Revealed: club's desperate tactics in battle of Bridge

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The Independent Online

The desperate lengths that Chelsea have gone to in order to win a crucial vote tomorrow, which will ultimately decide whether they can sell Stamford Bridge and move to a new stadium in west London, can be revealed today by i.

In voicemails left by the Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, and heard by i, Buck (right) asks for help from a waste disposal contractor at the club to put a shareholder in Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) who had asked awkward questions "on the sidelines". Since Buck announced the club's intention on 3 October to buy back the freehold of Stamford Bridge from CPO so they can sell the ground and move on, the club has faced concerted opposition from fans' groups.

i has also learnt that an extraordinary volume of shares has been sold in an open sale that closed on Thursday ahead of tomorrow's vote, in which the club needs 75 per cent of CPO shareholders to vote "Yes" to their proposal in order that they can buy back the freehold.

In the last week before sales of CPO shares were suspended, more than £200,000 was spent on shares which cost £100 each and are limited to 100 per person. In all, more shares were sold in that period than in the previous seven years, representing more than 10 per cent of all the shares in issue. The fans' groups lobbying for a "No" vote fear that some have been bought by individuals with loyalties to the club.

Tomorrow's vote, which follows a CPO meeting at Stamford Bridge, will be defining for Chelsea's future. The club say any move to a new stadium will be dependent upon them buying the freehold for Stamford Bridge so they can redevelop the potentially lucrative site to fund the move.

The dissenting supporters, chiefly the "Say No CPO" (SNCPO) group, are concerned about the consequences of CPO shareholders losing the freehold. The group was launched in 1993 as a not-for-profit initiative which encouraged Chelsea supporters to invest as little as £100. It was devised as a block against developers being able to buy the prime, 13-acre Stamford Bridge site.

In the case of the voicemails left by Buck, his specific concern was a Chelsea fan and CPO shareholder Paul Todd, whom the Chelsea chairman had identified as a particularly vocal opponent. The voicemails were left with Mick Crossan, a friend of Todd. He played the five voicemails to Todd, who has passed them on to i.

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