Council set to discuss Bridge expansion

Hammersmith & Fulham Council say they remain committed to helping Chelsea stay at Stamford Bridge.

The club recently failed in its bid to buy back the stadium’s freehold from Chelsea Pitch Owners after only 61.6% of CPO shareholders backed the proposal – significantly less than the 75% required for it to be approved.

CPO bought the freehold in 1993 after being set up to safeguard the club’s financial security and avoid ownership of the ground falling into the hands of property developers

Buying back the freehold would have enabled Chelsea to sell the Bridge and use the money raised towards buying a new stadium.

A number of possible sites are believed to have been considered, including Earl’s Court and Battersea Nine Elms.

There is also a potentially viable piece of land in White City, close to the Loftus Road home of QPR, who are also interested in the site.

“The council now proposes to examine whether there are planning options to expand Stamford Bridge.”

QPR’s sudden serious interest in building a new ground in the west London area – where available land is at a premium – appears to have been a major factor in Chelsea’s determination to buy back the Bridge.

Meanwhile, Fulham have been granted planning permission to expand their Craven Cottage ground – and the council say they are also willing to work with Chelsea to explore whether the Bridge’s current 42,000 capacity can be increased.  

A council spokesman said: “Hammersmith & Fulham Council is proud that our borough uniquely contains three Premiership football clubs: Chelsea FC, Fulham FC and Queens Park Rangers FC.

“In light of the recent decision by Chelsea Pitch Owners to retain its freehold of the ground, we reaffirm our desire to see Chelsea FC remain in the borough and our commitment to help the club to remain at its historic home of Stamford Bridge.

“We recognise that all our clubs will need greater capacity to accommodate growth in their fan bases and that new financial fair-play rules necessitate generating extra match-day revenue to remain competitive with the leading English and European teams.

Fulham are looking to expand Craven Cottage rather than relocate

“We are currently assisting Fulham FC with its plans to expand the capacity of its historic ground at Craven Cottage and we have already agreed to grant planning permission for additional capacity. A new scheme is about to be consulted on.

“The council now proposes to examine whether there are planning options to expand Stamford Bridge to accommodate a larger capacity, recognising that such a project must be economically viable, benefit local businesses and not unreasonably affect residents.

“We look forward to working closely with Chelsea FC and all local stakeholders as soon as possible to examine the options of redeveloping Stamford Bridge.”

Chelsea said they welcomed the council’s willingness to discuss the issue and were keen for talks to take place.

A club statement read:  “Chelsea Football Club welcomes the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s commitment to see the Club stay in the borough and importantly their recognition of our need for greater capacity at Stamford Bridge.

“As an initial step in a renewed dialogue with the Borough, we would like to explore promptly with LBHF how they propose helping us address the club’s current problem of Stamford Bridge having substantially reduced capacity for big games.

“We will be happy to meet Borough officials to discuss this further and especially their desire to see us stay at Stamford Bridge.”

Villas-Boas backed Chelsea's plans to leave Stamford Bridge

Despite Blues captain John Terry and manager Andre Villas-Boas publicly backing the controversial buy-back proposal and urging fans to trust club owner Roman Abramovich, many remained sceptical and several supporters groups united to try to convince shareholders of CPO to vote against it.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said: “Obviously we are disappointed but we recognise and we respect totally that the shareholders of Chelsea Pitch Owners have spoken.

“We will meet with Mr Abramovich and the rest of the board and we will decide what action, if any, we will take going forward.”