As the biggest independent fans website for Chelsea FC, it’s important we repeat our stance on Chelsea Pitch Owners and the debate surrounding a proposed stadium move. We’re prompted to do so by a number of comments on our forums by a very vocal minority (surprisingly consistent throughout the web on the subject) criticising the ‘negative and backward looking’ stance by the campaign group, SAYNO CPO, and our airing of its views.
What we’d like to make clear at the outset is that whilst CFCnet would prefer to remain at Stamford Bridge, we are not opposed to moving to a new stadium within 3 miles of our current ground. The recent Battersea announcement, whilst not ideal because it moved us out of Chelsea, was still considered a bold and exciting move by many of the CFCnet team.
Indeed, we absolutely acknowledge that whatever the future holds, the capacity of our stadium needs to be raised to at least 55,000. That’s a given.
What we take issue with is the way the Club encouraged us to buy 14,000 shares in CPO since 1993 in order for us, the fans, to safeguard the Club’s future, and then when it didn’t suit them, the Club tried to subvert the democratic process by purchasing blocks of 100 shares – via shady intermediaries – in order to gerrymander the results.
As far as we’re concerned, what transpired last October was worthy of an organised crime syndicate, not a world-class football team based in one of the world’s great cities. Ron Gourlay, Eugene Tenenbaum, Bruce Buck et al should hang their heads in shame.
For younger fans who feel CPO shareholders have their heads in the sand, here’s a potted history. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Stamford Bridge and Chelsea FC nearly went out of existence because the Mears family sold Stamford Bridge to Marler/Cabra Estates for housing re-development. But for the devastating recession of the late 80’s and early 90’s, Chelsea FC might well be out of existence or ground-sharing with QPR.
As it happened, Cabra Estates went bust and the ground was purchased by Ken Bates who vowed that the Club would never be sold again to property developers – this will always remain a risk because the 12.5 acres of Chelsea real estate has a combined value of up to £1 billion. From 1993 to 2011, nearly 14,000 shares were sold giving Chelsea fans the rights to the name Chelsea FC, the turnstiles and the pitch itself. Roman leases this off us, the fans at no cost.
When the Club asked to purchase the CPO shares from us (so it could move the Club out of its present ground), it did so without issuing CPO shareholders any guarantees at all. They wouldn’t tell us where they wanted to move the stadium to. That’s all we wanted to know. After all, it’s our Club and we own the ground and the name Chelsea FC. Is it too unreasonable to ask where we will be moving to?
If the Club had said, “we’re moving to Battersea power station, can we have your shares?” the likelihood is that 75% of shareholders might have said ‘yes’ (75% is the vote threshold). The Club, however, wouldn’t nominate a site. Why? As Ken Bates wasn’t shy to point out, suspicion remains that the CPO shareholder buy-out was a land grab to own the freehold and land and nothing more.
This suspicion was made worse by the fact that, when the Club realised they might lose the rapidly rushed vote, they used all sorts of ‘dodgy’ contacts including bodyguards, shady football agents, family members, and direct business associates, to secretly buy blocks of shares without the usual compliance in order to influence the vote and SUBVERT THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS.
This is what CFCnet cares deeply about more than anything – the democratic process. After all, if 75% of fans decide they want to see Chelsea play in a ground along the M3 corridor we might be seriously opposed but we’d respect the right of our fellow fans to make their minds up. If it was a democratic decision, we’d have to accept it, and accept it we would (even if we have to bite on a piece of leather and stick our heads in the freezer).
That’s why CFCnet supports the SAYNO CPO campaign and Campaign55: SAYNO is campaigning for us to remain at Stamford Bridge after the club revealed that a capacity of 55k could be achieved by redeveloping the north and south stands, with the council offering help to achieve it. Campaign55 is rather more open-minded and is willing to move within 3 miles of Stamford Bridge. Both options are supported by CFCnet.
Therefore, if you are a younger fan concerned about SAYNO CPO or Campaign55, please don’t be. Both organisations are comprised of incredibly dedicated individuals who are committed to making sure YOUR team is playing in a stadium that YOU want to see Chelsea play in, not what Bruce Buck decides is good for an inner coterie of ‘dodgy’ individuals nicknamed ‘The Firm’.
In the end it’s all about one word: DEMOCRACY.
Please Note: Share sales are currently suspended and CFCnet recommends voting against resale until the October Concert Party shares are dealt with.