News of yet another delay in the rebuild of Stamford Bridge has been making the rounds over the last day or so, though the actual information in it comes from the September Fans’ Forum. As it turns out, we didn’t talk about that back then either, so let’s see what’s the latest on the new stadium.
The optimistic timeline of the original project proposal called for work to begin on the massive construction project 18 months ago with the initial phase of covering railroad tracks and maximizing the footprint of the site. Considering that Chelsea have yet gain permission from Network Rail to do so — we have permissions from the local council and the Mayor of London to begin work, but Rail is a separate entity — it’s hardly surprising that none of that work has begun yet.
The original timeline had Chelsea moving out at the start of the current season — remember all the concerns about having to groundshare with Spurs? — and returning from a temporary location three years later in 2020. (That temporary home is another thing that hasn’t been decided yet, even if Wembley remains the odds-on favorite — the club say that up to eight sites will be evaluated in the coming year.) As of last May, the timeline had been pushed out three years, to 2023, which by then included a four-year move away. The newest projections estimate a move-in date of 2024, with the moving out from the old building the same summer when we originally expected to move back in to the new one!
“We hope, subject to approvals, to start in the third quarter of 2018 including the museum and health club being demolished, with work on the railway lines starting in 2019. There will be at least two further seasons here after this one.”
The “third quarter of 2018” means after the end of the current season, but while the original plans called for Chelsea to stay at the Bridge for one year while pre-work was going on, we are now looking at two seasons of playing at the old Bridge while construction is starting all around us. Add in the extended length of time spent at a temporary location (from three years to four), and we’re looking at a six-year build with the 2024 move-in date.
“We are targeting only moving away for four years, but this will mean undertaking as much work as we can whilst we still play here.”
None of these issues are all that unique to this project. The rebuild of Stamford Bridge, in the middle of urban London, was never going to be an easy or straightforward project and everyone involved has done a great job just getting to this point in the first place — after all, not that long ago, we were categorically told that expanding Stamford Bridge was a practical and financial impossibility.
Speaking of finances, reports of Chelsea seeking outside funding have also returned, which we also heard over the summer. That’s only smart business and whether those investors are from China or Russia or America or the Moon, it’s probably a good thing for us and, as has been repeatedly pointed out, should not be taken as a sign of any sort of relinquishing of control from Abramovich.