Friday 3 February 2012

A bit more on Earl's Court and Hammersmith and Fulham

Amid all of the accusations and conspiracies that have been forced onto the issue of what Chelsea's future holds (and we ought to remember that whilst we all might have different preferences for what that is, we are agreed on wanting that future to be bright) the difficult political game that Chelsea are having to play is often lost. Fans have tended to the knee-jerk assumption that there is malice aforethought in all that CFC do.

It remains our firm belief that although the EGM offer was characterised as a labyrinthine plot, it was, in effect, precisely what Buck said it was, i.e "Housekeeping". We know that people find that implausible and that they leapt on the three mile offer, the 2020 deadline etc but one really only has to think what alternative the club could have chosen. If they had a plan to move somewhere how easy would it have been to publish glossy pictures of a stadium? The truth is most likely to be very simple; they had irons in the fire, were being approached and wanted freedom to operate. Since the EGM CFCTruth have consistently revealed the moves Chelsea have made. The recent flip flopping by H&F council is evidence of this and we hope that the talks we know Chelsea are having regularly with the council will result - very soon - in a clear picture of what the council believes is possible regarding expansion of SB. The club and the planners will need to agree on the possibilities. Rather than the recent email, read out at the AGM, in which the council accused the club of trying to persuade THEM that expansion is not possible, the council will need to agree with CFC what IS technically viable, leaving the club free to explain to fans how that possibility adds up to a business case or not. Once we have a clear picture we should be able to move forward and clear this issue once and for all.

What fans have to understand is that the council (see our last blog) are desperate for Chelsea to stay at Stamford Bridge or take up residence in one of their edge of the borough redevelopments. Chelsea have ruled out the latter and so now the council are staring down the barrel of a gun which is why they have been playing their risky game. It must be incredibly frustrating for the club to be hit from both sides; on the one hand they have (as one well placed associate of the owners of Battersea put it to us recently) "been asked to show the colour of their money in the form of one hundred quid shares", and on the other have the council stir up ill informed paranoia among fans. It ought not be difficult to appreciate the commercial sensitivities that the club are obliged to respect from both their own point of view and that of those on the other side of the table?

So with the various whispers and barely concealed nods and winks coming through CFCTruth wires, we are very encouraged by the recent developments in the EC/CapCo situation. Boris is key here too. The joint planning development guidelines issued by Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea state that there should be a cultural facility. Anyone who is paying attention will have noted that the club and Boris have made it clear that a stadium should be considered at the development. Boris's office is certainly putting the CapCo development through the ringer, sending it back for revision after revision. CFCTruth comes by its information through all manner of unusual means and it is interesting to note that at recent 2012 legacy meetings which explored the cultural provisions post Olympics, the word "cultural" was discussed in terms that were widely perceived to include a football stadium. Perhaps the lobbying by Chelsea in this respect will be unnecessary?

Lots of ifs and buts for sure but the picture that is unequivocally emerging is one of Chelsea sitting, mantis like, over the EC consultation. We recently heard from a previously unknown source that the club have even had designs knocked up for EC but this should be treated with some scepticism as we cannot verify it. Should the whole CapCo/H&F plans fall apart then we would put money on something very interesting happening. We have said for some time that CapCo are actively courting the Chelsea dollar (or any dollar to be fair) indeed this is pretty common knowledge among those in the London property business. Hammersmith and Fulham know this too and suspect their partner in the EC development of playing both ends against the middle. Greenhalgh, the leader of H&F is thus playing a limited hand; especially knowing, as he does, that the whole thing can be removed from the council's control and that he himself is off out of the door soon.

And of course, what Chelsea need to have is certainty. There is an argument that losing the EGM, whilst giving some fans a warm feeling of thwarting an avaricious evil Russian billionaire, merely tied Chelsea's already shackled hands even tighter. CFCTruth would urge all fans to try to understand the wider picture. It really isn't that bloody difficult to appreciate. We will do what we can to inform you and point you in the right direction and of course, should we happen across any information that we ourselves are not happy to hear, we will put that forward for your consideration too. And we say all this without mentioning Battersea....that is another story entirely. Perhaps for another day - soon.

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