Chelsea have today (Wednesday 27th October 2011) failed to persuade the Chelsea Pitch Owners to part with their land and hand it back to owner Roman Abramovich. In a complicated vote, Chelsea FC needed 75% of the votes to be in favour of the buy-back, but only 61.6% of shareholders of CPO did this, meaning a comprehensive win for CPO.
The battle dates way back to the Eighties and Nineties. Chelsea, under Ken Bates, were a club with their stadium seriously under threat. Property developers had threatened to take the land home to Chelsea FC – the most expensive land of all stadiums in the UK, in the very heart of the expensive side to London. CPO formed as a non-profit organisation set up to protect the future of their club, and so by law, they own Stamford Bridge, the four stands, and the name Chelsea Football Club. If Chelsea were to move away from Stamford Bridge without prior consent of CPO, the agreement stated they could not call themselves Chelsea Football Club.
But in the modern times, Chelsea have been acquired by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and the threat of the stadium looks very rare indeed.
Three weeks ago, Chelsea announced to the public that they had set an offer to the CPO to buy back the rights to the land. This is a prerequisite to any move away from Stamford Bridge, with Ron Gourlay, Chelsea’s CEO, was necessary to make sure Chelsea’s revenue matched that of Arsenal’s and Manchester United’s, who have a 60,000 and 75,000 stadium capacity. Gourlay said that Chelsea needed to buy back the land to fund a move to a new stadium, without naming any sites, and without confirming whether Chelsea would actually move.
Chelsea FC offered the same amount the shareholders paid to get it – Buck reiterating that CPO was not set up as an investment, but simply for die-hard fans wanting to protect the club. They also promised that they would not move further than a 3-mile radius of Stamford Bridge in SW6, but only if they decided to move until 2020.
A week or so later, CPO made a counter-offer, wanting it to be 2030 as long as Abramovich was still here. Chelsea rejected this proposal, and this all came to a conclusion in a historic day for Chelsea.
CPO have also asked if they could come to an agreement by simply retaining the CPO and making CPO owners of the land of Chelsea’s next potential stadium. Again, this was refused. Gourlay dramatically spoke out 48 hours before today’s vote and gave three potential sites, but this did not alleviate some of the anger still felt by Chelsea’s lack of transparency.
In today’s meeting, after two hours and doubts as to whether the vote would go ahead today, the vote was made and the fans spoke. Chelsea FC fail in a bid to buy back the land. This presumably means no new stadium (in the near future). This means more time will be spent catching up on what clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and even Newcastle already have – a big stadium, so increased ticket revenue. Roman Abramovich was defeated, and Chelsea will have to try again, though they deny they will.