TWENTY SEVEN PENCE TO SAVE STAMFORD BRIDGE!

By Dave Spring
Nov 21st, 2008

Love or hate Ken Bates, he did save Chelsea FC and safeguard Stamford Bridge from the developers – fact.

Albeit at a cost to the supporters of £10.5 million, in the form of an interest free loan from the football club, to be paid for primarily by the sale of shares in ‘Chelsea Pitch Owners’ plc, to be bought by fans at £100 a time, for up to 199 years.

A wonderfully clever device designed by Bates’ solicitor Mark Taylor, to ensure subsequent owners could never again try to move Chelsea FC from Stamford Bridge, by placing the actual pitch area and the name ‘Chelsea FC’ in the hands of the supporters, with nobody able to own more than 100 voting shares – so the vote to sell up can’t simply be bought by deep pockets – ingenious!

That much you probably know – what you may not know however, is that what the device obviously did not envisage, was somebody in favour of a move away from Stamford Bridge for what ever reason, gaining control of that device i.e. becoming chairman of the company and potentially severely weakening its ability to fight any ‘movers and sheikers’ (or oligarch’s)!

This is the danger that C.P.O. now seems to be in with it’s present Chairman Richard King, who point blank refuses to deny rumours of his likely support for a move away from Stamford Bridge if proposed by the club to a larger shiny new stadium when confronted by shareholders at the last company AGM. No wonder the club don’t even seem to see the fact that CPO own the name of Chelsea Football Club as any bar to a possible move from the site at some time in the future in their carefully worded and constant rumour denials, they obviously must think they know a way around the 10,000 or so current CPO shareholders!

This is also compounded by the fact that for the first time in the 15 years since it’s inception, CPO no longer chooses to publish the personal shareholdings of it’s directors in the annual accounts, after difficult questions were also put to the chair on this subject last year i.e. Is the fact that the chairman has increased his personal shareholding from 2 when Mr Abramovich took over the club in 2003, to 12 as stated in the 07 accounts, pure coincidence or a good financial punt based on inside knowledge? Given that if a very wealthy individual was to offer a large sum for the pitch and name, each CPO share could potentially be worth thousands!

Is it also coincidence that the companies repayments for the freehold has fallen from it’s peak of £215k per year in 1997 to between £35k and £76k during Richard King’s chairmanship another possible indicator of priorities?

But above all, how can the position of a chairman of a public company be tenable if he constantly refuses to clearly state his intensions to uphold the founding purpose of that company without exception i.e. ‘ to rebuff any proposed move from Stamford Bridge’, when persistently asked by shareholders to do so at an AGM?

The primary purpose of CPO is not ‘ to repay the loan’ at all, as is now the neatly stated aim on the website, that is merely a subsequent objective, and they haven’t even done a very good job of that!

OK so its not greedy developers True Blues have to fear this time around, but instead the Prawn Sandwich Blues who are apt to throw away 103 years of precious history – something we’re constantly accused of lacking – purely so they can charge an extra 15 to 20 thousand fans top dollar to see Chelsea play.

That’s not for the good of the club, it’s for the good of the financiers and their ego’s, and we’ve all seen recently what happens when financiers are left to run things.  It would also be naive to argue admission prices would fall – they certainly didn’t at the Emirates!

Would the embarrassing Rosenborg scenario raise it’s ugly head on a regular basis? How sad is it to see the empty stands at grounds such as Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton, Middlesboro etc even during Premier league games!

So how will a mere 27p save Stamford Bridge this time around? It’s merely the cost of a stamp.

If you are a shareholder, you will already have your AGM invitation including ballot papers, so post it back to CPO before December 12th voting against resolution 6, the re-election of Richard King.

Or even better come along and have your penny’s worth – or should I say £100 worth.

Don’t be apathetic, if you are one of the 10,000 + paid up guardians of the club who have a vote – nip it in the bud and send a loud message to the CPO board and the current club owners before it’s too late, after all it’s far cheaper than last time – it’ll only cost you 27p to help save Stamford Bridge.

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