By Lucas Pereira, FootballPredictions.NET, 20:38 06/09/2020
Since being formed in 1905, English giants Chelsea have spent their entire history playing at Stamford Bridge in West London.
The Blues do not, however, directly own their stadium. Stamford Bridge is owned and maintained by the Chelsea Pitch Owners, a non-profit subsidiary of the club which also retains the rights to the name ‘Chelsea Football Club’.
Stamford Bridge has not always been owned by the organisation, however, and has had several owners since being built in 1877.
Stamford Bridge’s multiple owners throughout history
Having been built eight years prior to Chelsea’s formation, The Blues were not the first tenants or owners of Stamford Bridge. From 1877 to 1904, the ground was owned and used by the London Athletic Club - the world’s oldest independent track and field club.
In 1904, Stamford Bridge was bought by brothers Gus and Joseph Mears, who formed Chelsea a year later to play at their stadium - after failing to secure a deal for local side Fulham to use the ground.
The Mears family owned the ground and the club up until the 1980s when they sold the club to Ken Bates for a nominal fee of just £1. Bates inherited a club in financial trouble and as a result, the land Stamford Bridge is built on had to be sold to a separate buyer prior to his takeover.
Property developers Marler Estates purchased the ground and rented it out to the club. Marler Estates subsequently declared bankruptcy in the early 1990s and Chelsea were able to reacquire Stamford Bridge. The ownership and upkeep responsibilities have since been passed onto the Chelsea Pitch Owners, who remain in control to this day.
Previous plans to move away from Stamford Bridge
Since the takeover of Chelsea by Roman Abramovich in 2003, rumours of a proposed move away from Stamford Bridge have continued to persist at varying levels of truth. Five separate locations have supposedly been mooted to become the new home of Chelsea.
These are Earls Court Exhibition Centre, White City, Battersea Power Station, the Imperial Road Gasworks, and the Chelsea Barracks.
However, the main stumbling block for any potential departure from Stamford Bridge for a new ground is the contents of the Chelsea Pitch Owners’ remit. As part of their freehold of the stadium, they also own the rights to the name “Chelsea Football Club”.
In practice, this means that Chelsea would have to change their name if they were to permanently move away from The Bridge. In a bid to overcome this, the club made an attempt to take back control of the freehold from the Chelsea Pitch Owners in 2011 but the sale of the land was rejected by the group’s shareholders.
Despite this, the club still submitted a bid to purchase Battersea Power Station in 2012 but they were not the preferred bidders, even though they released an artist’s impression of their planned new stadium.
Alternatives to leaving Stamford Bridge
Chelsea now instead prefer a plan to redevelop Stamford Bridge instead of moving to a new ground with planning permission secured from Hammersmith and Fulham council in January 2017.
The planning permission allows the club to increase the capacity at The Bridge to 60,000. Full permission to develop the ground to reach the new capacity has since been granted by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.
As a result of Chelsea’s planned redevelopment of their home stadium, it is likely they will spend some time playing elsewhere, albeit on a temporary basis. Approaches have been made in the past for them to spend this time playing at Twickenham Stadium - the home of English rugby union. Whilst another alternative is the Football Association’s home of Wembley Stadium.
A deal had originally been agreed for Chelsea to spend three seasons at Wembley, starting in 2017-18 as early as 2016. However, The Blues wanted exclusive use of the stadium, but a deal had already been set up for Tottenham Hotspur to use Wembley whilst their White Hart Lane stadium was demolished and rebuilt. As of summer 2020, the plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge remain on hold.