First, it was imposing the colour red on 103-year old Cardiff City’s home strip, then it was trumping Chelsea for the right to re-develop London’s iconic Battersea Power Station – - – Malaysian money gets what it wants.
Chelsea’s current ground, Stamford Bridge, holds a little over 40,000 and is hemmed in on all sides. No doubt they look northeast with envy at Arsenal and all the additional revenue they reap at their six-year old Emirates Stadium.
As The Gaffer pointed out, the Battersea site is only three miles from Stamford Bridge, and is a tantalizing piece of open space near the heart of the megalopolis. But this is London, the planet’s third-most expensive real estate market according to the Wall Street Journal. The reality is that city belongs to the world, not Britain. No deal comes easy.
West Ham United have seen their dream move to the Olympic Stadium delayed and delayed again, with the latest development being Leyton Orient’s request for a groundshare.
Tottenham Hotspur have itched for a new ground to realize their wild ambition for ages. Their Northumberland Development proposal has fanciful computer renderings, complete with a “your name here” commercial come-on for naming rights, but no actual shovels in the dirt.
Arsenal faced significant legal, finance, and local challenges in the six years it took from when they first submitted their proposal for a new ground at the Ashburton Grove sight and the opening of the Emirates. New Wembley took seven years and an obscene budget before finally opening to muted acclaim.
Up north, Liverpool’s stadium saga has seemingly been on for eons. Their American owners have seemingly given up on a new stadium in adjoining Stanley Park. Instead, they will pursue a controversial Anfield redevelopment which will entail the destruction of many homes in the surrounding streets.
So Chelsea supporters could be in for years of rumours and renderings before a resolution is reached. Chelsea could take another look at neighbouring Earl’s Court or elsewhere in the Capital while they try and squeeze every last pound out of their current ground. The wait may suit many supporters just fine, particularly those aligned with the Chelsea Pitch Owners, plc and their resistance to a new home.
While money has always been the name of the game, the latest rush for stadia may harm one of the League’s main selling points for fans across the globe, its history. It’s a big factor in the League’s popularity among those with no ties to England. Grounds such as Maine Road, Highbury, and the Dell have already been lost. Despite this latest setback, 145-year old Stamford Bridge may be next.