I think it’s fair to say that the atmosphere at many home matches at Chelsea these days is not quite what it used to be. I think it’s also fair to say that this is certainly not an issue unique to Stamford Bridge – it’s a familiar story around many other grounds in English football, where away supporters out singing the home supporters is a common occurrence.The problem had been identified and discussed between the club and supporters during the Fans’ Forums throughout last season. But still, the reasons for the general lack of atmosphere is not totally clear; many thoughts have been put forward as potential reasons, with all-seater stadiums and the cost of tickets pricing out the core support being the most common.
Another reason that could be a contributing factor is, or was, the lack of flags and banners brought in by supporters to show their support. Chelsea themselves have attempted to improve atmosphere this way; last season they introduced small flags at Champions’ League games for to be waved during the match and the club encouraged supporters to bring them back for future matches. This season the flags have been replaced by scarves. Three bigger flags are also waved throughout every home match by stewards. However, it is arguable that these haven’t been as successful as they could have been, as they were not ideas made or driven by supporters.
However, supporters have also been attempting to improve the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. CFCnet’s own Jerry Kendik has been at the heart of the Shed 100, a campaign to introduce and develop a special singing section in the Shed End, organised with the club. There has also been a notable increase in the number of banners around the stadium.
Now, however, (quite literally) the biggest supporter-based initiative made its debut on Saturday. Shortly after the club provided a link to the pre-Roman era by recruiting Ray Wilkins, the supporters did likewise by introducing the brand new Pride of London flag – and what a fixture to make a debut, versus Manchester United.
The new flag, is based on the design of the original Pride of London flag, that was ordered and paid for by the late Matthew Harding and life-long Chelsea supporter ‘local boy’ Graham Bell. The updated version is huge, measuring a hefty 100ft by 50ft. The design for the new flag was initially made into an open competition, with many people (including myself) submitting various, diverse designs. As time went on, however, overwhelming consensus dictated that the design should be a reincarnation of the old flag.
The cfcuk Chelsea fanzine, who organised the production of the flag, approached me several months ago to discuss the development of the design and together we managed to settle on a finalised version.
Fast forward to last Saturday, and the flag finally made its debut in what was Chelsea’s biggest fixture so far this season. The flag was flown in its new spiritual home, the Matthew Harding Lower, before kick off and looked resplendent as it was paraded across the stand.
Not to be forgotten is the new away flag, which will be flown at all Chelsea away matches where the flag will be accepted. At 50ft by 25 ft it is smaller than the new home flag and will replace the current away flag which will now move to the Shed End at Stamford Bridge. Thanks go to Sam Rhodes who submitted the initial design. Thanks must also go to Roman Abramovich and Mr X for sanctioning the cost for the two flags.
Hopefully the new flags will go some way to encourage supporters to raise our voices and show what the club and the team mean to us. Hopefully Stamford Bridge can become an intimidating fortress for opposing teams to visit once more.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!