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Chelsea Consider Move from Stamford Bridge to Earls Court

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.

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  1. Jan

    December 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    If they move to Earls Court, what will happen to Stamford Bridge, will they tear it down.

  2. laureate

    February 10, 2011 at 6:25 am

    There is no need of delibrating on whether to move out of stamford bridge or not. This is because stamford bridge is small for a club in the calibre of chelsea fc. The club need more than enough revenue at least from every matchday to meet the needs. Other big 4s sustain from the stadia capacities revenues and executive boxes available to them.

  3. adie patrick adie

    November 21, 2010 at 4:18 am

    dat will be the best thing that will happen 2 chelsea in history.

  4. liarliar

    November 9, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    No they have not ..where do u get this nonsense? are u a fantasist?

  5. Lyle

    November 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I don’t think Chelsea could fill out 60,000. They ain’t Liverpool and Man City has trouble filling up their own ground to capacity. Stamford Bridge is also notoriously empty when European guppies come in to play.

    Could turn out to be a sweet deal if it happens though.

  6. Vious

    November 9, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    With their support growing rapidly, it makes sense as many more seats could be filled and many more dollars could be made

  7. Jon

    November 9, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Hey Gaffer,

    Two comments I’d like to make in relation to this interesting story: one in relation to the legal issue of the naming rights and the other in relation to the size of the new proposed stadium vs. Stamford Bridge.

    1) The naming rights issue will be interesting, not because of the legal intricacies, which are actually quite boring, but because it will be interesting to see whether the CPH group is cooperative to a move from the Bridge because they see as it as being for the good of the club, or whether they are resistive on the basis of their belief in the history of the club. As a legal matter, this could be easily resolved. Chelsea (well, Abramovich) are incredibly wealthy. Like anything, there is a commercial value to the naming rights tied into the contract between the club and CPH, and the club could either buy back the rights from them or pay them to agree to rescind the original contract. The price isn’t really an issue because the massive commercial upside of a new stadium would make almost any reasonable price worth it.

    The interesting thing will be whether CPH wants to cooperate. Are they the sort who love the Bridge for its history and want the club to stay there because of that? For example, I can see a number of Liverpool supporters advocating to stay at Anfield because of the history, even if Stanley Park is almost required to move commerically forward. The same issues came up with Arsenal when they moved from Highbury – there were large vocal segments of the fan base that opposed that move because Highbury was the soul of the Arsenal.

    It is obvious and apparent that a new ground would be in Chelsea’s commerical interest. Is it in CPH’s? Depends on whether they are motivated by Chelsea’s commercial success or their own dedication to the history of the ground. I’d like to know more about that, myself.

    2) Many people have talked about the size (capacity) of the ground and the need to expand to a larger base, but that actually is not the most important statistic in looking at a ground. Capacity is only one smallish part of the matchday revenue generated by a ground – the larger and more important part is the corporate facilities available, that is, luxury boxes. One luxury box can generate massive amounts of revenue far exceeding the value were the space to be filled with actual seats. The difficulty with stadia like the Bridge, Anfield, and White Hart Lane is not the capacity of the ground, it is that all that capacity is in general seating and there is no room for luxury box expansion. As a result, matchday revenues are lower than newer and nicer stadiums. It is why the Emirates generates almost as much matchday revenue for Arsenal as Old Trafford does for United, even though it has 15,000 less seats. That was the Emirates revolution for Arsenal – the new corporate luxury facilities. There is a whole concourse of them.

    So, while I agree that Chelsea need a new ground if they are going to compete over the long term with their English and European rivals (and without being propped up by Abramovich), it is not really because they need a BIGGER ground, as much as they need a NEWER ground which uses the space less for general seating and more for luxury boxes. Of course, a new 60,000 capacity stadium would accomplish both, but Chelsea would still take a massive financial step forward even if the ground only held 45,000, but had a whole level of luxury boxes.



    • The Gaffer

      November 9, 2010 at 9:17 pm

      Good points Jon and I concur with all of them. When I say Chelsea need a bigger ground, you’re correct. They need a bigger capacity but more importantly they need more executive boxes and corporate facilities to bring in the big money.

      As for Chelsea, I read that one of the fan groups is talking about doing a campaign to not move away from Stamford Bridge. And the club itself has been playing down the possibility of the club moving to Earls Court. We’ll see what happens though. The story isn’t over yet.

      The Gaffer

  8. adamindallas

    November 9, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I can’t imagine the owners of the naming rights could get too upset if the team actually moved into Chelsea & Kensington from Fulham & Hammersmith.

  9. Evertonian

    November 9, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Went to some amazing Concerts at Earls Court. Sad to see it ruined

  10. jmansor

    November 9, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Anfield only holds 45,362…so not all that much bigger than Stamford Bridge when you compare the sizes of Emirates 60,355 and Old Trafford 75,957.

  11. soonerscotty

    November 9, 2010 at 4:24 am

    Ok, I would love some historical insight…how is it even possible for an entity other than the Club to own the name of Chelsea FC?? How would any court of law allow that?

    Please give me some more info or resources to learn more about this.

    • Chris McQuade

      November 9, 2010 at 4:55 am

      You have a legally binding contract for sale which includes the naming rights of the football team with a covenant that the team must play at Stamford Bridge. It is as the Gaffer says a way to prevent Chelsea FC being moved from that pitch.

      That’s the how, the why is more existential and really more about how can anyone ‘own’ anything, man?

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