May 23 2013 Latest news:
Paul Lagan, London24 Chelsea blogger
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Chelsea has a chance now to put the record straight, an opportunity to do the right thing by its supporters and secure the future of the club once and for all
I wonder if Roman Abramovich was aware that when he bought Chelsea Football Club, he didn’t own the pitch and if he didn’t would he ever have pumped his cash into SW6.
Roman never speaks to us lowly plebs, preferring the council of acolytes, hangers-on and occasionally people he can actually trust to give an honest, unbiased opinion.
So we probably will never know.
But anyhow, the situation is that he doesn’t own the Stamford Bridge pitch – a disparate group of people – all with the common love and allegiance to CFC bought shares issued by former chairman Ken Bates and thus was born Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO).
It’s well documented that CPO was created to thwart any attempt by property developers to buy the Bridge and kick the club out.
But Chelsea’s hierarchy, presumably at the behest of Abramovich want to move the club out of the Bridge and build a spanking new stadium elsewhere. To achieve this they want to maximise the full financial potential of selling the Bridge, thus they want the pitch in their ownership.
So what should Chelsea have done from the start?
Well, the CPO’s group in-fighting and massive rebellion against Chelsea’s cack-handed approach to buying back the £100 shares will testify that the choice they took was wrong.
Chelsea have created open warfare among its own supporters and that it is shameful and something the Blues hierarchy should address.
What Chelsea should have done, of course is so simple and so non-contentious, that they did not do it because they could not believe it would work.
Ironically they feared it would lead to wholesale rebellion among their fans, with attention focussed solely on Abramovich and that was something they did not want to attempt.
The club should have said: “We need a new stadium. We need it to compete with, not only the best in the UK but the world.
“Arsenal, Spurs and even West Ham will have bigger stadiums than us with a short space of time. We cannot be left behind.
“Now we intend to move, and here are our plans for the new stadium.”
They would then produce detailed stadium plans and a tasty model to show off.
“Now what we want to do is realise the best possible price for Stamford Bridge, all the money raised will go towards funding the new stadium.
“To do that we would like to buy the CPO shares – will you help the club realise it’s and true Chelsea fans ambitions for the future by selling them back to us?”
Honesty and showing integrity shown towards them is all Chelsea fans want.
They simply don’t trust those that run Chelsea to have those qualities and by extension Abramovich also.
By taking the stance they did, and by being wholly disingenuous in statements following their intention to buy the CPO shares, Chelsea caused a rift among CPO shareholders that will take a long, long time to heal.
“CPO was never about money,” a CPO insider told me at the weekend.
“But now I worry that that’s all that’s it’s become.”
Evidence that some CPO shareholders take that view came from Friday’s AGM where some stood up and addressed the meeting and talked openly about what they believed were the true value of the shares they hold.
Each share was sold for £100. But now some are suggesting that they value of that share is worth 10s of thousands of pounds.
They argue that by factoring in the number of share to the money Chelsea could get by developers for Stamford Bridge, makes their £100 per share pale in comparison to its projected worth.
Opposition to Chelsea’s proposal came from those who genuinely did not think it was good for the club and those who wanted more for their share. The result a schism developed, not quite a civil war but something akin to it.
Chelsea’s response to a newspaper’s ‘investigation’ regarding shares bought following the club’s announcement they wanted to buy back the pitch was deafening by its absence – some might say damming by its absence. That simply added fuel to the anti-sell brigade.
So what of the future?
Arsenal are revelling in the money coming in from their 60,000-seater stadium, Spurs are now focussed on building a new ground, while West Ham are odd-on certainties to become the tenants of a 60,000 revamped Olympic stadium.
Chelsea has a chance now to put the record straight, an opportunity to do the right thing by its supporters and secure the future of the club once and for all.
The Nine Elms development beside Battersea Power Station remains the bookies favoured site if Chelsea moves.
There is a hint that the current Earls Court redevelopment might not come to fruition and may come back on the open market once again.
It’s a golden opportunity for Abramovich to open his mouth to wipe the slate clean, speak to the club’s supporters and tell us what he really wants.
Leaving it to the current board where some of the members reputations have been brought into sharp focus, won’t cut with Chelsea’s intelligent and well-connected faithful.
There are some who have skill sets that can hinder Chelsea if they continue on their present course, and Chelsea will have no one but themselves to blame if they chose to use those skills to thwart their singular ambitions.