Chelsea’s plans for a new Stamford Bridge finally took a major step forward last week, when Hammersmith & Fulham Council approved the club’s ambitious plans for the rebuild of the only home we’ve ever known. While there are further approvals to be gained, including one from the London mayor’s office, those are not expected to prove troublesome.
What will be concerning however is figuring out where Chelsea will play for the three seasons we will need to vacate the construction site. Over the past couple years we’ve heard several possibilities, including Twickenham, Wembley, Stratford (i.e. the Olympic Stadium that’s proving quite unfit for football for West Ham), or perhaps more exotic ground-shares elsewhere.
Wembley has emerged as the clear front-runner, through apparently Twickenham is not yet out of the question. I thought it was, but judging by the need to send the following letter to the Rugby Football Union by a local MP, perhaps it remains a longshot.
“Following the decision by Hammersmith and Fulham council to approve plans for Chelsea’s new stadium, I am writing to you to re-state my position that I do not support Chelsea FC being based, temporarily or otherwise, at Twickenham.”
“My opposition to more non-rugby fixtures at Twickenham is based on concerns regarding increased problems for local residents such as match-day traffic, an increase in litter, public urination and other anti-social behaviour.”
“I would appreciate reassurance from yourself that my fears are unfounded, as hosting regular football matches at the RFU Stadium is clearly the wrong decision for Twickenham.”
-Dr. Tania Mathias, Twickenham MP; source: Mirror
According to the Evening Standard, RFU chief Ian Ritchie has already replied to Dr. Mathias, stating that “there is no intention to host regular football matches at Twickenham”.
So where will all these dastardly football fans urinate from about 2018 to 2021? Wembley, probably, though a local MP there has concerns as well, ranging from the outrageously silly (“public abuse” of a “national treasure” — i.e. playing football matches in a football stadium) to the silly but possibly valid, like turning his local constituency into a “car park” on matchdays.
“The current proposal is that Wembley Stadium will be used by Tottenham for a season, which will increase the use of our national stadium by 60 per cent. There’s an important issue, of course, for my constituency – which becomes the car park for Wembley Stadium on such event days.”
“Worse still, Mr Speaker, Chelsea Football Club are intending to come to Wembley for three years thereafter.”
-Bob Blackman, Harrow East MP; source: BT Sport
Mr. Blackman wants to at least have a debate about this in the House of Commons, though I’m not sure what he could do about fighting the rules set out by the local Councils for Wembley that already allow extended use of the stadium as long as the maximum capacity is kept to 50,000.
The fun’s only starting.