CHELSEA Football Club last night gave the clearest indication yet that it intends to leave Stamford Bridge, in a move that could trigger two huge west London property deals.
The club has made a formal proposal to buy back from supporters the freehold on which its home of more than a century sits. Owning the freehold would remove a significant barrier to selling the ground.
Chelsea said in a statement that it had no current plans to move, while chief executive Ron Gourlay emphasised: “I should be clear that we have not identified a site for a new stadium elsewhere.”
But the Premier League outfit is known to have looked at possible locations, including a move to Earls Court that could cost it as much as £1bn, having grown frustrated with difficulties in expanding Stamford Bridge.
Other destinations the club is thought to have considered include White City and Nine Elms.
The pitch and stands at Stamford Bridge have been owned by a supporter-led group called the Chelsea Pitch Owners since 1993, when it bought the freehold in order to ward off property developers.
Chelsea has offered to buy back the freehold at the same price – £100 a share – that it was sold for 14 years ago and pledged not to move more than three miles from Stamford Bridge before 2020.