

Resolution Passed (88.73%)

Resolution 2.2 – Disapplication of Pre-Exemption Rights

For                   Against

2698                 351

Resolution Passed (88.49%)

Resolution 2.3 – Electronic Communications

For                   Against

2853                 175

Resolution Passed (94.22%)

The above represents the facts of the meeting as taken down to the best of my ability during the course of the CPO AGM. Any comments in square brackets (i.e. []) are intended to clarify matters for the benefit of the reader. The author apologises in advance for any misspellings, misrepresentations or factual errors which will be corrected on receipt of any advices.

Meeting Opinion

The real headline coming out of Friday’s AGM is in fact “CPO Finally Comes to Its Senses”.  Indeed, I have never attended an AGM at which there was so little real antagonism between the Board and what The Sun described last week as the “rebel shareholders”.  That description in itself is a little unfair.  These are shareholders who devote a fair amount of their time pondering the issues attaching to CPO and aren’t afraid to ask awkward questions.  From some of the answers given during the course of the meeting, particularly from the newer members of the Board, it’s becoming very clear that any future proposal by CFC will not be the pushover the club might anticipate – the mantra was very much along the lines of reasonable consideration to be given, but a wish for CPO to continue.  From personal soundings, I am aware that, for instance, in the event of CFC making a proposal along the lines of wishing to expand the stadium, but requiring an South East Asia Stock Exchange flotation to do so, which would require assets in excess of £2 Billion which the club do not have without the lease for the pitch, this would find favour with shareholders (certainly the ones I’ve surveyed).

As the board maintain, the best way forward for CPO to dilute the significant blocks of shares is by sales to small shareholders.  I have to say that if I was a Chelsea supporter approaching a landmark birthday, I’d ask friends/family for a CPO share as a present (or contributions thereto).  Another aspect that clearly needs to be addressed is the demographic. Although awareness of CPO is gathering momentum amongst younger supporters, the demographic of CPO shareholders remains resolutely male and middle-aged – pretty much like the demographic of Chelsea’s support itself.  Only one female speaker (myself) addressed the meeting. It was encouraging, however, to see approximately 120 shareholders in attendance, easily exceeding last year’s attendance, albeit last year’s AGM was held not only on a Wednesday, but coincided with an away game against Reading, which undoubtedly affected the numbers.

The results of the vote will provide some food for thought for the Board.  The three newest Directors, Gray Smith, Charles Rose and Sean Jones continue to enjoy the confidence of the voters.  Indeed, it comes to something when even fiery CPO activist Dave Spring is congratulating Charles Rose for his efforts to date as Secretary.

However, judging by the voting figures (even though these were roughly 3% higher each this year) Steve Frankham and Rick Glanvill are still struggling to convince some shareholders, each lagging considerably behind their fellow directors when the votes were totted up.

It was also something of a surprise to learn that Resolution 2.3 was passed so overwhelmingly.  Given the Chairman’s statement that no fewer than 15% of shareholders have either no details or incorrect details on record, and the requirement that in the event of Resolution 2.3 being passed, shareholders needed to return a slip to confirm they wished to continue to receive paper communications, this means that as many as 2,700 shareholders may end up not receiving communications from CPO.

And that brings us to another issue. There are approximately 18,000 shares held in CPO – that’s potentially 18,000 votes.  Yet only around 3,000 votes were cast.  Unfortunately it looks as if the vast majority of shareholders cannot be bothered to exercise their right to vote.  Whilst this year’s AGM passed without any major bones of contention, engagement is a two-way street.  The Board of CPO need to engage with the shareholders, but equally the shareholders need to engage with the organisation.  There doesn’t seem much point to me in holding a share and not taking an interest in proceedings, especially since the events of 2011.

In conclusion, it genuinely does look as if CPO may be sailing in calmer waters now.  But there’s no doubt that eventually, another hurricane will approach.

In Other News

Chelsea Supporters Trust

The Chelsea Supporters Trust celebrates its first anniversary on Sunday, and we at TheChels.Net have reason to believe that they have an announcement up their sleeves.  Keep an eye on their website (link) and social media sources for all the big news.

Don’t forget that CST membership badges are now available available from the cfcuk stall on match days.  If you can’t get to the stall, visit the website for more details on how to get yours.

Jim McSkimming Fundraiser

A Burns Night event in Sandhurst raised £3,600 to buy a defibrillator in memory of Matthew Harding Lower season ticket holder Jim McSkimming, who sadly passed away very suddenly in August.  The event was attended by a number of Chelsea fans who knew Jim, and you can read an account here. Jim might be gone, but he remains very much in the hearts of all who loved him.

We’ll be back again with more news from in and around SW6 as the push for honours gathers momentum. In the meantime, you can follow me as always @BlueBaby67.

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May You Live In Interesting Times

This was originally meant to be the first article of 2014, but was superseded by the news of Juan Mata’s sad departure for Manchester (a transfer which was finally completed yesterday).  Chelsea Football Club appear to have sailed into calmer waters during the past six months.  The return of Jose Mourinho, replacing the almost universally detested B*n*t*z, has delighted and pacified the supporters, and our outpouring of love for The Special One has been reciprocated.  The team are building up a real head of steam in the pursuit of silverware, and everything’s hunky dory.

The club hierarchy will have been satisfied with the results of the Deloitte Money League, which were published during the week.  Although the club dropped a couple of place in the league (which the fans certainly won’t be bothered about, not being spreadsheet w*nkers), revenue increased due to a number of major sponsorship deals. However, in the London Evening Standard’s report, the devil was in the detail:-

The Blues, however experienced a drop in their matchday earnings with Deloitte noting: “Stamford Bridge’s relatively limited capacity continues to hamper the club’s aspirations to grow matchday revenues, with their average home league match attendance of 41,462 being the sixth lowest of all of the money league clubs, and the club are continuing to explore options to build a new stadium elsewhere or redevelop Stamford Bridge.”

There is, of course, one significant flaw in Deloittes’ findings.  If the club continue to stand by the philosophy that was part of their 2011 bid to obtain the Lease held by Chelsea Pitch Owners, i.e. build a new stadium no further than three miles from the current site, relocation is no longer a viable option.  As those who pass through West Brompton will be aware, work has already begun to redevelop Earls Court.  Battersea has been bought by the Malaysian real estate developers, SP Setia. And, most recently, QPR have committed to leave their bijou shoebox and move to Old Oak Common, another mooted possible location for Chelsea.

So that leaves the redevelopment option.  And hereby hangs a real tale.  During the dead days between Christmas and New Year, it was announced that Millennium & Copthorne, who operate the hotels on the Stamford Bridge site, are to purchase the prestigious Wyndham Grand London Chelsea Harbour for £65 Million, making a portfolio of eight properties in London.  However, it is worth noting that the hotels at Chelsea are not owned by M&C, but leased by the group and operated on behalf of Chelsea FC, the owners.  While it makes sense for M&C to purchase a high-end property like the Wyndham, what may be crucial here is the length of the lease on the Stamford Bridge hotels, which commenced in 2007. Speculation on our part, but could it be that M&C anticipate losing part of their portfolio in West London before too long?

Another interesting development occurred at the start of January, when news broke that the Royal Parks had been successful in their application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund for the Brompton Cemetery Conservation Project.  Given its proximity, it is almost inevitable that any potential expansion of Stamford Bridge will impact upon Brompton Cemetery and one wonders if the grant of funding for the Conservation Project is another tiny step that will lead to an announcement about a possible expansion of Stamford Bridge.  And if the ground is redeveloped, then surely part of the project will be the demolition of the hotels, hence Millennnium & Copthorne’s enthusiasm to add another hotel in Chelsea to their portfolio. QED.

And of course, ground development leads us neatly on to Chelsea Pitch Owners, whose Annual General Meeting takes place in the Drake Suite at Stamford Bridge on Friday 31st January at 11.00am.

On the face of it, this year there is nothing particularly contentious under debate (I’m certainly not aware of anything likely to be sprung on the Board), however, there are a couple of issues which do give cause for concern, and I’m obliged to an eagle-eyed shareholder who wrote to me pointing out that the letter of invitation to the meeting states:-

“Please note that in an effort to minimise costs in all of the dealings of Chelsea Pitch Owners, that we have cut back on the number of persons who will be on site from ERS, thus you are asked to arrive in good time for the meeting, and to note that the count will take place off site, with the results being announced on the Chelsea Pitch Owners website later in the day”.

It is of course understandable that CPO are looking to make cost savings, however not announcing results of the count at the meeting might cause some concern amongst shareholders.  Whilst the Chairman is not noted for allowing any queries after the count is announced (see TheChels.net passim), any delay in the count also denies  shareholders in attendance the chance to discuss the results among themselves immediately after the meeting.  It is also a worry that in the event of shareholders facing a proposal such as that of October 2011, an off-site count may lead to all sorts of scenes if the members get home to find out that a contentious proposal has been voted through.  In such circumstances the issue of the “dodgy shareholders” would undoubtedly be thrown back at the Board.

STOP PRESS….. Since this article was written (Saturday), the issue has been brought to the attention of the CPO Board who are mindful of the problems an off-site count might cause in the event of a crucial vote.  Hopefully at Friday’s meeting the Chairman will confirm that whilst off-site counts will take place at Annual General Meetings where routine business is discussed, the vote at any Extraordinary General Meeting will be counted on site and declared upon completion of the count.

Cost cutting measures are also behind Item 2.3, which is a proposal that the Company may communicate with shareholders by electronic means, “either by way of individual communication or publicity of materials on a website…”.  Again, a laudable endeavour to cut costs.  However, there are some potential problems here.  Firstly, you have to “opt in” to paper communications.  Thus, if Item 2.3 is voted through, unless you send back the form dated 03.01.13, you will be deemed to have agreed to receive electronic communications.  What if they don’t have your email address? Or you don’t have one?  What if another landmark proposal is received and you don’t get the voting papers or meeting notification?  The Board will hopefully address any concerns that the shareholders have during the meeting.

Literary News

There are a couple of recent Chelsea-related publications from Gate17 which will appeal to the die-hard Chelsea fan.  Firstly, the magnificent “Making History, Not Reliving It”, co-authored by Mark Worrall, Kelvin Barker and David Johnstone, with guest essays from such noted wordsmiths as Joe Tweeds, Tim Rolls and Jenny Brown, is the definitive fan’s eye view of the first ten years of the Abramovich era.  Stunning photos and poignant obituaries complete a must-have tome.

Al Gregg’s first novel “The Wrong Outfit” is the story of Adam Nedman, growing up in the 70s and 80s, and the impact that both football and punk rock have on his life.  It’s just a pity that he invariably finds himself in the “wrong outfit”.  A loving evocation of the era which will appeal to anyone who grew up then, or indeed younger readers who want find out more about it.

Both novels are available in paperback and in Kindle, and you can also bag a copy on matchdays at the cfcuk stall opposite Fulham Broadway. Find out more from the Gate 17 website.

Trust News

Apologies for not providing a blow-by-blow account of the Chelsea Supporters Trust Christmas Party, which was held at the Black Bull on 13th December. However, a good time was had by all, certainly judging by the number of hangovers that appeared on social media the next day.

The Trust will be holding another one of their regular Special General Meetings in the near future to discuss progress and answer any questions members might have.  Details of date, time and venue will be published once confirmed.

Finally, the Chelsea Supporters Trust badges are now available for collection.  More details on the website here.

STOP PRESS 2…. Literally as this article was going to press, confirmation came in that the CST will be holding an end of season event on Friday 9th May.  All will be revealed over the next couple of weeks, but believe me, you really do need to put that date in your diary!

I’ll be at the CPO AGM on Friday, with a report following on TheChels.Net early next week.  In the meantime, you can find out more about the Brompton Cemetery Conservation Project here and as always you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.

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The Heart of the Mata

Firstly – an apology for the hiatus in the ramblings of this column, caused by preparing for the Chelsea Supporters Trust Christmas Party, Christmas itself and flu, in that order.  Well, not really that order.  The flu manifested itself just before Christmas, set in on Christmas Eve and left me with an attack of the horrors on Christmas Night.  By Boxing Day I could barely stand up and, as a result, I was too unwell to return to London for the Liverpool game,  thus leaving Old Mother Baby with a clear field with regard the to the Christmas tuck.

So here we are in January, a traditionally depressing month, unless you’re glad to see the back of December.  January is full of earnest folk (or “Killjoys” as I prefer to call them), on diets, hammering the gym, and doing what I believe is called a “Dryathalon” – a totally unfathomable concept to the House of Baby.

This January is rendered particularly depressing by an unexpected turn of events at Stamford Bridge, this being the likely departure of Juan Mata for Old Trafford.  Since joining Chelsea in the summer of 2011, he’s made 135 appearances, scoring 33 goals and providing 58 assists.  He has won a Champions’ League winner’s medal, a Europa League winner’s medal, and an FA Cup winner’s medal. Whilst you couldn’t describe him as a cult player, and in spite of taking over two years’ to find him a (poor) song, he is genuinely well-loved by the supporters.  He appears to be a rounded individual, as can be seen from his blogs and Instagram account, taking full advantage of the cultural opportunities provided by the world’s greatest city.

So, how have we come to this?  The club’s Player of the Year two years running, and first choice under A*B, Robbie di Matteo and B*nit*ez, his career at Chelsea has undoubtedly hit the skids with the return of Jose Mourinho.  The Special One is building his team around Oscar, and has also embraced the work ethic of Hazard.  Even Torres, in a stop-start season blighted by a ban and a couple of injuries, seems to be flourishing under the tender care of the manager.  However, Mata’s undoubted skills appear to be not enough for Jose.  He doesn’t want someone who simply crafts a beautiful pass, or flies down the wing.   He wants someone willing to track back, to tackle, and to get his hands dirty, figuratively speaking. It doesn’t help that Mata’s infrequent starts have coincided with our stickier results.  With a more settled line-up and the omission of the little Spaniard, the team have developed a real momentum.

It’s entirely understandable that in a World Cup year, a player expecting to make the journey to Brazil with their national team will want to play first team football.  However, the biggest issue concerning Chelsea supporters is not the fact that Mata might leave, but his ultimate destination.  For most players Stamford Bridge is as good as it gets.  Not many go on to be more successful at another club.  If a player leaves Chelsea, it is generally because he is surplus to requirements.  Not since Ray Wilkins in 1979 have Chelsea sold a player at the peak of his career to Manchester United. However, these are all trends that could be totally bucked by the time we kick off our FA Cup 4th round game against Stoke on Sunday afternoon.  For many supporters, selling Mata to a despised rival is about as unfathomable as that Dryathlon I mentioned earlier, and there simply has to be an explanation for it other than acknowledging a player’s desire to be in Brazil in June.

So, as Loyd Grossman would say, let’s look at the evidence.

During what is already a legendary managerial career, Jose Mourinho has developed a reputation for not only being an extraordinary judge of a player, but also being able to get the best out of that player.  And in return, he inspires a devotion among his players, past and present, which has been a hallmark of his tenure at every club he’s managed at.  Jose has spotted something he doesn’t like in Mata’s game, and I believe that he feels he’s not going to be able to change it.  Mata is a turbo-charged version of Joe Cole.  The difference between Mata and Cole is that Joe knuckled down, and it is no coincidence that he had the best two seasons of his career under Jose.  So, that leaves Mata with a choice of staying at Chelsea and possibly missing out on further World Cup glory or leaving the club and making the plane to Rio.  Very well.  The club decide to help Mata, and also help themselves in the FFP stakes by selling him a big profit.  But to whom?  The staggering thing about the whole “Mata to OT” scenario has been what appears to be a complete lack of interest from any of the European giants for a major talent. There hasn’t been even a whisper of interest from cash-rich PSG, or either of the behemoths in his home country.

There is no doubt that, currently on their uppers as far as form goes, Manchester United could do with a shot in the arm.  The conspiracy theorists believe that having played the Salfordians twice this season, Juan is going north as Agent Mata, with a brief to do as much damage to the rival title bids from The Etihad and The Emirates as humanly possible.  But what happens next season? There is a real possibility that Mata could come back to haunt us.

There remains a final possibility.  Short of real menace up front, Chelsea made no secret last summer of their desire to add the out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney to their squad.  One wonders if Mata and Rooney are going to be the 21st century footballing equivalent of East and West swapping agents on an Eastern European border.   It would be hugely surprising if Rooney ended up at the Bridge in January, but with Eto’o being a one-season wonder along the lines of Weah, Ba and Moses not being fit for purpose and Lukaku still a work in progress, if the Mata deal does go through, then the start of 2014/2015 pre-season might just see Rooney and family house-hunting in leafy Surrey.

Chelsea FC have survived the sale of big stars before, and the foundations of Stamford Bridge are unlikely to fall around supporters’ ears with the departure of the Spanish wizard, but there is no doubt he’ll be hugely missed.  Thanks for the memories, Juan.

Early next week we’ll be taking a look at what 2014 might hold for Chelsea, including a preview of the Chelsea Pitch Owners AGM on 31st January.  In the meantime you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.


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Ten Years of The Roman Empire

“We are delighted to agree this deal to acquire what is already one of the top clubs in Europe. We have the resources and ambition to achieve even more given the huge potential of this great club.” (Roman Abramovich, 1st July 2003)

“I want to know whether this individual is a fit and proper person to be taking over a club like Chelsea. Until that question is answered, then I’m afraid the jury is out” (Tony Banks MP, 2nd July 2003)

‘…I wasn’t sure whether it was a scene from Candid Camera and that suddenly Jeremy Beadle was going to jump out at me.’ (Trevor Birch, former Chief Executive, Chelsea FC, interview with Evening Standard)

The minute you walked in the joint, I could see you were a man of distinction, a real big spender…’ (Big Spender, from the musical Sweet Charity)

Tuesday 1st July 2003 was a day which changed football forever, not just at Chelsea FC, but globally. Only those taking a close interest in business affairs, especially those of post-Communist Russia, would have heard of the 36 year old billionaire Roman Abramovich, who had made his money from oil and aluminium, and had reputedly sold his stake in Russian state airline Aeroflot shortly before taking over at Stamford Bridge, a deal which the BBC reported may have helped fund the purchase.

The deal was negotiated in secrecy. Until the announcement of the takeover was announced late on the night of 1st July, very few amongst the Stamford Bridge faithful would have had any idea that Ken Bates was preparing to bow out of Chelsea. There had been rumours that the next payment of the Eurobond due in July would present a problem, but publicly, at any rate, the club insisted it was business as usual. The close season of 2002 had seen nothing in the way of big signings, with manager Claudio Ranieri finding himself having to rely on the youngster Carlton Cole via the youth system, and the unremarkable Enrique de Lucas from Real Valladolid, via a loan spell at PSG, to bolster talent purchased the previous year such as Eidur Gudjohnsen, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and the young Frank Lampard, whom many supporters felt had failed to justify his whopping £11 million price tag in his first season.

Overnight, all the uncertainty was blown away. In addition to purchasing 50% of Chelsea Village shares (meaning that an offer could be made to shareholders for the remaining 50%), Abramovich wiped out the club debt, allegedly at £80 million, and, in an interview with Jeff Randall, the then business editor of the BBC, Ken Bates confirmed that the Russian had ‘earmarked an additional £60 Million for the club’, not only in player investment, but also for a new training ground, promises that rapidly came to pass. Randall cynically wrote ‘If the cash materialises, it should just about buy the fans’ goodwill for a season’, a serious under-estimation of the impact that Abramovich would have at Chelsea.

A Brief History of Time

During the summer of 2003, big name player followed big name player into Stamford Bridge. From the Premier Leage came Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Wayne Bridge and Juan Sebastian Veron. From further afield came Hernan Crespo and Adrian Mutu. However, the big names weren’t enough. Chelsea finished second to the so-called ‘Invincibles’ from Arsenal, and spectacularly failed in the Champions League when bizarre tactics and team selection by Ranieri resulted in a 3-1 away defeat in the first-leg semi final against Monaco, followed by a 2-2 draw at home in the second leg. Ranieri dubbed himself a ‘dead man walking’ and it came a surprise to no-one when he was dismissed on 31st May and replaced by the young, charismatic Portuguese manager, Jose Mourinho, whose Porto team had beaten Monaco in the Champions League final.

Another summer of investment yielded spectacular results, with a first trophy in February when Chelsea beat Liverpool in the League Cup final in Cardiff, followed by the longed-for Premier League title wrapped up by the end of April. Mourinho’s second season produced another league title, and in 2007, the club won their first FA Cup for 7 years, beating Manchester United 1-0 after extra time in the first cup final to be played at the new Wembley. Then the wheels came off. Mourinho left the club ‘by mutual consent’ just weeks into the 2007-2008 season, and was replaced by director of football, Avram Grant. Grant was never very close to the hearts of Chelsea fans, and although he took the club to a first Champions League final, resulting in a heart-breaking penalty shoot-out defeat in the Moscow rain to Manchester United, he was replaced at the end of the season by the Brazilian, ‘Big’ Phil Scolari. Scolari failed to fit in at Stamford Bridge, and in another short-term appointment, the great Dutch manager Guus Hiddinck ensured more silverware with another FA Cup win. Stability looked on the cards following the appointment of the popular Italian, Carlo Ancelotti, who delivered the Double in his first season. However, in one of the most spectacularly callous acts of the Abramovich era, he was sacked in a corridor at Goodison Park on the last day on the 2010-2011 season.

The appointment of Andre Villas Boas appeared to signal a fresh approach with a mandate to move on ageing senior players. However, he quickly lost the dressing room and was replaced mid-season by a true Stamford Bridge legend, Roberto di Matteo, who had been brought in as Villas Boas’ assistant. A fairy-tale end to the 2011-2012 season saw Chelsea win not only the FA Cup, but the Holy Grail of the Champions League. The popular Italian was awarded a two year contract, but this proved worthless in real terms as he became the victim of another heartless sacking. His replacement, Rafael Benitez, aka The Interim One, was one of the most unpopular appointments of the Abramovich years, resulting in supporter protests which came to a head after the 5th Round FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough on 27th February, when Benitez went into meltdown. In spite of Chelsea ending the season in 3rd place in the Premier League and as UEFA Cup winners, many fans were relieved to see the season end, and with it Benitez’s tenure.

You Got The Love

In spite of the intial sceptism of the press, the Abramovich era has yielded a generally warm relationship between the owner and the fans. Indeed, the early years saw uncritical adoration, with the Russian’s name sang at virtually every game, home and away. However, hairline fractures have developed in recent years. After the sacking of Jose Mourinho in 2007, a group of supporters wrote to Abramovich voicing their concerns. Days after, he went and sat in The Shed. The latter was received warmly, giving supporters the feeling that he was a man of his people

The next fissure was in 2011, with the ill-fated proposal of the club to purchase the lease of the Stamford Bridge pitch and turnstiles from Chelsea Pitch Owners. This was undoubtedly the biggest upheaval the club has faced in recent years. A small group of shareholders remain to be convinced that, in the absence of any viable plan to relocate the club and a repeated failure to exhaust all possibilities to expand Stamford Bridge, the bid was anything other than a land grab. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Chelsea Pitch Owners issue set fan against fan (even among those who had supported the club for years, let alone those who have nailed their colours to the mast since 2003), and although the club have stated that they have no new proposal to make at this time, it is likely that CPO will continue to be  a major talking point at the club for the foreseeable future.

What has been interesting is the eagerness of many supporters not to openly blame Roman Abramovich when things do go wrong. The appointment of Benitez, and the CPO debacle have largely been laid at the door of the lieutenants, rather than the general. However, the re-appointment of Jose Mourinho seems to have been hailed as a great decision by Abramovich. The recent appointment to the club’s executive board of his personal assistant, Marina Granoskaia, may indicate that Abramovich wishes to keep a slightly tighter rein on day to day events at Stamford Bridge.

What Will You Do When Roman Gets Bored?

In the long, long distant past, when Twitter hadn’t even been invented, one of the earliest ways in which football fans used to bicker with each other was through the BBC’s 606 forums. 606 was probably at its zenith around 2003/2004, and the Abramovich takeover was endlessly discussed not only by Chelsea fans, but by other supporters. Such debates would generally include the helpful suggestion ‘What will you do when Roman gets bored?’ – a kind of footballing Godwin’s Law. The good news is he hasn’t. Yet. However, there is no doubt that he isn’t seen at the Bridge as often as he was in the early days. He’s on to his second family now. Christmas and New Year are usually spent in St Barts, with his New Year Party at the latter occasioning much attention from downmarket newspapers due to its opulence and his habit of inviting musical megastars  to be the house band. He is spending as much on art as he is transfers (let’s face it, a Lucian Freud or a French Impressionist is never going to lose its value). If Roman Abramovich did ever decide to sell Chelsea, there isn’t much chance that there will be a repeat of the club falling into the hands of property developers. A potential next owner will probably emanate from the Middle East. And there’s something else that ownership of Chelsea has done for Roman Abramovich. It’s given him a kudos that he wouldn’t have got from other deals. It’s given him an international patina of respectability (much as the ownership of Birmingham City did for David Sullivan and the Gold Brothers, albeit on a much smaller scale). On the other hand, the Abramovich billions have moved the perception of Chelsea, outside the UK at any rate, from being a minor European player to superclub. Ten successive years of Champions League qualifications, serial late stage participants, Champions League winners and one of only a handful of clubs to have won all three European trophies has seen to that.

When he took over the club, Roman Abramovich said “I’m realising my dream of owning a top football club. Some will doubt my motives, others will think I’m crazy.” Hopefully he’ll stay crazy for a while longer.


If you want to read more about the first season of the Abramovich era, I’d steer you gently in the direction of Mark Worrall’s Over Land and Sea, available through Gate17 or from the man himself on matchdays at the CFCUK stall.

Ahead of the new season, we’ll be looking back at Old Baby’s Almanack from last season, and getting the crystal ball out again to see what the next 12 months holds.

Just a reminder that the inaugural AGM of the Chelsea Supporters Trust will be taking place over the first weekend of the season (date tbc at the time of writing) and although it’s the close season, the Trust are beavering away in preparation for the event. In order to attend the AGM and have a say in the historic first Trust Board Election, join the Trust. It’s just a fiver a year.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.

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Natters With The Chels – Tim Rolls

In our final ‘Natters With The Chels’ this season, we had a chat with Interim Chair of the Chelsea Supporters Trust, Tim Rolls, after our final home game of the season against Everton last Sunday.

TC: Are you pleased with the generally positive reception that the Chelsea Supporters Trust has had?

TR: I am. We’ve only been in existence three or four months. We’ve got over a thousand members, we’ve done most of the things we said that we’d do, we’ve got a survey going out, we’ve got good contacts with the media, we’ve had two meetings with the club, we’ve made contact with the Council, so yeah, I’m pretty pleased with what we’ve done. There’s always more you can do, we’ve got a long way to go, there’s a lot more to do and it is a long-term project, but I’m happy the way things have gone so far.

TC: Can you tell us a bit about how you became involved with the Trust?

TR: Well, I had a conversation with Cliff Auger and Dave Johnson over a year ago, 15 months ago, and we talked about the idea. They had obviously talked about it before and they asked if I was prepared to get involved and help set it up. I understood what Trusts do – I’ve got a school friend who’s heavily involved in the Aldershot Town Supporters Trust, so I knew what was involved and I was very happy to help do it. So we kicked it off and other people got interested and got involved in the Working Group as time moved on between then and the launch meeting.

TC: So how long did it take between the first discussions to the time the launch meeting took place?

TR: Eleven months. There were a lot of processes and procedures to follow.

TC: And what did you think at the launch event when you saw so many people queuing to get into the venue?

TR: Well, at first my heart sank because it was so chaotic outside, but no, I was very pleased. I know some people say ‘oh people only came because of Kerry Dixon’, but you have to give some carrot for people to come. Most people there would have come anyway I think. We signed up a lot of people that day, so I was very pleased when I saw that many people, because you never know with public meetings, unless you sell tickets perhaps, you never know how many are going to come until you have the meeting.

TC: And how do you envisage things panning out for the Trust over the next few years?

TR: We’ve got a number of key tasks. One is to build membership, both in the UK and overseas and ensure that we represent members views in an open and transparent manner. One fundamental aspect of the trust is regular meetings and an annual election process. We’ve got to further build our media profile, but I think that we’ve made a decent start there. Building a good working relationship with the club will take time, but again we’ve made a start. We must build relationships with other Chelsea supporters’ groups both in the UK and overseas, and increase our influence with a variety of stakeholders. As time goes on there will be issues – we don’t yet know what they are, but there will be campaigns that we need to fight and we need to get involved in, and we need to strive to be a key conduit through which Chelsea fans can get their voice heard.

TC: And do you plan to play a long-term role in the Trust?

TR: Well, the elections are in August, so who knows what’s going to happen, it’s up to the members to decide who they want on the board. Ideally, I’d like to be involved in some capacity for another year or two to help get the thing fully up and running. I think it’s good to have a turnaround of people actively involved. At the moment I’m the interim chairman. I don’t think anyone should be Trust chairman for more than a couple of years, personally.

TC: Over the last couple of years you’ve emerged as one of the ‘go to’ supporters for the media. How did that come about?

TR: My contacts in the media all came about because the club announced that they were trying to buy CPO’s shares in early October 2011. Partly through some of my comments on Twitter being picked up by journalists, but largely because Reema Babakhan, who handled PR for SayNoCPO, is a professional PR executive with superb media contacts and pushed a lot of them in my direction.Within a day of the club announcement I was interviewed by about six or seven newspapers, BBC London News and TalkSport – all a bit bewildering to a media virgin like me. I had little or no involvement with Chelsea fan groups at all previously, so I’m still slightly mystified as to how it all happened! All I’ve ever tried to do was give a logical, rational voice of Chelsea supporters. I’d never say I was speaking for everybody, as clearly I’m not, but giving what I believed was a sensible view. Others in SayNoCPO were also active in the media, not just me, and overall I think as a group we engaged very well with the media over the duration of the campaign.

TC: So did you actually find that once one person from the press had contacted you, it snowballed?

TR: Once I’d spoken to a few journalists and their stories appeared on the web, it snowballed very quickly, because other journalists were looking for contacts among Chelsea fans and picked up on me. As the campaign went on, I built relationships with a couple of key football writers, particularly Dominic Fifield [The Guardian] and Sam Wallace [The Independent], who are influential, and I would say, extremely credible journalists. I became their main contact regarding CPO issues and I tend to be one of their Chelsea contacts now, so if they’ve got a Chelsea issue, they often ring me.

TC: What made you disengage from campaigning on CPO issues after the meeting?

TR: I was always very clear that I was keen to get involved to win the original battle, but there were people better qualified than me to do the long-term campaign. It wasn’t clear where it was going to go, so I did what I said I’d do, which was get heavily involved in winning the vote in October 2011. I was never going to be involved longer term. How the CPO issue pans out longer term depends on what the club do next and what CPO do next. Who knows what’s going to happen next?

TC: Have you been disappointed with on the field events this season for Chelsea?

TR: I was disappointed with the managerial change. Third place in the league was pretty mediocre, second place was probably there for the taking but we threw away so many points in games like Reading, Southampton, Newcastle and West Ham,. We failed in both Swansea games in the League Cup, a competition we were favourites for. The FA Cup, we could probably have won that too. Very disappointed with the Champions League. The Europa League was nice, but it’s not the same as the Champions League. Overall, it’s been an OK season but nothing that special.

TC: And finally, how are you spending this evening, the anniversary of Chelsea winning the Champions League?

TR: Sitting in a restaurant with you and the Chelsea Supporters Trust Working Group!

TC: Thanks very much, Tim.

TR: You’re welcome!

That just about wraps it up from me for this season. I’ll be off on my holibobs for the next few weeks but will return refreshed at the end of June when I’ve no doubt I’ll be lobbing in my two pennyworth on the latest incumbent of the Stamford Bridge hotseat. In the meantime, visit the Chelsea Supporters Trust website  and join the ever-growing membership in order to make your voices heard at the inaugural AGM which will be held over the first weekend of the 2013/2014 football season (date to be confirmed). And as always, you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67.

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Natters With TheChels: Charles Rose

This month ‘Natters With The Chels’ caught up with Chelsea Pitch Owners director Charles Rose, who was elected to the board late in 2012.

TC: Firstly Charles, what made you want to put your name forward for a directorship of Chelsea Pitch Owners?

CR: The debacle of the General Meetings in 2011 and 2012, where the interests of the club and its core supporters were mishandled and misrepresented. I felt that my experience could be useful to CPO in sorting out the issues that remained from that time and to get a positive consensus for the future.

TC: What was the process you had to follow and how long did it take?

CR: I applied in writing to the Chairman, submitted a CV and had a telephone interview with the current directors.

TC: How did you feel when you were elected?

CR: Delighted. I wanted to get started straight away

TC: Did you sense any personal hostility to your appointment as a director, or do you think it has been generally welcomed?

CR: Not so much hostility but scepticism. I monitored a few websites and responded where I found any comment about me. In one of my first General Meetings it seemed everyone speaking started with the line ” You may know me from” I started with “No one here knows me” and as far as I knew that remains. It is the same when you join any new organisation, you need to show what you can do and what you are about, so I did not expect anything else. As to actual hostility, CPO has been bedevilled with hostility for the last couple of years. We need to remove this and get rational discussion going so that we can play a positive role with the club and for our shareholders interests.

TC: How do you get on with the rest of the board?

CR: I would like to think well. We meet up for meetings otherwise not at all, but correspond on a very regular basis. What I can say is that you have to respect the differing skills that are apparent in our team, and the amount of time that is spent considering and answering questions and e-mails is considerable. I respect all of them for those reasons.

TC: Did you find your first AGM as a director difficult? Were you nervous? And how do you think it went?

CR: Not really. I have experience of dealing with meetings large and small so it didnt phase me. We had prepared for the meeting, and whilst there was some negativity, I felt that overall it was a positive meeting that took CPO forward. As I said before, we need to deal with the current contentious issues that we have discussed for over a year now and get a positive consensus for the future of CPO in the interests of the shareholders.

TC: What is your personal vision for Chelsea Pitch Owners?

CR: Wow, how long have you got! In short it is to be a seen as an credible part of the structure of CFC. In order to do this we need first to settle our internal differences over the difficulties of the “mis-sold shares” .

This in itself is a major task and is taking considerable time and money to do so. Whether we will ever be able to satisfy some people is questionable, but we will do everything within the powers we have to endeavour to sort the matter out.

Second, and at the same time as the first is to reinvigorate the company in terms of income and expenditure. The third aspect to this is to run meetings that are civil. There will be disagreements, but if we cannot meet without it becoming a full scale shouting match then we will never be a credible voice to the club. If we can undertake that then who knows what can be achieved. With the advent of the Chelsea Supporters Trust there should be opportunities to discuss mutual areas of interest. What is clear in my mind is that the dissolution of CPO as the club wanted in 2011 is not the way forward. We should look to remain as the owners of the pitch and the ground and be the security for the future of the club, whoever is the owner of the main organisation. If you look at the way in which the game is moving both in the UK and at European level there may be interesting opportunities or obligations set by either parliament or by UEFA that necessitate a bigger role for supporters. We should not forget that unlike many of our British rivals we fans do have a real stake in our club. It is down to us as directors and shareholders to ensure that we use this wisely and responsibly

TC: Turning now to on the pitch issues, have you been disappointed with the way the season has been panned out for Chelsea?

CR: I was listening to Rick [Glanvill] on The Chels podcast the other day talking about a transitional season, and to a large part I agree with him. Because of the way in which the club has been run, the team were ageing and running out of time together. Munich provided a full stop for not only Didier but for team as a whole. The club were therefore in the stages of a dramatic rebuild and in this context, winning or coming near being Champions was never realistic. The absolute bottom line is Champions League and getting 4th or 3rd. After that a cup would be fantastic and because we have never won it the Europa would be my priority, particularly as it would be the first time that an English club has won all of the European titles available. I know that the game doesn’t work like that but you can dream. Results will define the season in the history books, but for those of us who were there, it will be remembered as a turbulent, and unhappy season where we let go a favourite son and gained an highly disliked Uncle. Mind you love it or loathe it we all know that being a Chelsea fan is and has rarely been boring!

TC: What do you think a successful season would be for Chelsea?

CR: See my previous answer!

TC: Finally, the last question we are asking everyone for the remainder of the season is how will you be celebrating the first anniversary of the Champions League win on 19th May?

CR: By attending the CPO celebration with Frank Lampard on 17th May! 19.05.12 will remain with us all and there will forever be a part of Bavaria that is Chelsea Blue and forever be a part of all of our memories that will be in Munich!

Thanks to Charles for his time. If you want to be part of the CPO ‘Written In the Stars’ dinner on 17th May, you can find out more here, and you can follow Charles on Twitter @prettyfabguy.

During the run-in to the end of the season we’ll be taking a look at the parallel universe of 19th May 2012, gathering readers’ Munich Memories, and having a natter with the Chair of the Chelsea Supporters Trust Working Group, Tim Rolls. In the meantime, as always, you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67

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Chelsea Pitch Owners AGM Report

Meeting Report

The 2013 Chelsea Pitch Owners AGM was held in the Harris Suite, Stamford Bridge at 11am on 30th January 2013.

Chairman Steve Frankham declared the meeting open as a quorum of Directors were present and made an unfortunate early Freudian slip, telling the assembled shareholders (around 100) that he planned to ‘induce’ the new Directors, Charles Rose and Sean Jones QC.

Mr Frankham also created early controversy when he requested that all mobile phones be turned off and that no-one would be allowed to cover the meeting via Twitter. Dan Levene of the Fulham Chronicle raised an objection to this, stating that this had not been the rule at previous meetings. Mr Frankham replied that the Board had received legal advice that they could enforce this rule.

Clint Steele raised a point of order regarding the availability of a transcript of the meeting. Mr Frankham advised that minutes would be available, but not a full transcript, and that the Board were legally obliged to ‘provide what we have to provide’, but no more.

Gray Smith commented that the Companies Act required only minutes of resolutions and voting be recorded.

Mr Frankham advised that he intended to talk through and update shareholders on matters that had arisen over the last six months, and there would be an opportunity for questions from the floor. He then went on to advise the meeting that since shares had gone back on sale, 403 shares had been sold, 24 shares were in the process of being issued, and a further 19 applications had been received but not processed. Of the 403 shares issued, the breakdown of number of shares sold was as follows:-

292 people had bought one share
11 people had bought two shares
1 person had bought four shares
3 people had bought five shares
2 people had bought ten shares
1 person had bought fifty shares

Mr Frankham described this as a good but not outstanding start to broadening sales, and all shares had been sold under the new vetting procedure. However, the figure still fell short of the 1000 share limit allowed for sale in 2012. Mr Frankham went on to say that Chelsea Football Club had helped advertise shares through the matchday programme, and also at the Annual Lunch. The club were also to include information on CPO shares with next season’s season ticket renewals. With regard to the proposed ‘Pay As You Can’ scheme to enable applicants to pay for CPO shares in instalments, Gray Smith and Sean Jones were still working on this and would provide an update.

Mr Frankham told the meeting that prior to 2011, share sales were the biggest revenue generator for CPO. He then asked Gray Smith to give an overview of where CPO currently were.

Mr Smith advised that CPO made a loss last year, all of which was attributable to legal costs and other fall out from the CPO EGM of October 2011. For instance, in years 2010/2011, meeting costs were £11,423. However, in 2011/2012, these rose to £39,237. Legal costs had also risen hugely, from £2,214 in 2010/2011 to £71,674 in 2011/2012.

With regard to the renewal of the lease with Chelsea FC, this was a straightforward negotiaton and was completed on 23rd November under the same terms. However, in accordance with usual procedure, the new lease was not signed until the day prior to expiry of the old one.

The CPO Board met with Bruce Buck and Alan Shaw of Chelsea FC on 21st January in an ‘open’ and ‘informative’ meeting. Bruce Buck had no significant updates with regard to expansion of Stamford Bridge or possible relocation, and he advised that no new proposal to CPO would be made anytime soon.

Steve Frankham next turned to the appointment of the new Directors. He had asked for applicants to put their names forward at the July EGM. Eight applications were received, and Mr Frankham described the selection process as ‘not easy’. They were looking for individuals with specific skills as the club wanted to see CPO as serious about reducing the amounts currently owed to them. A shortlist of three was drawn up, and eventually Sean Jones and Charles Rose were appointed on a split vote.

Mr Frankham then briefly addressed fundraising issues, advising that prospective events had been discussed with the football club.

At this point, Mr Frankham called for questions from the floor, but advised that in view of the evening’s away game at Reading, he was only prepared to allow an hour for this, after which time the voting would take place. Before this, however, he invited Gray Smith to update shareholders on the issues surrounding the ‘disputed’ shares. Mr Smith advised that whilst the law was not helpful on this, the shares were validly issued.

A speaker from the floor pointed out that the Board of CPO were wrong in addressing Section 993 of the Companies Act to remedy this issue and drew their attention to Article 41 of the Chelsea Pitch Owners Articles of Association, which allowed the Board to remove the voting rights of anyone who failed to respond to a letter asking them to state whether or not they had any connection to the club. The shareholder advised the Board that if they failed to agree to undertake this action, then they would be failing in their duties under Sections 171 and 172 of the Companies Act 2006, and may well find themselves open to a vote of no confidence.

All five board members regarded this as a sensible idea and undertook to send letters to the 25 shareholders.

Shareholder Clint Steele advised that he was alarmed about the legal costs being incurred to the detriment of  CPO’s income and whether the CPO Board were liable for these costs. Indeed, he went on to ask if the previous Chairman, Richard King, was liable.

Gray Smith replied that under the loan agreement, reasonable endeavours had to be made to repay the loan, and any shortfall of income impacted this, and unfortunately CPO had to make up the shortfall. Clint Steele argued that it seemed unfair that CPO were going one step forward and one step back in respect of income issues.

Steve Frankham advised that the Board had in fact turned down costs submitted by the previous legal advisors to CPO.

Dave Sadler asked the Board why steps had not been previously taken in respect of ‘carpetbaggers’. Steve Frankham replied that CPO react as a Board, and that they would make the appropriate enquiries.

Julian Eastbrook asked whether  given that Chelsea FC had no plans to relocate, were the disputed shares an issue? Mr Frankham reiterated that one way to dilute the influence of these shares was by getting more people to buy shares. Sean Jones added that share sales were important and that he wanted there to be a sufficient level of trust between the Board and shareholders.

Martin Knight stated that he was angry about the illegal shares and surely if the shares were illegal, then the Police should be involved. Sean Jones responded that if either a director or individual person had committed an unlawful act then it might well be a civil offence.

Dave Sadler stated that although he was pleased the Board intended to look into the disputed shares, why they had sat on this issue for 15 months? Steve Frankham responded that it hadn’t been 15 months, as  Gray Smith’s report had been submitted in June. Dave Sadler again maintained that the report had been sat on. Steve Frankham responded that there were implications regarding the whole issue. The dogged Mr Sadler persisted, asking why did the Board concentrate on the possibility of buying back the shares, given that what a number of shareholders wanted was the voting rights revoked. Mr Frankham maintained that the Board were attempting to dilute the disputed shares by selling more. He added that what had happened had happened [BB67 -  i.e. that events could not be changed].

Mary Phelps asked about checking the address of the owners of the disputed share. Gray Smith acknowledged that the Board could not ‘leave’ the matter of the letters to those holding the disputed shares.

Jim Cowan asked the Board about their strategy for moving forward, commenting that they needed a global strategy. Steve Frankham responded that it was to sell shares. Mr Cowan countered that this was not a strategy. One of the new directors, Charles Rose said that the strategy should concentrate on the accountancy and corporate side of problems. CPO needed to put the issues of the past behind them and get on to paying off the loan. Jim Cowan responded to Mr Rose that this got CPO no further forward as these were structural not strategy issues and it was an error to focus on structure too much without first identifying the strategy that structure should be implementing and/or delivering. Charles Rose accused him of being disingenuous. Mr Cowan went on to say that if the High Street moved as slowly as CPO did, many more businesses would go bust.

Another shareholder, Peter Fordham, asked if there was any possibility of fanzines carrying advertisements for CPO shares, and Steve Frankham confirmed that this would happen.

Robin Crosse asked if all the members of the Board had read the Articles of Association, and why they had appeared to miss the implications of Article 41. Gray Smith responded that Article 41 had not been missed.

Mr Smith went on to say that CPO was not like a High Street company. With regards to which strategy the Board should pursue, their aim should be to pay the loan, sell shares, keep the pitch and keep the asset.

Jim Cowan responded that this was not a strategy, this was an aim. Gray Smith countered that the objective of the company was own and keep the freehold and that they were charged with looking after the asset.

Respected shareholder James Greenbury then addressed the meeting, saying that whilst he was sympathetic to having the 25 shareholders on record denying any connection with the club, he was sceptical as to whether much progress could be made. From his analysis, it looked as if the shares issued recently had been bought by genuine supporters, and he urged the Board to maximise sales but to get as many current shareholders as possible to encourage others to buy shares. In terms of sales, he wasn’t sure whether CPO had had a lucky year or a skilful year. He went on to enquire if many applications had been turned down, and whaat processes had been put in place to prevent block purchases.

Steve Frankham replied that over 100 shares had been sold at the Annual Lunch, which he had attended, and he had asked the individual who had bought 50 shares why he had done this. Charles Rose commented that he had been charged with looking into the share register, with a view to improving maintenance. Sean Jones stated that agreed with Gray Smith’s comments that the objective was principally to sell shares.

Jim Cowan rose again to cite HMV as an example. If they needed to sell 1000 CDs, they couldn’t just go stacking them on the shelves. They needed a strategy. So how could CPO get a strategy that guaranteed a 1000 shares a year would be sold?

Sean Jones commented that they needed to make share ownership an attractive proposition, and that a Pay-As-You-Can option would make it easier to acquire shares, subject to legal checks. Steve Frankham commented that one of the reasons that so many shares were sold at the Annual Lunch was due to a charm offensive by Rick Glanvill, who went around the room and persuaded as many people as possible to buy shares. However, shares couldn’t solely be sold through this method.

Charles Rose told the meeting that they were fire-fighting on a number of fronts and the Directors were trying to sell CPO and provide the right image to put in front of shareholders. He also wanted to improve communication.

Dave Spring commented that if he were a prospective new shareholder, he wouldn’t want to invest in a company which he thought was being run by a concert party. He re-stated a widely held opinion that the 25 shareholders of the disputed shares had simply walked in and bought the shares without proper checks being put in place. Steve Frankham reiterated that the Board were addressing the issues relating to these shares.

Mr Spring went on to suggest that the former Company Secretary, Bob Sewell, should have his remuneration from last year as referred to in the financial accounts for CPO taken back from him and Mr Frankham responded ‘Perhaps that’s going to happen’.

Rick Glanvill stated that he thought the answer regarding the Concert Party impediment was that it would prove an incentive to buy shares. One purchaser of shares at the Annual Lunch stated that he was buying as ‘he didn’t want the club to get away with it’. He also thought that genuine supporters would have an impulse to buy shares in spite of the concert party.

Shareholder Mirek Malevski told the meeting that there had been an unacceptable degree of obfuscation on the part of the board. He added that it was noticeable that none of those named in the concert party were at the meeting, and criticised the quality of the minutes from meetings. Gray Smith reiterated that the minutes were what the Board were legally obliged to supply, and a multi-national, such as BP, would act exactly the same.

Mr Malevski reiterated that the minutes were unacceptable as no-one would remember what had been said at the meeting, there was too much obfuscation and not enough goodwill. Mr Smith responded that the Directors were charged with doing their duty and it was part of their obligation to comply with the demands of the Companies Act.

Clint Steele welcomed the two new Directors and expressed the hope that they would be working in the interests of the shareholders. He then went on to ask Steve Frankham if he had any connection with the CFCTruth blog, as a number of conversations they had previously had, had subsequently been repeated verbatim in that blog. Also, he expressed his concern that Sean Jones and Charles Rose had decided to publicly comment via the CFCTruth blog rather than via the Chelsea Pitch Owners website.

Mr Frankham, with some annoyance, expressed the opinion that this question was not relevant. Clint Steele responded that surely it was better to have information relating to issues such as fundraising and new Directors on CPO’s own website.

At this point, Steve Frankham declared that the hour allotted for questions had elapsed and invited the ERS to set out the voting procedure. There was an interval of an hour whilst votes were cast and counted, and a number of shareholders departed after casting their votes. Around 30 remained until the results were declared at approximately 1.15, which were as follows:-

Resolution 1 proposed to receive and adopt the Company’s annual accounts for the financial year ended 31 July 2012 (ordinary resolution).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2991   123             10                         Passed      95.6%

Resolution 2 proposed the re-election of Steve Frankham as a director of CPO (ordinary resolution).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2417  696              12                          Passed     77.64%

Resolution 3 proposed the re-election of Rick Glanvill as a director (ordinary resolution).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2456   650            17                         Passed      79.07%

Resolution 4 proposed the re-election of Gray Smith as a director (ordinary resolution).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2975   128             22                          Passed    95.87%

Resolution 5 proposed the re-election of Charles Rose as a director (ordinary resolution).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2484  624             15                          Passed     79.92%

Resolution 6 proposed the re-election of Sean Jones as a director.

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2626   473           26                          Passed     84.74%

Resolution 7 was to reappoint Hannaways as auditors until the next AGM (ordinary resolution).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2698   413            14                           Passed    86.72%

Resolution 8 was to allow the Board to fix Hannaways’ remuneration (ordinary resolution).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2686   416            20                          Passed    86.59%

Resolution 9 proposed to authorise the Directors to issue further CPO Shares (ordinary resolution).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2443   623            59                          Passed    79.68%

Resolution 10 proposed that the Directors be authorised to issue new shares for cash without having to offer them first to existing shareholders (special resolution requiring 75% of the vote).

For      Against     Abstentions      Result     Percentage

2405  657            63                          Passed    78.54%

Following the announcement of the results, Steve Frankham declared the meeting closed at 1.25pm, wished the team well for the evening’s game at Reading and hoped that they would come back with three points.

Meeting Opinion

The obvious headline from this year’s AGM is the agreement by the Board to write to the 25 shareholders in possession of the 1831 shares purchased in a period of 9 days between 12th and 20th October 2011, also referred to as the ‘disputed shares’ or the ‘concert party shares’. The Board of CPO have always had this option available to them and it is disappointing that it took pressure from the floor during this year’s AGM for them to agree to undertake this this action.

Sean Jones and Charles Rose made impressive first appearances, and in spite of concerns raised by a number of shareholders over their appointments it is hoped that they will indeed bring the necessary skills to what could be a watershed period in the history of CPO.

I’d like to thank Rick Glanvill for taking the time to explain to me the reason why the AGM came to be held on 30th January. The meeting legally needed to be held prior to 31st January 2013, and there were scheduling difficulties due to a various commitments involving the Directors – it’s worth remembering that with two legal eagles on the Board, they will often have Court commitments that can’t be changed. It’s a real shame that the meeting ended up being held on a matchday, but following ESPN’s decision to show Chelsea’s 4th Round FA Cup game against Brentford on Sunday 27th January, it was inevitable that the League game against Reading would be shifted to the Wednesday, and this undoubtedly had an effect on attendance at the AGM. It would be good if the 2014 AGM could revert to its traditional Friday slot.

Reading the vote results, it’s obvious that Gray Smith continues to enjoy the highest level of confidence amongst shareholders (most votes for, fewest against). Chairman Steve Frankham polled the fewest number of votes among the directors, and whilst there was also heavy votes against Charles Rose and Sean Jones, this could simply be a result of their having recently joined the board and it will be interesting to see how they perform at the next AGM, having had a year to bed in.

Out on the floor, as well as the usual suspects making their presence felt, it was good to see a number of younger shareholders not only attending the meeting but also putting questions, as well as other new faces, and it’s very much to be hoped that the Pay-As-You-Can scheme can be implemented as soon as possible in order to boost share ownership amongst younger supporters.

With regard to the issue of insufficient minutes, I hope that anyone wishing to read a fuller account of proceedings will find a useful resource in these reports; however as they are recorded by pencil and paper in Pitmanscript, rather than shorthand, my apologies in advance for any omissions/errors which are purely unintentional on my part.

Whilst Ben Rumsby of the Daily Telegraph referred to the meeting as ‘fractious’, I know from experience that although voices were occasionally raised, it was far less firey then other recent meetings.

It’s to be fervently hoped that issue of letters to those in possession of the disputed shares will help put Chelsea Pitch Owners on the road to becoming a more democratic, transparent, entity.

It’s a busy time at Chelsea just now. No sooner than the CPO AGM is behind us, then the next big event on the horizon looms, which is the launch of the Chelsea Supporters Trust, and TheChels.Net will be carrying a preview as well as report back from the launch over the coming days. Look out too for our first venture into the world of literature in the near future, with a review of Walter Otton’s briliant debut novel, ‘The Red Hand Gang’ coming soon.

You can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67 – meanwhile you can debate the ongoing Benitez lunacy 24/7 at ahfcchat.com.

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Chelsea Pitch Owners 2013 AGM Preview

The Chelsea Pitch Owners AGM takes place in Stamford Bridge’s Harris Suite at 11am on Wednesday 30th January 2013. Hopefully this year’s AGM will see a continuation of the increased numbers of shareholders who are taking the time to attend meetings, make their views known and their votes count. It’s just a shame that the meeting is not only taking place in midweek, but due to the re-arrangement of the league game against Reading, on an away matchday, albeit a relatively nearby one. It remains to be seen whether these factors have an affect on attendance.

The agenda for the AGM is fairly routine stuff – adoption of accounts, re-election of Directors and permission to sell 1000 shares during the next 12 months. However, it would be hugely surprising if the Chairman, Steve Frankham, and his fellow Directors weren’t given a rough ride from the usual suspects on the floor, and no doubt questions will continue to be asked about the ‘disputed’ shares bulk sold in the run-up to the October 2011 EGM. The AGM will also allow a first opportunity for shareholders to question new directors, Sean Jones QC and Charles Rose about their philosophy on how CPO should operate going forward.

In a recent entry for his “Reality Cheques” blog, CPO shareholder James Greenbury writes that he has obtained and analysed the most up to date version of the shareholders’ register, and that recent sales of Chelsea Pitch Owners share do appear to have been sold to small shareholders, “probably genuine fans unconnected with the club”. This is excellent news and this momentum needs to be maintained and as many Chelsea fans as humanly possible encouraged to buy even a solitary share. It’s also encouraging that in a statement for the Chelsea Pitch Owners website, Steve Frankham confirmed that the club are now urging various departments to promote share sales, including the inclusion of promotional flyers with this year’s season ticket renewal paperwork. It’s estimated that around 400 shares have been sold since July’s AGM which, other than the flurry of shares sold in the run up to the October 2011 EGM, represents the biggest sale of shares for many, many years. And of course, as James Greenbury points out, every time a genuine Chelsea supporter buys a share, this negates a share purchased by a shareholder believed to be a ‘connected person’, i.e. a shareholder who may have invested at the behest of Chelsea FC with a view to skewing not only the vote at the 2011 EGM, but any vote going forward.

Whilst the initial cost of a hundred pounds is a lot of money, especially in the current economic climate, a CPO share makes an excellent birthday present, especially for landmark occasions, and it would be great if Chelsea fans perhaps asked their families/friends, instead of giving several little presents, to give them the gift of a CPO share instead. It’s also good news that although the “Pay As You Can” scheme mooted at last year’s EGM hasn’t yet been given the go-ahead, Gray Smith and Sean Jones are to liaise to see if this can be implemented. Such a scheme would undoubtedly lead to many more rank and file supporters being able to afford a share and spead the cost over a period of time.

Steve Frankham’s New Year message referred to fundraising meetings. These meetings certainly haven’t been well publicised (the writer of this article only became aware of the existence of the initial meeting second-hand), and, worryingly, sources have claimed that Chelsea FC charged CPO £500 for the hire of a room for the second meeting held which only four people attended. Having seen the feedback produced from these fundraising meetings, there are grounds for concern that many of the ideas proposed are aimed squarely at the same people who are able to afford to attend the Annual Lunch (and, of course, prior to that the CPO lunch). Again, any fundraising proposals must bear in mind the current economic climate and the squeezed finances of ordinary supporters who are already struggling to afford match tickets.They should not be solely the preserve of Executive Club members.

In light of the above, the scene is set for an interesting and hopefully progressive AGM, and there’ll be a full report of proceedings on TheChels.Net.

In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67

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Chelsea Pitch Owners – One Year On

Saturday 27th October marks the first anniversary of the extraordinary victory of ordinary Chelsea Pitch Owners shareholders in their fight to secure a future for the organisation. It therefore seems an opportune time to look back on the dramatic events of last autumn and forward to what the future might hold.

Readers will recall that the board of Chelsea Pitch Owners, then led by Richard King, required 75% of the vote in order to pass the resolution put forward by Chelsea Football Club to purchase the land currently held by CPO. After 24 days of intense lobbying, including publicising the campaign, leafleting on the day of the home game against Everton on 15th October, and seemingly endless meetings, the “Say No” campaign succeeded in defeating the proposal with the CPO Board only securing 61.6% of the votes required.

Since that time, the issue of Pitch Owners has quietly meandered along, albeit with sporadic violent eruptions, notably surrounding January’s AGM, when Bob Sewell was castigated for selling shares in excess of the authority granted during the 2010 AGM, and at July’s EGM, when a motion to restrict voting rights to a maximum of 10 per shareholder was voted down amongst some acrimony.

The past 12 months have seen changes to the composition of the board. Richard King departed under a cloud following last October’s EGM, and was replaced as Chairman by Steve Frankham. Mr Frankham subsequently co-opted Denis Wise and Gray Smith on to the board, and whilst Mr Wise impressed at the 2012 AGM, his non-appearance at July’s EGM was shortly followed by the announcement of his resignation. Bob Sewell also failed to appear at the EGM, his resignation having been announced by Steve Frankham on 3rd July. Mr Frankham is currently seeking new faces for the board, and it believed that amongst those who have expressed an interest in the vacancies are prominent figures from various lobbying groups connected with CPO, as well as individuals with no affiliation. It is hoped that when the time comes to fill the vacant directorships, the wider shareholdership of Chelsea Pitch Owners will be able to have a say in this crucial issue, rather than it being left solely in the gift of the board.

The Chelsea Pitch Owners website has recently been updated to provide further information regarding issues raised at recent meetings in a question and answer format. Rather disappointingly with regard to the still contentious issue of what are seen as ‘concert party’ shareownership, point 21 of the Q and A asks “Why is the Board against writing to the 25 or so multiple share buyers from October 2011 to verify their ID, address and independence of the Club as recommended?’, with the answer given ‘Because there is no obligation on those share buyers to respond.’ That doesn’t mean that there is no point in trying. One positive note is the announcement that a register of interests now exists to record any ‘gifts’ (i.e. match tickets, hospitality, etc.) received by Directors of CPO from the football club. This is very welcome and timely step.

The thorny subject of how CPO can generate future income remains, and at July’s EGM Steve Frankham appealed for fund-raising ideas. Indeed, TheChels hears rumours that a meeting to discuss this very subject is likely to take place on Sunday prior to the game against Manchester United. One disappointing development is the slow take-up rate of shares in Chelsea Pitch Owners since they went back on the market in July, with unconfirmed reports that as few as 200 applications, mainly from individuals, have been received. Sadly for CPO, it’s undoubtedly the case that the first priority of many Chelsea supporters at a time of ongoing economic uncertainty is not likely to be the purchase of a share, but simply to be able to keep going to matches. It could of course be that those with an interest in bulk purchasing shares have found themselves unwilling to do so for fear of attracting unwanted publicity.

Following the club’s failure to secure the Battersea Power Station site earlier in the year, Chelsea’s options within the ‘heritage’ area remain extremely limited. If the club are to remain within the historic locality, their best bet still appears to be extension of the ground, and Campaign55 continue with their dilligent work in exploring this area. However, a glimmer of light remains with respect to a possible move to Earl’s Court. The High Court ruled on 12th October that plans by CapCo to demolish 900 homes on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates are unlawful, and should now be the subject of a substantive hearing. This, together with allegations of bribery by Earl’s Court residents by a Council official, which are now in the hands of Fulham Police, may yet lead to the collapse of the CapCo master plan, and if it does, you can be pretty sure that Chelsea FC will be waiting in the wings with an alternative.  Indeed, the latest blog from the CFC Truth website suggests CapCo may  ’even have already been on the phone to the club….’.

The first anniversary of the defeat of the club’s proposals gives those involved an opportunity to quietly relish their massive achievement, but there is little doubt that there will be battles ahead. It is possible that the proposed Chelsea FC Supporters Trust will give a voice to those who found themselves disenfranchised from the hard-line taken by Say No CPO subsequent to the EGM, but given that CFCST is in its embryonic phase, any involvement they are likely to have is a long way down the road.

Whatever the twists and turns of this ongoing saga, TheChels will be there to cover them. For further information and reading, you can visit the following sources:-

Chelsea Pitch Owners website
Say No CPO website
Campaign55 website
ChelseaFC Supporters Trust website
CFC Truth website

Speaking of the Chelsea FC Supporters Trust, following the positive start-up meeting on 21st September, a further meeting is taking place at The Atlas in Seagrave Road at 18.30 on Sunday.  All welcome.  In order for the Trust to be a success, it’s important for as many people as possible to become involved, so if you’re in the area, please consider attending.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @BlueBaby67 and if you fancy additional opportunities to to debate all things Chelsea, visit the revitalised After Hours Football

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