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Former Chelsea commercial director believes stadium halt could actually be beneficial

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Christian Purslow thinks that putting the stadium on hold was a “really sensible” financial decision

Hublot Welcomes Chelsea FC To Los Angeles
He’s the one who’s not Willian or Eden Hazard
Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Hublot

Christian Purslow was the “Head of Global Commercial Activities” (let’s just call him the commercial director) at Chelsea from October 2014 to February 2017, during which time he oversaw not only the start of Chelsea’s Yokohama and Nike partnerships, but added sponsors such as Carabao, Beats, Hublot, and Delta.

He himself was probably not very involved in the stadium project that was also getting off the ground in earnest during that time, but his perspective can still give us some valuable insight to what the last 24 hours of drama could actually mean for the club, especially in the short term. (Presumably, the stadium project will be revitalized eventually, and probably sooner rather than later as the need for it and its added revenue remains the same as before.)

Speaking to BBC 5 Live, Purslow looked at the issue purely from a financial perspective, ignoring the political issues that are also at play. Based on just the moneys involved, he believes that halting the project now might actually benefit the squad and the rebuilding process.

“Over the many years this potential stadium has been in the offing, the cost has skyrocketed. The £1billion figure is now in the public domain — and it was around half that when it was originally conceived.

“It requires knocking every brick down and building on the same site. Asking Chelsea fans to travel somewhere else to see the team play, not as Spurs did for one year but for four, has been something that many people at the club have been concerned about. So, for two reasons — ballooning economics and difficult practicalities — I have thought for some time that it was a project that might never get off the ground. I actually think it’s a really sensible decision to put this project on hold.

“Many fans, when they think about it, will be pleased that: first, they’re not having to trek to a ground like Wembley for four years; and second, the focus will be on improving and investing in the team.”

-Christian Purslow; source: BBC via Evening Standard

When Chelsea announced the stadium project, we were told that investments in the squad would continue apace as well, that it would not be another Arsenal situation. But transfer market activities over the past several seasons have certainly called that into question, with the club much more careful with (net) spending than in the first several years of the Roman Era. That may or may not be specifically related to the stadium, for which the club had started to look for outside funding anyway as they should have, but Conte certainly wasn’t alone in calling the whole situation a bit of “austerity programme”.

That said, one of the stated initial goals of the Abramovich Era was to make Chelsea self-sufficient, and smart spending and sell-to-buy to meet not only FFP regulations but to keep Chelsea on solid footing was always going to be the order of the day.

Purslow may or may not be correct in thinking that focusing away from the stadium would mean focusing on spending more money on the team itself, but as someone who spent several years entrenched in the club’s finances (at least on a cursory level of “must improve them”), he may be onto something here.