Chelsea to study Stamford Bridge options

Clive Rose

Chelsea are looking at Stamford Bridge improvement options again.

With re-location becoming a less-and-less viable option for Chelsea every year, the club have decided to take another look at expansion options at Stamford Bridge. Beyond that, they'll also be studying the potential for improving the areas around the existing stadium. The plans to be studied are very similar to the plans which were deemed too expensive just a few years ago.

Obviously, the expansion of Stamford Bridge would be the most-desirable option for the club, long-term. It would allow us to reach competitive levels of matchday revenue while also allowing us to remain in our one-and-only home. Unfortunately, it's hard to see what's changed since the last study concluded that a new 60,000-seater on an expanded Stamford Bridge site would cost around £600m, a new 55,000-seater only a little less, and expansions to the Matthew Harding Stand and Shed End more than £250m.

None of those is a particularly-attractive option at this point. The new-build stadiums would just be ridiculously-expensive, and the last study concluded that the payback on the added seats at a re-vamped Stamford Bridge would take 25 years. In addition, the added revenue from those seats would be unlikely to even cover the considerable cost of financing that expansion.

No matter which expansion plan one chooses, the significant problem of egress post-match is an issue. The stadium is already marginal on that front at current capacity, as all exits lead onto the Fulham Road. Because of this, and the space required for broadcasting equipment, we already lose capacity on Champions League nights.

This, I suspect, is part of why the club have mentioned decking over the adjoining railways separately from their expansion plans. Even if it doesn't lead to increased attendance for Champions League matches, it will make all matchdays much more pleasant, as the current egress options are very, very congested.

I suspect that the decking and egress elements are the most-likely options for positive results of these studies. They'd likely be expensive, but not unreasonably so, and would improve the match experience. Looking at the expansion or replacement of the stadium, I doubt the studies will return a much different verdict than they have before.

I'd love if that weren't the case, but it's just hard to see how the costs and planning hurdles would have improved greatly. Control of the local council has passed into the hands of the Labour party, who are perceived as being somewhat more football-oriented that the former Conservative council. While this could be a boon to our hopes of expanding, there's no guarantee it will be.

We all want Chelsea to add more matchday revenue to better compete with our rivals, but I wouldn't get my hopes up on this one. The club have been looking at the same options for ten years and are yet to implement any major changes. Who knows, though? Maybe it's seventh time lucky.

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