Ever since The Observer newspaper reported that Chelsea were seriously contemplating a move from Stamford Bridge in west London to a new stadium site next to Battersea Power Station, executives at the Blues have been acting very fidgety.
First, some background. The distance between the two locations is exactly three miles, but psychologically the locations are worlds apart. Stamford Bridge is in the very affluent boroughs between Hammersmith and Fulham. Battersea is south of the Thames river in the borough of Wandsworth. Chelsea is synonymous with the fashionable shops of nearby King’s Road. Battersea is best known for the Battersea Power Station, made famous for being featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s album, Animals (pictured above). While the power station is a London landmark, it is so for all of the wrong reasons — giant smokestacks that pierce the London skyline.
So how and why have Chelsea been acting weird about the whole situation? First, Chelsea were very quick to deny the story but they contradicted themselves in the first two sentences of the official statement. The first sentence read “This story is total nonsense.” The second sentence then read “Chelsea is not actively considering moving to this site in Battersea.” The emphasis on the words “not actively” were added by me, but the message is clear. Chelsea is not refuting that they’re examining Battersea as an option. They’re just using doublespeak to diffuse the situation before Chelsea supporters become enraged at the thought of leaving their sacred home where they’ve been since 1905.
Three miles may not seem like much, but it’s a one hour walk from Stamford Bridge to Battersea Power Station. But more importantly, it’s a big psychological difference. North of the River Thames is synonymous with riches. South of the river Thames signifies the working class. As you move further outside the city centre of London to the west and the east, the north south divide becomes less important. But near the heart of London, it’s a massive deal.
Don’t forget that Arsenal played their early part of their existence in Plumstead, nestled south of the River Thames before they moved to north London and Highbury in 1913. That was after property magnate and Fulham chairman Henry Norris tried to merge Fulham and Arsenal together, but failed. By moving Arsenal to north London, Norris rescued the club from certain bankruptcy and extinction.
Here’s a satellite image of London to show how close but far apart Stamford Bridge is to Battersea. Notice how the smokestacks from the power station cast a shadow over the Thames directly above and to the left of Battersea, identified by the letter B below.
Chelsea Chief Executive Peter Kenyon was interviewed yesterday on Sky Sports and was asked about the stadium move. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a video of the interview, but you can tell from the following interview about Chelsea’s financial situation that Kenyon appears uncomfortable answering the question and is quite fidgety.
The potential move from west London to Battersea must be of huge interest to Roman Abramovich especially considering that the Russian billionaire holding’s have lost as much as $20 billion in paper value according to one source. The opportunity for Abramovich to redevelop Stamford Bridge into luxury apartments is immense. According to The Observer, “While Highbury is one of the more expensive areas of the capital in which to buy property, it is dwarfed by the value of land at Stamford Bridge’s west London location. While Arsenal were restricted to 711 apartments at Highbury, as the old stadium was a listed building, Stamford Bridge has no such limitations. With its far greater area, including the club’s Chelsea Village complex and extensive parking, at least 1,000 properties could be built.”
Despite Chelsea’s denials, the potential move from Stamford Bridge to the site next to Battersea Power Station makes economic sense. It would provide the Blues with a state-of-the-art stadium with a much larger capacity than the current Stamford Bridge (capacity 42,055), which doesn’t have much room – if any – for redevelopment. It would establish Chelsea as a much bigger Premier League heavyweight with a ground closer in size to the two biggest club stadiums, Manchester United’s Old Trafford (capacity 76,212) and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium (capacity 60,000).
For Chelsea, it makes economic sense and is a move that the club and its fans seriously need to consider. Roman Abramovich won’t be around forever. Chelsea needs to start planning its financial future today to cope when Abramovich isn’t there to sustain the club. Battersea Power Station may be the answer.