CHELSEA would have to pay around £1bn to buy up the land around the Earls Court exhibition centre and build a new 60,000 seater stadium, City A.M. has learnt, if they decided to press ahead with a proposal to move from Stamford Bridge.
The west London club’s chief executive Ron Gourlay and company secretary Alan Shaw have recently held talks with Capital & Counties, the property group that owns the 77 acre Earls Court site.
Discussions began when Capital & Counties, which has plans to transform the Earls Court site after the Olympics with a residential plan that will comprise 8,000 homes, called on various neighbours in the area to discuss their plans.
Early talks centred on the possibility of Roman Abramovich (right) owned Chelsea joining the project but property sources say this has proved complex.
“If Chelsea had come on board earlier there might have been a chance of the two working together. But Capital & Counties has gone so far down the road with the planning processes, it would be too complex to put a combined project together now. The only way for them to get to Earls Court now would be to buy the site out lock, stock and barrel,” said the source.
Property sources have told City A.M. that Capital & Counties would be looking for close to £1bn for selling the site outright. The £1bn figure, or even something close to it, would be a massive deterrent should the club opt to press ahead. In comparison, Arsenal spent around £350m on developing the Emirates stadium.
Chelsea are constrained by the capacity of Stamford Bridge – currently 42,000 – and have limited potential to expand. Mark Richards, a senior consultant within the sports business division of Deloitte, said that Chelsea had to be careful they weren’t looking to build a new stadium that they would have difficulty filling. “You really want to retain an excess demand situation although you might see the new stadium as an opportunity to put cheaper price tickets on the market,” he said.
Chelsea said yesterday: “We always look at proposals but we do not have any plans to move from Stamford Bridge at this time.”
ANALYSIS | BLUES FACE TOUGH CALL
Even if they could find a site at a reasonable cost, Chelsea would do well to think hard before leaving Stamford Bridge. It is true that the past few years of success has increased the following of the club but Chelsea do not yet command the type of regular following that Arsenal, Manchester United or even Tottenham have. Attendances at Chelsea's Champions League games went all the way down to 24,000 before the club sensibly decided to discount tickets in order to fill the ground. It is tempting to think that building a bigger stadium will be better; but sometimes having excess demand is more sensible. And then there's that £1bn bill.