Mark Fleming: Gourlay gambles with fans feelings

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The Independent Football

Ron Gourlay's idea of selling the name of their Stamford Bridge ground to the highest bidder is a brave plan. It risks alienating supporters who fear it will provide ammunition to rival fans, who say Chelsea have no history. However, it is a proposal that does make commercial sense.

Given that the club have given up plans either to redevelop the Bridge or move to another site, it is pretty much the only option open to Gourlay to raise the revenues generated by the stadium. If he can attract £15m a year for naming rights, Chelsea will take a substantial step towards their ultimate goal of breaking even.

Gourlay can point to Arsenal's Emirates Stadium as an example of how selling naming rights can succeed. But Chelsea fans are not being asked to rename a new stadium. They, like Newcastle United supporters this week, are being told the club want to re-christen the ground that has been their home for more than 100 years purely for financial reasons.

Chelsea fans might wonder why the club are doing this when they are owned by one of the richest men in the world, Roman Abramovich, who recently spent £300m on the world's biggest private yacht.