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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or you can get in touch with any other Board members – you can reach me via Twitter, where I am, as always, @BlueBaby67.
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.