Over the past couple of years, Chelsea Pitch Owners’ AGMs have provided little in the way of controversy in comparison with the fraught meetings that took place in 2011 and 2012, accompanied as they were by claim and counter-claim and taking place in an atmosphere which veered between raucous and actually hostile.
However, the 2017 meeting will see a crucial piece of business placed before the shareholders under Resolution 9, thus:-
“the board of Directors may offer an extension to the current lease and may give such consents as may be required to facilitate the redevelopment of the ground.”
Put simply, if this motion is accepted by 50% of the shareholders, then this will give the CPO board the authority, if they wish (note the use of the word “may” in the resolution) to approach the Owner with a suggestion that the current lease be extended, with reports in some quarters suggesting that this offer could be as long as 999 years. If Mr Abramovich accepts this, it could in effect guarantee football at Stamford Bridge in perpetuity.
Furthermore, the explanatory notes to the Resolution go on to say:-
“With a substantial extension, the Owner would have no business reason for needing to acquire the freehold; CPO’s unique role would be preserved and the interests of Owner and shareholders would then be aligned.”
This goes to the very heart of the long-held suspicions of some shareholders – that ultimately, the Owner wishes to acquire the valuable land on which Stamford Bridge is sited. If such an offer is made by the board of CPO and accepted by Mr Abramovich, this would forever clear the air. No more accusations of a land-grab. No more suspicions that once in possession of the lease, Roman will flog the club for a couple of billion and disappear into the sunset (or in this case the good ol’ US of A, where his two youngest children were born, complete with a President glad-handed to the White House by Russia. Allegedly.).
Given the Resolution under consideration, it is difficult to see why any shareholder, unless they bought a share under the misguided impression that they would be able to sell at a profit (carpetbaggers), or bought a share(s) at the behest of those allegedly connected with the club (that word allegedly again), would vote against this particular piece of business. It would also be difficult to understand why even the most hardcore members of Say No CPO (and it’s worth bearing in mind that they put the suggestion of obtaining an extension to the lease to the 2016 AGM, which the writer missed due to ill-health) would vote against this Resolution.
The resolution is also timely; given the unanimous vote by Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Planning Department last Wednesday to grant permission to Chelsea for the expansion of the stadium to 60,000 capacity, decisions involving CPO will have to be made soon, whether it be the owner wishing to make a fresh bid to buy back the lease, or CPO approving a temporary move away to another (as yet still undecided) stadium for the duration of the rebuild.
Either way, if you are a CPO shareholder, it has never been easier to make your vote count. If you aren’t able to attend the meeting in the Drake Suite at Stamford Bridge at 11.00am on Friday 27th January in person – and it makes for an interesting morning, even if the business isn’t contentious – you can vote online using the information supplied in your AGM pack. It will literally take you five minutes, which could secure football at Stamford Bridge forever. If you haven’t received the AGM Notice it may be that CPO don’t have updated details for you, in which case you should contact them immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The short-term fate of Stamford Bridge was determined by the shareholders of Chelsea Pitch Owners in 2011. But 2017 will hopefully see them make a decision that will secure Chelsea FC’s future forever.