Chelsea may be one of the richest clubs in the Premier League, but their matchday attendances are definitely not in the same league as the Big Four of English football. Rival clubs Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool all have bigger attendances. The problem for Chelsea is not their inability to sell tickets. Instead it’s that the capacity of Stamford Bridge, currently at 41,841, is small by comparison, and therefore the club is unable to generate as much matchday revenue as its chief competitors.
So it’s with great interest that The Guardian newspaper has revealed that Chelsea is secretly in discussions for a possible move to Earls Court, less than a mile away from Chelsea’s home at Stamford Bridge. Famous for its exhibition centre, Earls Court will be demolished after the 2012 Olympic Games. The original plan was for site owners to build a housing complex featuring thousands of new homes. But the prospect of building a state-of-the-art stadium with at least 60,000 seats may be quite enticing especially knowing how badly Chelsea wants a new stadium and how much they may be willing to pay for that luxury.
If Chelsea is able to secure a deal to move to Earl’s Court, the new stadium won’t be ready until the beginning of 2015. However it’s important to point out that Earls Court is on the same side of the River Thames as Stamford Bridge. In the past Chelsea has looked at moving to Battersea Power Station. But while that site is less than three miles away from Stamford Bridge, the Power Station is symbolically a whole world away because it’s on the other side of the Thames. Earls Court is only a 15-20 minute walk from Chelsea’s current ground.
An interesting side note about Chelsea is that a non-profit organization named Chelsea Pitch Holders own the freehold and naming rights of Chelsea FC. What this means is that if Chelsea decides to move to a new location in the future, they will not be able to use the name Chelsea Football Club.
Chelsea Pitch Owners was formed in the 90s with the intention of ensuring that Stamford Bridge could never be sold to property developers and that the club’s name could not be used outside of Stamford Bridge. The company was formed as a defensive manoeuvre to ensure that the club couldn’t be kicked out. Times have changed considerably since the company was formed, but if Chelsea is to move to Earl’s Court, it’ll need to deal with the legal implications of working with the Chelsea Pitch Owners group to unravel the mess to keep the Chelsea FC name.
Until then, the executives at Chelsea Football Club need to continue its private discussions with the owners of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre. Chelsea supporters should keep their fingers crossed that the meetings are fruitful. Earls Court would be the best thing that could happen to Chelsea if the deal goes through.