Battle over future of Bridge goes to tense vote

CPO shareholders opposed to move need just 25 per cent of vote to scupper club's plans

The increasingly bitter battle for the ownership of the freehold for Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium will reach its conclusion today with neither side able to say last night with any certainty that they have carried the day.

The club, who are bidding to buy back the freehold from Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO), have said that they need the freehold in order to be able to redevelop Stamford Bridge and move to a new stadium. The extra publicity around the vote today has meant that the club will now hold the meeting on a concourse in the West Stand to accommodate the estimated 400 shareholders who have expressed an interest in coming.

There is still mystery surrounding the sale of more than £200,000 worth of shares in the last two weeks, more shares than have been sold in the last seven years and 10 per cent of the entire issue. The "Say No CPO" (SNCPO) campaign has claimed that those shares have been bought by "Yes" voters loyal to the club. The club maintain there is no evidence of that, and argue certain individuals in the "No" campaign have also increased their holding.

The "No" campaign require just 25 per cent of the vote to defeat the club's attempt to buy the freehold for around £1.5m to £2m. It was originally acquired in 1997 for £10m, around £8.5m of which was loaned to CPO by the club at the time. Shares cost £100 each and are limited to 100 per person and they were still on sale up until Thursday, 17 days after the club announced their intention to buy back CPO.

The SNCPO group, who have said that they would endorse a "Yes" vote in exchange for the freehold on any potential new stadium, believe they have around 1,000 proxy votes given to them by fans sympathetic to their cause and will muster around 3,000 in all. However, neither side has a clear idea of how many people will come to the vote today with only a fraction of voters contacted directly by campaigners on both sides.

When the Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, first announced the club's intention to buy out CPO on 3 October it was estimated that there were around 12,000 CPO shareholders who held a total of 15,000 shares. Since then the number of shares has risen to more than 18,000 before sales were suspended.

The SNCPO campaign has encountered problems contacting shareholders because of the outdated shareholders' register they were initially given. It is not yet clear whether CPO chairman Richard King will allow questions from the floor today or move straight to a vote, which will be conducted by the Electoral Reform Society. The SNCPO have said they will circulate a series of questions for the CPO board, with whom there has been friction since the vote was announced.

Among the questions that SNCPO want answered is why the club left so little time between announcing their intention to buy back the freehold and today's vote – 24 days, three more than the legal minimum. They also want to know why the new shares were sold after that announcement, especially as the money raised has no direct benefit to CPO and simply goes to pay off the 14-year-old debt to the club.

Many Chelsea fans who attended last night's fourth-round Carling Cup game at Goodison Park are expected to have got back from Liverpool overnight in order to attend the meeting. The club's desperation to get the "Yes" vote was revealed yesterday by The Independent, which was given transcripts of Buck asking a contractor at the club to help put one "No" vote agitator "on the sidelines".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years