Chelsea ready to move to 60,000 capacity stadium

 

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The Independent Online

Chelsea announced last night that they are taking the first major steps to building a new London stadium to rival Arsenal's Emirates home, by buying back the freehold on their pitch and stadium from a supporters' group.

The club have written to all Chelsea Pitch Owners shareholders to tell them that they wish to buy back the freehold for the Stamford Bridge pitch and four stands so that they can redevelop the ground if they suddenly decide that they are in a position to acquire a new site. Without the agreement of the CPO shareholders, the club cannot sell Stamford Bridge and build a new stadium elsewhere, partly financed by the profits. Asked whether that was the case yesterday, chairman Bruce Buck said: "This is the only way we can move. That is the bottom line, yes."

The club want the option of building a stadium with a capacity of around 55,000 to 60,000 to compete with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal. Although they have not yet decided whether they will leave Stamford Bridge, which has a capacity of 41,800, they are keen to have that option.

The site at the top of their list is the Battersea Nine Elms area next to the famous decommissioned power station, with views of the River Thames. However they have looked at sites all over west and north-west London including redeveloping Earls Court, White City, Imperial Wharf, Wormwood Scrubs and Old Oak Common.

They have been reluctant to give any details of a possible move until now, when the issue with CPO has forced their hand. Since 2004, the club have looked at how they might expand Stamford Bridge, but two architectural firms both come to the conclusion that none of the four stands can be significantly increased in size.

The club have to persuade the 12,000 shareholders in CPO to sell back the company Chelsea Stadium Limited that they bought from the club in 1997. There will be a meeting of CPO shareholders on 27 October.

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