True Blue: Chelsea’s new stadium plans are another own goal
11:49 08 May 2012
“Being open and transparent is not something that comes naturally to those who rule the roost at Stamford Bridge”
Okay, hands up, who wants to go to go to Battersea to watch the mighty Blues play footy?
Now I’m not talking about the dodgy public pitches or even the dodgy artificial ones in Battersea Park, where it must be said, I played many a blinder for my Sunday League side.
No, I mean, of course, Battersea Power Station and it’s grubby environs.
Chelsea decided to bury the announcement of this potentially historic moment on the eve of the FA Cup final and just after the press were attending the before the game press conference.
In political terms, something that Chelsea like to think they have a great appreciation of (they don’t) this was classed as one of those ‘Good time to bury difficult announcements’ moments.
Basically Chelsea were forced at the very last possible minute (legally) to state an intention to buy the 39-acre site which incorporates that most ‘White Elephant of White Elephants, Battersea Power Station and turn it into an iconic new stadium.
Those of you with better short-term memory than I will recall last year when Roman Abramovich suffered the humiliation of being told off by Chelsea supporters who were also Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO).
CPO members voted against the proposal which would have seen them hand back - for a pittance, ownership of Stamford Bridge’s pitch. CPO company was created by old Captain Birdseye Ken Bates, back in the day, when there was a real threat that Stamford Bridge could be sold off to property developers.
Without their say so, Abramovich cannot sell-off the Bridge to developers for shed loads of cash.
With very little to offer the CPOs in regard to assurances that Chelsea would survive if he was allowed to own the completed freehold of the ground, other than very fluid and some might say tenuous commitment to rebuilding the fabric of the club somewhere within three miles of SW6 1HS, they told him to bog off.
Perhaps realising that they had scored a mighty own goal, and hugely embarrassing Abramovich to boot, the Chelsea board recoiled, admitted defeat but suggested they would be more open about their plans in the future.
Being open and transparent is not something that comes naturally to those who rule the roost at Stamford Bridge and privately a source has told me that when the future of the ground is sorted one way or another, certain heads will roll.
But that’s for another blog, for now we have to make sense of the current situation.
There are many interested parties involved in this.
The club want to have 60,000 seated stadium, they genuinely don’t care where but have a preference for the Earls Court redevelopment.
Hammersmith and Fulham council have vested interests in the club remaining at Stamford Bridge, the prestige of having three Premier League clubs (for now, if QPR survive this season) is so strong, that my council snout has told me that they, the council, will make it extremely difficult at every stage of the process to grant Chelsea or their development partners planning permission to redevelop the Stamford Bridge site should they move ‘sarf’ of the river into Wandsworth.
Businesses around Fulham Broadway are furious and worried in equal measure on the detrimental affect a move away from them by the club will have on their business.
Even residents are worried about the affect it will have on them. New housing/retail development will attract increased parking. At the moment, residents love the restrictive parking arrangements that prevent the ‘great unwashed’ from blocking their driveways.
Forget the so-called stadium plans that the prosaic press release suggested would be built next to the power station.
If Chelsea had taken this seriously they would have produced proper architectural plans for all to see, pestered the local newspaper, the South London Press, with inside information to make the announcement more palatable to the relevant residents of Wandsworth.
But no, like before, an own goal has been scored here.
Chelsea fans are honourable people by nature, they like to be treated with respect and seen as equals.
Chelsea just can’t help themselves in being completely the opposite.
Just what strategy they adopt to reach their commercial objectives, remains to be seen.
This opening salvo in latest chapter in the history of this great football club has not being generously received. Chelsea fans no longer ‘trust’ Roman.
Only last week a national newspaper reported that Qatari representatives of the country’s ruling were having meetings with senior members of the Chelsea board about investing in the club’s future.
The story emerged on Friday, the same day Chelsea announced their intention to buy the Battersea site.
Of course, the club insist that Roman Abramovich remains committed to Chelsea.
Despite the bloody nose committed supporters have given multimillionaire Abramovich, he apparently still loves his football club.
That’s really all the fans want to hear- perhaps part of Chelsea’s charm offensive should be for Roman to come to London24 and give me an interview?
He could in one fell swoop put behind him and the club all the bitterness and bile created by the shoddy and cack-handed approach to the purchase of the CPO shares.
Roman, you have my number, if you don’t there are many people at the club who do.
Give me a call.