In the week since Chelsea Football Club’s proposal to Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) was announced, there has naturally been a lot of discussion and the club believes there has been some incorrect information circulating on various social media platforms discussing the subject.
Below is a clarification of some of these points and also answers to some of the questions that have been put to the club in the past week.
Is it true that shareholders who do not attend the meeting nor appoint a proxy vote, including deceased shareholders, will automatically be counted as voting yes to the proposal?
This is not the case and has arisen from an incorrect media report. As a public limited company, CPO is governed by normal company law and for a vote to be counted either way, a shareholder has to attend or organise a proxy vote.
Have the directors of CPO accepted Chelsea FC’s proposal to acquire the freehold of the Stamford Bridge site and are the CPO directors recommending that CPO shareholders vote yes to the proposal?
This is a matter for CPO directors. However, the CPO directors have not accepted the proposal nor are they making a recommendation. It is Chelsea FC that is recommending that CPO shareholders vote yes to the proposal. The club informed the CPO directors that they had a proposal they would like to put to the shareholders and the CPO directors have stated that the shareholders should decide the future of Stamford Bridge. For this reason they have decided to convene a general meeting of CPO to allow the shareholders to consider the proposed transaction and decide on it. The CPO directors have not indicated to Chelsea FC or publicly how they will vote the shares they may own.
Isn’t the proposal against everything that CPO was set up for?
No. CPO was set up to stop property developers evicting Chelsea FC from Stamford Bridge against its wishes, which had been threatened during the 1980s and early 1990s. CPO was never intended to hinder the club by restricting its ability to maximise its income.
Why can’t the club wait until a site for a new stadium is known and reveal it before offering to purchase the Stamford Bridge freehold from CPO?
Because no owner of a potential site would enter into extensive negotiations or agree a deal with Chelsea FC unless it knew the club could deliver on that deal, and the club couldn’t guarantee completion of the deal without certainty over the subsequent redevelopment of Stamford Bridge.
Why is the club not informing shareholders about which site it wishes to build a new stadium on?
Because a decision to leave Stamford Bridge has not been taken and no new site has been chosen.
Why has the club set a year 2020 limit to the guarantee that any new stadium will be within a three-mile radius of Stamford Bridge?
Because the club believes that by 2020 all available sites within three miles will have gone. If we are unable to secure one of those sites, and did eventually decide that leaving Stamford Bridge would be in the best interests of the club and its fans, then sites further afield than three miles may be the only option. The club’s objective is to remain at Stamford Bridge or move to a new stadium within three miles.
There are suggestions that the club is considering sites more than three miles to the north of Stamford Bridge, near Wormwood Scrubs or Old Oak Common, with a view to moving there after 2020. Has the club already identified a site beyond the three-mile radius?
No such sites have been looked at or discussed. The club’s objective is to remain at Stamford Bridge or move to a new stadium within three miles.
Has the club received an offer from developers to buy Stamford Bridge?
No, we have never received such an offer, nor have we ever had informal discussions with any developer on the subject.
Can the club provide proof that possible expansion of capacity at Stamford Bridge has been properly investigated?
The club has reports and studies from as early as 2003/04 on various aspects of a redevelopment of the stadium and has spent a considerable amount of time and money in looking at various aspects of a redevelopment. The bottom line is a redevelopment adding a significant number of seats needs a site of 16 to 18 acres or more, and at Stamford Bridge there are less than 12 acres.
The club has worked with several architects firms looking for ways to redevelop each of the four stands at Stamford Bridge to increase capacity.
If the East Stand, which was built in the early 1970s, were to be knocked down and redeveloped then there are two significant obstacles. A new stand would have to cantilever over the railway track. Standards regarding safety have changed since the early 1970s. The angle of the current stand is very steep but if it were rebuilt then the angle would have to be shallower to meet today’s standards, with many seats significantly further from the pitch than they are now.
The Shed End stand at the south of the stadium cannot be expanded because of the hotel and the flats behind it. Rights to light and shadowing issues also preclude such a development.
For the Matthew Harding Stand at the north of the stadium, health and safety rules requires that in an emergency the whole site is cleared in eight minutes and we are restricted with Fulham Road being our only exit. Any additional people at the north end would have to go the furthest to reach the Fulham Road exits, so it is very unlikely planning permission would be granted, as we are virtually at our capacity limit for emergency egress. Rights of light and overshadowing issues for Brompton Park residents also cause planning difficulties.
Over the years it has been suggested a walkway should be built along the railway lines from the north end of the stadium towards West Brompton. That has been looked into, and was rejected at a public inquiry as the long narrow route is considered unsafe in the event of an emergency. We have not applied for planning permission for a walkway to Fulham Broadway station as the council has already said they would reject it for safety reasons.
The West Stand is of a height that is already the maximum allowed by planning regulations, in terms of rights of light overlooking the Stoll Foundation housing.
The club has looked at tearing down all four stands and at turning the direction of the pitch by 90 degrees but neither plan makes sense because again it should be emphasised that the site is less than12 acres and it is generally considered that to build a stadium from scratch with a capacity of 55,000 then approaching 20 acres is needed. A major reconstruction at Stamford Bridge also raises issues as to where the club would play during the two or three seasons that Stamford Bridge would not be available.
As well as buying back the freehold, is the club also proposing to buy back the name Chelsea Football Club from CPO?
As the original agreement makes clear, CPO has never owned the name Chelsea Football Club. The name would only ever move across into CPO ownership should the club leave Stamford Bridge without the consent of CPO.
What are the details of the season tickets being offered to shareholders in a new stadium should one be built?
The club is not simply offering season tickets. It is offering shareholders voting yes the chance to have a priority choice on where their season ticket seat would be located.
Why are only three weeks being allowed between the notice of the meeting and the vote, and why has the meeting and vote been set for the day after an evening away game at Everton which shareholders may be attending?
Company law provides for 21 clear days’ notice but 23 days have been provided to be sure there is sufficient time. The club believes, as does the Companies Act, that three weeks is sufficient time to hear both sides of any argument and for a shareholder to come to a decision and this is normal for all corporate general meetings.
The date was set well before the Carling Cup draw and the date of the game was arranged. It was not known at the time whether the tie would be home or away or on the Tuesday or the Wednesday.
What is the percentage vote needed for the proposed transaction to be accepted?
75 per cent or more of shareholders attending the meeting or sending a proxy vote must vote yes for the transaction to go ahead.
What will happen to Peter Osgood’s ashes which are currently under the penalty spot at the Shed End of Stamford Bridge?
Peter’s widow Lynn would of course be consulted over this matter and the club has not agreed to move but if it did it would consider transferring the urn and a small part of the old stadium pitch to the new one as a commemoration.
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