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Rail seating among stadium upgrades as Chelsea keep ticket prices frozen for next season

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Reading U23 v Aston Villa U23 - Premier League 2 Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images

Fans are slowly starting to be allowed back in to stadiums that have stood empty for over a year, and we can only hope that the pandemic will have petered out enough by the time next season starts so that we can have at least semi-full capacities all around England and Europe. That of course will be good for clubs’ bottom line as well, with matchday revenue still a significant part of that even amid increasing emphasis on global appeal and access.

In anticipation of that, Chelsea have released ticket pricing information for next season, including yet another year of keeping season tickets the same price as before. Individual ticket prices haven’t gone up either this time, while the club have now kept (general admission) season ticket prices frozen for much of the past decade, and that’s certainly very commendable.

It does sound like Chelsea were planning on increasing prices, but those plans have now been pushed back at least a year. Unfortunately, given certain economic and financial realities, that’s bound to happen eventually — perhaps as soon as next season with a 5 per cent price hike.

If and when fans return, there will be several improvements awaiting us in the friendly and familiar confines. New, larger, wider big-screens were installed late last year at either end of the ground, on top of the Matthew Harding and hanging down from the top of the Shed End, which were glimpsed during fans’ brief return in December already. There are also new scanners at the turnstiles that can now read tickets printed at home, too.

Another fan-centered improvement is the installation of rail seating in the Matthew Harding Lower and the Shed Upper and Lower sections. While safe standing has not yet been approved for Premier League matches despite a now close to decade-long push for it — unlike, say, in the Bundesliga or in the Scottish Premier League — Chelsea join several other clubs in preparing for that expected change someday soon.

Spurs and Wolves already have them while both Manchester clubs have announced plans to have some ready for next season. Spurs currently have the most at around 7500 seats, but if Chelsea retrofit the entire Shed and the MHL, we should exceed that number pretty easily (10,000+) even if the change will apparently decrease overall capacity by about 500.

Rail seating should improve matchday atmosphere and experience, plus everybody stands in those sections anyway already. (So in a way, installing rail seats now will make it safer already.)

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Crusaders – UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying round: 1st Leg Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Chelsea are also improving the hospitality experience with a new (i.e. more expensive) tier of tickets and a new “Westview” section in the West Upper that includes refurbished concourses, a wheelchair-accessible platform, two new bars, a food court, new cushy seats, big screens, and views of the surrounding area in case you find the match too boring with your £90+ tickets.

Chelsea are calling this the “biggest development” in the West Stand in two decades, since we finished (re-)building it in 2001 (the old West Stand was torn down in 1997) and set the club on the path to financial crisis that was only avoided when Abramovich swooped in.

Incidentally, this remodel is probably another dagger into the heart of the proposed new stadium plans, which contained a massive new hospitality and luxury box section. Westview is nowhere near that, but it’s a step in a similar direction.

Either way, it’ll be fantastic to have fans back. And hopefully safe standing gets approved soon, so we can actually use the rail seats as intended!