Chelsea are hoping to take a significant step towards what could signal the rebuild of Stamford Bridge on the stadium’s current site if they are able to secure the purchase of neighbouring land.
A Stamford Bridge renovation project started in the 1970s was a disaster and remained unfinished for decades, while the freehold ended up being sold off to a property developer and wasn’t returned to the club until the 1990s – at that point then Blues chairman Ken Bates set up a separate entity to control the freehold to ensure that no such sale could happen again.
The stadium was finally fully redeveloped by the late 1990s. Further modernisation to facilities also took place during Roman Abramovich’s lengthy ownership of the club. But with a capacity of just over 40,000, Stamford Bridge is a fraction of the size of many rival clubs’ homes.
Old Trafford remains the largest stadium in the Premier League at just over 74,000-capacity, with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London Stadium and Emirates Stadium all topping 60,000. Once renovation work is completed at Anfield, the capacity there will also go over that mark.
The Etihad Stadium and St. James’ Park are also both significantly bigger than Stamford Bridge. Overall, it is only ninth largest in the Premier League and therefore is limited and falls behind in terms of potential gate receipts and matchday revenue.
The issue has been unresolved for over a decade, with the club releasing an artist’s impression of a potential new stadium on the site of Battersea Power Station would have looked like back in 2012.
The main options have long been to rebuild the stadium on its current site, which is what Tottenham did with White Hart Lane, or leave completely and move to a brand new site, like Arsenal in 2006.
Rebuilding appears to be more preferable as one current avenue progresses. The Evening Standard has reported that Chelsea are awaiting a decision on a proposed £65m purchase of a 1.2 acre site directly adjacent to Stamford Bridge that would negate the need for a new site. It is owned by a charity, Stoll, with whom a deal is said to be agreed in principle.
Stoll’s board of trustees are expected to make a decision on whether to allow the sale to proceed next month, but there are objections. The Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions are on that site and house military pensioners, while a medical centre that serves 6,500 people is also there.
There are thought to have been 13 rival bids from the land publicly listed for sale. But despite already appointing an architect last year, no future stadium plans are said to have yet been signed off.
One key detail the Evening Standard report adds is that redeveloping the current Stamford Bridge stand by stand, which is the route Liverpool have gone down at Anfield, is not seen as viable.