Yesterday, on his fourth day in charge, Ron Gourlay, Chelsea’s new Chief Executive, announced that the club would consider the naming rights for Stamford Bridge, provided that the words Stamford Bridge were also kept in the title.
This was met with obvious discontent, and we at CFCnet decided to run a poll to gauge the reaction and are not surprised that the huge majority hate the idea, we are overwhelmingly (yet unfortunately from the clubs perspective insignificantly) opposed to any name change, and feel that the true impact of such a name change hasn’t been considered.
Stamford Bridge, the only place us Chelsea fans have ever called home, is a stadium that pre-dates the club. Since it’s inception in the mid eighteen seventies, the ground was used for athletics, until Chelsea founder Gus Mears bought the leasehold in 1904.
We do have history, especially where it matters and that’s in the very origins of our club, we’ve always been called Chelsea Football Club, and we’ve ALWAYS played at Stamford Bridge.
Ron Gourlay, who at the last Fans Forum managed to keep a straight face when declaring to us that he was a Glasgow Rangers fan first, and a Chelsea fan second, rightly points out that with other clubs expanding their capacity and in order for us to keep up with domestic and European competition we need extra ways of revenue.
“What we are not prepared to happen, and I am sure our fans will appreciate this, is allow our rival clubs in England and Europe to gain a competitive advantage over us in terms of the revenue they can generate through either expanding the capacity of their existing stadia or moving to a new stadium and then invest that upside in their team or the club,”
The commercial and financial value of a new name has clearly been given serious consideration, but there seems to be a complete disregard for the comical and farcical aspects that also comes with it.
Whilst we should all be aware of the need to increase revenue, and economically there is obviously pressure from Roman breathing down on Gourlay, we cannot believe that this is really the strongest possibility being considered.
Just as the club claimed to explore every avenue to expand the current stadium (yet the Fans Forum Minutes omit a suggestion from Cliff from the CSG that to ease congestion there could be a Walkway alongside West Brompton – a point that was discussed in the meeting) it seems that true to form there have not been alternate avenues explored first, Gourlay has gone for a quick win in the eyes of the owner, with seemingly complete disregard for the attachments the fans place on our name.
The obvious point isn’t really valid, that we will always call it Stamford Bridge regardless of it’s corporate name, and only Richard Keys will call it by it’s new name. This devalues the price of the stadium further making less business sense, and whilst we’d like to see it perceived as being more prestigious because for us it’s groundbreaking (no pun intended), the truth is it isn’t, and corporates won’t see it this way either.
Gourlay, was also quick to point out that there has been ‘subsidised or free travel to a significant number of away games.’, something that yes, we are grateful for and always make a point of thanking them in the Fans Forum and other committees, but we have never asked for free travel, just that a break even figure was identified. They’ve taken the hit on that much more then the fans expected.
It was also mentioned by Ron Gourlay himself at the last Fans Forum, that a few years ago the Fans Forum raised bigger points (i.e. reverting back to the old badge), and that now the discussions are about smaller issues. Well, if this is the case Mr Gourlay, then how about using the Fans Forum as a platform to offer new ideas such as renaming our ground.
The next Forum (Dec 12th) is strictly on ticketing, an area that although headed by Graham Smith is a meeting that last season Gourlay also intended and got actively involved in. So I assume that he will be at this one, although we won’t be given the platform to discuss fans feelings on a potential name change (although the cynics amongst us will likely feel that it’ll be in place by then).
Here’s three quick ways I believe we could have avoided pondering a ground name change:
- Supported our managers. Our most successful ever manager had a contract until 2010 which he should still be seeing out, but instead we chose to sack him, promote Grant, offer him a four year deal and a then sack him just eight months later. His replacement, Big Phil, came in on a fat wage and lasted even less time. The figure for the their pay offs comes to about a quarter of the £100m figure being touted around.
- Not hiring unproven people such as Arneson, AND lining Spurs with £10m in the process, and watch him sign players who aren’t making significant headway. Then promote him onto the board that sits below the PLC, and just months later give him more responsibility as Sporting Director.
- Put a wage structure in place instead of breaking the barrier for players who offer far less a contribution then the likes of JT and Lamps.