Abramovich insists Chelsea's Battersea plan is self-funded

 

Chelsea's prospective move to the Battersea Power Station site will not be bankrolled by the club's owner Roman Abramovich, who is not planning to make up any shortfall on funds earned by the potential redevelopment of Stamford Bridge to finance the new project.

The club announced yesterday its intention to bid for the historic site on the southern bank of the Thames, with a view to building a 60,000-capacity stadium, including a 15,000 single tier south stand. The move was given tentative approval by supporters although there are huge issues to address, not least the ownership of the Stamford Bridge freehold by the Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) shareholders.

The club has not ruled out bidding for the Earls Court site, to the north of its present stadium, which is currently set to be developed for residential and shopping use. There are still provisions in the Earls Court supplementary planning document that would allow a stadium to be built on that land if owners Capco change direction.

However, Battersea remains the favourite location for the club, even though it faces stiff competition from up to 10 other bidders. Chelsea hope to make their offer stand out by promising a "significant" contribution to the planned Northern Line extension.

It is unclear how the move will be financed. The club believes that the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, around 12 acres of prime west London land, would not be enough to pay for the acquisition of Battersea and building the stadium. Chelsea have suggested in the past that the total cost of a new stadium, including land, would be £550-600m. It is not clear how much a redeveloped Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home for their entire 107-year history, would be worth.

The club said yesterday that its developers, Almacantar, had already produced plans for the power station site. "The four iconic chimneys and wash towers, along with the Grade II-listed west turbine hall and control room, will be restored and retained in their original locations and provide a unique architectural backdrop to a world-class stadium with a capacity of around 60,000 seats," it said.

The club has no immediate plans to hold a vote among the CPO shareholders who rejected Chelsea's proposal to buy back the freehold of the pitch and stands at Stamford Bridge in October. In order to redevelop the ground to finance the move, Chelsea would need ownership of the freehold, which requires 75 per cent of shareholders to vote in favour.

The club intends to work more closely with CPO shareholders and supporters' groups this time.

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, under whose jurisdiction Stamford Bridge and Earls Court fall, said yesterday it would "explore all possible avenues" to keep the club in the borough. However, Chelsea have come to regard their local council as an obstacle to increasing Stamford Bridge's 41,800 capacity.

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