English Premier League champion Chelsea could be forced into playing its home games away from Stamford Bridge for at least two years if its long-running bid to redevelop its stadium to a 60,000 capacity is given the green light.
The London football club has provided its latest update on the subject, with development proposals set to be revealed to local residents and fans at an exhibition running from June 30 to July 2. Chelsea has long been seeking ways of enhancing matchday revenues to keep pace with its Premier League rivals. In June 2012, the London club’s proposal to develop a new 60,000-seat stadium at the Battersea Power Station site on the south bank of the River Thames was rejected.
Chelsea’s local Hammersmith & Fulham Council has long urged the club to focus on redeveloping Stamford Bridge, stating it would be far more expensive to develop a new home. Chelsea has previously said that the prospect of renovating Stamford Bridge to a 60,000-seat capacity would be unlikely, adding that the planning risks would probably be “insurmountable”. However, the club has now accepted that the chances of finding a suitable site for a new stadium in south-west London are remote, with a complicated redevelopment project now being targeted.
The Guardian newspaper said Chelsea is restricted by a site comprising around 12 acres when around 20 acres would normally be sought for such a project, meaning the club is likely to build over adjacent railway tracks. It is also said to be considering digging below street level.
The redevelopment project is likely to cost around £500m (€696m/$759m) – a bill that owner Roman Abramovich would have to meet. The Guardian said a staggered redevelopment allowing the club to continue playing at Stamford Bridge would likely take three or four seasons meaning Chelsea is likely to seek a new home whilst work is completed – an option that would mean at least two years at a different venue.
It emerged in September that Chelsea had made preliminary enquiries regarding the possibility of playing matches at Twickenham – the 82,000-seat home of England’s national rugby union team – while Stamford Bridge is redeveloped. Wembley Stadium is also considered a potential candidate as a temporary venue.
Chelsea said in a statement: “Mr Abramovich has appointed a professional team to assess, in more detail, the feasibility of expanding the existing stadium capacity at Stamford Bridge Grounds.
“The process now enters a further local consultation phase. This will include an explanation of the rationale for expansion, driven by spectator demand for more seats and the need to increase stadium revenue to remain competitive with our major rivals, this revenue being especially important under Financial Fair Play rules.
“Technical solutions for stadium capacity expansion are being investigated initially.This stage of the consultation will focus at present on discussing the rationale and technical solutions for expansion with residents and match-going spectators.”
Stamford Bridge’s capacity currently sits at 41,837, with Chelsea having called the stadium home since the club’s foundation in 1905.