Chelsea in freehold row with fans
Club refuses to negotiate with supporters who want assurances over move away from Bridge
Chelsea have refused to negotiate with the supporters' groups who want a new set of assurances over a possible move away from Stamford Bridge – including giving fans ownership of the freehold at any potential new stadium. The counter-proposal was put to Chelsea by the "Say No CPO" (SNCPO) campaign, which opposes the sale of the freehold of the current stadium back to the club by its present owners, Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO), made up of around 12,000 fans who bought the £100-each shares.
CPO is due to vote on the sale of the Stamford Bridge freehold to Chelsea on 27 October, with the club saying that being permitted to reacquire ownership is crucial to any potential move in the future. In its three-point plan, released yesterday, SNCPO said it would agree to the sale of the freehold by CPO – which encompasses the four stands and pitch at Stamford Bridge – in return for being given the freehold at any new stadium. Chelsea have made clear that condition is unacceptable to them.
Last night CPO shareholders who own significant holdings attended an invitation-only meeting with the Chelsea chairman, Bruce Buck, and captain, John Terry, at Stamford Bridge aimed at convincing shareholders to vote in favour of selling the freehold back to the club.
The SNCPO campaign has also promised to back any stadium move within three miles of the Bridge up to 2030 on the basis that owner Roman Abramovich is still in charge of the club. The club have pledged to CPO shareholders that in the event of them buying back the freehold they would not move more than three miles away should they leave Stamford Bridge before 2020.
Abramovich has pumped around £800m into Chelsea since he bought the club in 2003 and while fans are broadly grateful for the Russian's support – they have won three League titles under him – they would like assurances about the plans of the multibillionaire.
Chelsea believe that any potential new stadium would, along with land acquisition, cost £550m to £600m, and would require significant investment from Abramovich. They have said that alone would show his commitment to the club and he would not need to give supporters the freehold. The sale of the Stamford Bridge site would also be crucial in funding a new stadium, the club say, and they cannot go ahead with redevelopment without owning the freehold. SNCPO also want "ongoing consultation, and transparency of information" from the club over a new stadium. However, the club are sticking to their original offer that fans will be recompensed at £100 a share for the 15,000 shares in existence and those voting 'Yes' will have perks such as a choice of season ticket at a new stadium and their name on a "roll of honour".
There are disagreements between SNCPO and the club on the valuation of the Stamford Bridge site, which occupies 12 to 13 acres of prime west London land. Some believe it could be worth as much as £750m once the club also have the freehold. Buck has indicated the club value it at much less than that.
The club need 75 per cent of CPO voters and proxies at the meeting a week on Thursday to vote "Yes" to selling the freehold. The likes of Terry and the former Chelsea left-back Graeme Le Saux have come out in favour of the "Yes" campaign. A Chelsea spokesman said the club had already put a "reasonable" proposal to CPO shareholders and would continue to discuss it with fans.
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