Chelsea FC Fails to Buy Freehold Back from Fans

Club says "decision could slow down our progress"

Chelsea Football Club has failed in its bid to buy back the freehold to Stamford Bridge from a group of fans.

At a meeting held on Thursday, October 27, a vote was held among Chelsea Pitch Owners shareholders over the purchase of the freehold. Approval of 75% of the shareholders was needed to pass the proposal, but in the event, only 61.6% voted yes.

CPO was set up in 1993 in order to protect the future of the ground where the club had played since 1905. It is made up of around 15,000 shareholders, most of whom  are fans who bought their shares at £100 each between 1993 and 1997.

Chelsea were offering them their money back and writing off a loan of £10 million made to the company 14 years ago. However many fans were suspicious that the return of the freehold would be the first step towards Chelsea moving from Stamford Bridge to a new stadium with a larger capacity.

The club claims that CPO's protection is no longer needed as Roman Abramovich's ownership and long-term commitment to the club removes the once real danger that the team could find itself homeless or at a substandard ground.

However Chelsea has admitted that buying back the freehold would remove a potential hurdle should a suitable site become available in the future, and it has also admitted it has tentatively explored the possibility of moving to another local site, with the most likely being White City, Earls Court or Nine Elms in Battersea, all of which are earmarked for large scale regeneration.

The club has released a statement saying: " Chelsea FC is naturally disappointed with the result. A large number of fans supported our proposals but it was always going to be difficult when we had to have a 75% majority of voting shareholders accepting them.

" We approached this process with transparency and the will to do what is best for Chelsea Football Club and while we will remain as ambitious as ever, this decision could slow down our progress."

Chelsea FC chairman Bruce Buck said: " Obviously we are disappointed but we recognise and we respect totally that the shareholders of Chelsea Pitch Owners have spoken. We will meet with Mr Abramovich and the rest of the board and we will decide what action, if any, we will take going forward.

"I don't view this as an us and against you, we against they situation. We are all Chelsea fans and I can only hope that on Saturday we can get together and support this club and beat Arsenal."

October 27, 2011