"Why do you remain anonymous? It just makes you seem a bit sinister. Are you really paranoid? Or are you agents working in the shadows feeding false information into the debate on behalf of unseen forces with a financial interest in a move from Stamford Bridge? (that's us being paranoid)."
And thus was a comment left on our blog. In recent weeks CFCTruth appear to have become central to the argument with a plethora of tweeters focusing on our desire to remain out of the public eye and with our decision not to take part on David Chidgey's fan cast; we have become the great, dark force of evil, the touchstone for the "yes" camp, even though nobody knows yet what there is to say "yes" too. It is nice to be wanted.
It is not clear how many times we have to say this but CFCTruth is not a campaign group. This really is a crucial position. The birth of CFCTruth came about in response to the sort of debate we were seeing around the original CPO EGM back in October last year. It was full of misinformation and conspiracy. As we saw it, a small minority of fans were trying to determine the future of Chelsea Football Club, appointing themselves guardian of all that the club was, is and will be. We felt that there was a role for a group who could gain information and facts, analyse them and put them before the majority of Chelsea fans (CPO and non CPO shareholders) and let them draw conclusions from what we discovered. Occasionally it is necessary to point out the inconsistencies, untruths and at times downright dishonest arguments of those determined to thwart the club's desire to move and this position will inevitably, given the minds of habitually and notoriously absolutist football fans, bring down opprobrium upon us. There is a presumption that WE believe the club should and must move. The issue is more subtle than that.
We set out to discover what the club had been doing about a move. When it made its offer, we suspected that there were things afoot. We were also inclined to "trust" the club and Roman Abramovich to do something that would have a positive effect on the club's future. In the end, the EGM became a referendum on trust. Taking that view has cast us indisputably in the role of monstrous club puppet. There is little we can do about that. But what we discovered and what then came to light in public submissions was that the club had been actively involved in pursuing Earl's Court and needed to move on it quickly. Without rehearsing the arguments about how they handled the offer, this is a fact that people continue to ignore.
So our position has remained, since then, one of information gatherer, analyst and possibly even gossip monger, all rolled into one. We have revealed the full picture behind the reasons for LBHF's position on SB and Earl's Court. Some of that through contacts but mostly through searching through public documents and drawing a picture for fans to examine themselves. We hoped in our blogs that the club should publish more information about their own findings in respect of the potential for a Stamford Bridge development because this was crucial if we were to understand the basis of their claims. They did so and on examining it, talking to others in the industry and those engaged with these orts of -and actual- feasibilities, we are generally convinced that the club's stance on this is a correct one. This is further confirmed by the apparent agreement of the council that Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions is a necessary acquisition for the development.
So where does this leave the club?
The sites that are available are well known. Battersea seems to be a lost cause (although a lack of comment from the club gives us some hope that something may be going on) and Earl's Court is difficult. The greatest bar to Earl's Court is the council. We believe that CapCo would welcome Chelsea's participation. Politics is the game here and we have written extensively about it. One of our roles, we believe, is to get as much information about the issues as we can so that fans can actually apply some pressure on the council. What appears to be happening is that certain fans groups are in sympathy with the council, applauding their stance, despite all of the history and evidence. In fact, the debate has hardened into being about Chelsea not leaving Stamford Bridge at all. And that is not a very forward looking way of thinking about the club's future in our opinion.
As a group of many people, we happen, through our working lives, to come into contact with those who can provide information that is useful and relevant. As is the way of such things, that means we cannot, if we expect them to speak to us, identify ourselves. In fact, amid all the charges that we are a club organ, are in league with the CPO board etc, what gets missed is that we often know far more about the process than certainly the CPO board! As for the club, we have often stated that we don't want information from them in order that we can be sure of the veracity of our information.
We are not "yes" or "no". We are perceived as the "enemy" according to one group because we would countenance a move away from Stamford Bridge. We are the enemy because we don't necessarily believe that Roman Abramovich should shell out hundreds of millions of pounds without the project offering any prospect of a return for the business.
We are fans and shareholders with a clearly less heated view of the issues who believe all supporters of the club should know the facts. It is often ignored that the great majority of fans see the argument quite clearly, as put by the club, and can see the sense of a move should it be possible, going forwards into a new era, even though they may mourn the loss of Stamford Bridge. Many of those fans don't actually have a voice either. Our Twitter account is approaching 2,000 followers and our blog has had over 30,000 visits. That at least shows there is an appetite for what fans perceive as information, analysis and a more balanced view that isn't infected by accusation, hysteria, suspicion and nastiness. That obviously makes us a target for those whose minds are closed or who have ulterior motives.
There have even been quasi legal threats to "expose" us, presumably in the hope of revealing some dark and sinister phalanx of club or CPO operatives! Anybody would think we were criminals! But it shows the extent to which some people will allow their emotions to carry them away and, it has to be said, does little to promote a sense that their arguments are based on anything other than those emotions.
Our advice to other co-ordinated campaign groups is to stop accusing people of conspiracy and darkness and to just put forward cogent arguments, based on more than the urging of the council. Don't claim one thing and then do another. Don't obfuscate, dissemble and divert. Fans are not quite as stupid as you think. Don't attack those who disagree with you or put before Chelsea fans information that contradicts your claims. Don't accuse the club of criminality and conspiracy. See the whole picture and then support the club you profess to love in taking us forward.
And most of all, don't simplify the matter. Face realities. We know it is the way of football fans to see things in black and white, to instinctively want their cake and eat it, to see the monied owners of clubs as being the "enemy". We require something more sophisticated than that. Because often, whilst you are standing up, playing to the gallery and getting cheered on in your display of old school dedication and terrace authenticity, you might just be missing the point. The truth is out there, usually somewhere in the middle, and you are shouting over it.