CPO rebels win pitch battle to give club pause for thought

Supporters' 'No' campaign prevails after tense vote at Stamford Bridge

The bid by Chelsea to buy back the freehold of Stamford Bridge was defeated at a stormy meeting yesterday in which the club's supporters angrily rejected the proposal endorsed by owner Roman Abramovich with a large enough threshold of "No" votes.

In a fractious meeting of Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) at the stadium, chairman, Bruce Buck, and the board of CPO came under sustained attack from shareholders who claimed that the sale of a tranche of more than £200,000-worth of shares in recent weeks was allegedly to tip the balance in favour of a "Yes" vote.

As emotions ran high, one shareholder, Mark Wyeth QC, described the terms of the vote as a "farrago". Another shareholder, who gave her name as Kim but did not wish to be identified, said that the club's alleged promise to give "Yes" voters a place on a roll of honour at a new stadium was "shabby". Clint Steele, who initiated a move to get the meeting adjourned, alleged it was "corrupt".

After the vote, Buck claimed that defeat was "not a catastrophe" for the club, which won 61.6 per cent of the vote to the "Yes" side, short of the 75 per cent required under the CPO protocols to buy the freehold. The Chelsea chairman said that the board would now discuss with Abramovich their next move and did not rule out coming back to CPO shareholders with a different offer.

The mood among the 700 shareholders was adversarial from the very start with the chairman of the CPO, Richard King, a particular target. However, the temperature rose when Steele alleged that there had been "manipulation" of the vote by the sale of a relatively large volume of more than 2,000 shares since the club's proposal to buy out CPO was announced on 3 October. Chelsea deny any wrongdoing.

The meeting was moving towards an adjournment on those grounds when King unexpectedly told the shareholders that, with the 4,000 proxy votes counted, the "Yes" lobby required 1,400 of the 1,700 votes controlled by shareholders at the meeting to win. Recognising that the mood in the Great Hall at Stamford Bridge was clearly in favour of a "No" vote, the shareholders present shelved the adjournment and went to a vote. Less than an hour later it was announced to the meeting that the "No" vote had won 38.4 per cent, 2,227 votes, comfortably higher than the 25 per cent threshold required to defeat the "Yes" vote. King, who had to face calls from the floor to resign, said that he would consider his position and announce a decision today.

The club had previously announced on 3 October that they needed to buy the CPO freehold on the four stands and pitch at Stamford Bridge in order to facilitate any future move to a new stadium. CPO was established in 1993 as a block against a developer ever being able to acquire the potentially lucrative freehold of Stamford Bridge and close down the club – as had been a threat in the 1980s and early 1990s.

While the defeat in yesterday's vote by their own supporters was something of an embarrassment for the club, Buck said that he believed that the club had at least established to the majority of its support that Chelsea would have to move at some point. Nevertheless it was clear that they will have to mend relations with many long-term supporters who feel that they were railroaded into the vote.

Later Buck categorically denied allegations that the club had encouraged people sympathetic to their cause to invest the maximum £10,000 in 100 shares blocks to win the vote in recent weeks. He said: "If we wanted some kind of a conspiracy on this particular issue, we would've bought them some months ago.

"There's a lot of suspicion about the purchase I have of 100 shares [bought in April]. If I wanted some kind of subterfuge or to hide that, I could've bought those shares through my mother or grandmother or whatever and hidden the fact that I own them. But I'm proud to own the 100 shares and have them in my name."

Shares have always cost £100, with a limit of 100 per person, but suspicions had been raised at the volume of shares sold in the last few weeks up until the suspension of sales eight days ago. Given that there are believed to be more than 18,000 CPO shares in existence, in many cases the owners of which have proved impossible to trace, yesterday's vote recorded just 5,796 shares – less than one third of the franchise.

The "Say No CPO" (SNCPO) fans' group, which campaigned for a "No" vote, said the club had misjudged the mood. Tim Rolls, of SNCPO, said: "The club simply do not understand the fans. That has been demonstrated by the emotions that surfaced at this meeting."

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices