Saturday 24 March 2012

A few thoughts on the way forward

It seems so long ago that the acrimony of the EGM pitched fan against fan, supporter against club and set the mad hare running on a myriad conspiracy theories. There is no need to rehash all of that now. It is history. And we expect that an announcement of another EGM will be made in the not too distant future at which shareholders can attempt to set in stone measures that will give the CPO board the ability to operate in an environment of trust and transparency. It is also vital that resolutions to spread and grow the ownership of CPO shares are enshrined in the AOA.

What we have seen since the EGM is a growing and complex picture of the problems facing Chelsea FC in their search for a new home. The duplicity of the council has been risible and deeply unhelpful but the forthcoming meeting with them should go some way to testing the veracity of their claims. It seems to us that we need to establish clearly that the council has been dishonest about their behaviour towards Chelsea and their very strange and anomalous position on Earl's Courts ability to house a stadium. That little problem is not yet solved for them and the Mayoral elections will likely be a real turning point for the whole project - good or bad.
What has been terribly depressing has been the way in which irrelevancies have clouded and then diverted the real issues facing the club and by definition us fans.

But what ARE the issues now confronting us as fans and shareholders? We think they are these;

- Can Stamford Bridge really continue to be the home of a club in Chelsea's position?

- Can Chelsea continue to flourish, succeed and grow in its existing stadium?

- If they do, would 50,000 be enough and is that reasonably possible at SB?

We understand and accept that football fans are a very unusual breed. We get wedded to our histories, we like tradition. When it comes to our football club, we rarely make sensible and logical decisions. If we want to move house, we weigh up the need, the benefits, the disadvantages of location, size and economies and then generally make an informed and sensible choice. This article will perhaps fall on many deaf ears; ears owned by those who just cannot countenance a move away from our home of over 100 years. All we can do is urge those people to make a simple choice that is predicated on whatever their desire for their club is. If they accept that the club should grow and evolve as a sporting entity then the business model that provides for it has to be considered. After all, we go to watch eleven footballers perform in the name of the club we support and in the main, we like them to succeed. In the modern football world, the two are usually inextricably linked. Of course, some may just prefer a team of moderate gifts as long as the walk up that same road to that same stadium is retained. The existence of a man who has pumped hundreds of millions into the club has probably clouded the issue too; but that cannot continue, as we all know.

So returning to the questions above. If the answer to all of them is "No" then what are the alternatives?

We now have a very clear picture of what the club have been trying to do in this terrifically competitive, politically charged and congested London property market. The Earl's Court
Battersea options have had a huge amount of money thrown at them and we understand the club is fighting hard on them. Their hand is weakened by not having the CPO shares but we can only hope that they get a bit of luck in these projects. By the end of the summer, we should know pretty well for certain if either are going to be possible. Fans simply have to acknowledge this reality; nobody is very keen to have Chelsea on either of those two developments and that is not the fault of the club. Ken Livingstone's election may offer a way forward we believe but that is by no means a certainty.

So what then? There is absolutely no way, in our view, that the club would ever countenance a move to some M25 outpost. In fact, we know this to be the case.

But it is probably time for fans, who accept a move to another London site is necessary, to begin to consider the way in which they think about such an outcome. What is being a Chelsea fan about? What "is" Chelsea Football Club? After all, most of us don't recognise the stadium we all grew up watching the team in. The area around the ground, its pubs and bars have all changed beyond recognition too. And most of us travel miles to get to the games now. Obviously location is a huge concept for a football club and only a fool would fail to recognise that but what are our priorities as supporters of a football team? Obvious yet so difficult for us to get our heads around when the looming ideals of "territory" figure so large in our minds.

What, then, would we accept as the new territory of Chelsea Football Club? How will we feel when we are inside a new stadium, beautifully appointed and designed watching a sparkling team? Will we bemoan the fact we couldn't have a pint in our old pub? We might.

It is, however, not acceptable or helpful to continue to fall back on ridiculous conspiracy theories, accusations of corruption and profiteering by Abramovich. These are lunacies that just confuse and inflame opinion and obstruct the real work that has to be done. The talk of land values is growing and it is with regret that we have come to the conclusion that there is a financial motive for far too many shareholders. We have tended to the view that this wasn't the case but some simple investigations and reasonable deduction have, depressingly, led us to this view. Some of those who persist with the mention of breathtakingly silly figures may just have mistrust and paranoia as their motive but that is only marginally more forgivable than avarice in this context. It will be very interesting indeed to see some of the resolutions that are put forward at the EGM in this regard. We believe we can make a pretty good guess at what some of them will be.

We are not going to propose where a stadium should be if EC and BPS fall through. We will wait and see what the options are. But we do feel it is time that the key issues facing the club begin to become the focus of our attention. If not, chaos will reign. There is some irony in the concern fans are feeling now that we face the prospect of losing CL income for next season...just a thought with which to leave you.

Friday 23 March 2012

Meeting with the council

We are very pleased to note that the council have accepted the meeting invitation from the CPO board.

We would like the board to ask some of the questions below. We suggest shareholders email the CPO board with questions of their own.

  • Have the council conducted a credible study of their own that shows how a large new stadium can be fitted in at SB?
  • How does the council propose to fit  a stadium that requires 20 acres into a site of just only half that?
  • Will the council assist Chelsea in acquiring permission to demolish the many listed buildings that would need to go?
  • How does the council intend to deal with the largest compulsory purchase in London planning history and the consequent objections of the thousands of people who will lose their homes?
  • Why won't the council agree to a stadium being considered at Earl's Court but apparently seems happy to have one on a site they have persistently restricted in size and capacity in recent years?
  • Were the impossible to become possible, will the council remove the obligation on the development to provide social housing (and if not, where would that social housing fit in?)
  • Will the council agree to reimburse Chelsea for the enormous costs of an inevitably failed planning application that falls foul of countless statutory regulations for stadia?
  • Will the council make a contribution to the eye-watering cost of demolishing and then rebuilding SB
  • Will they make up all the lost revenue Chelsea would suffer whilst being out of the stadium during the project?
  • And in the scenario of, say, a fifty thousand seat stadium, will the council make a contribution to the lost revenue and uncompetitive business model that will exist? How about an annual grant of £30 million?
  • Does Heaven exist?
  • When will the number sequence 1,2,3,4,5,6 eventually come up in the lottery?
  • How much of the £100 million the council will get from Capco for turfing people from West Ken and Gibbs Green estates out of their homes will go towards paying off their massive debt?
  • What is the name of the boat that the council thinks we all arrived on yesterday?

Monday 19 March 2012

H and F and the SPD. Extraordinary Council meeting tonight

You will have heard mention of the draft SPD in these pages. It is the document that will inform the planning decisions of the two councils at Earls Court over the next few years. Tonight the council will hold an Extraordinary Council Meeting to discuss and then presumably sign off the draft SPD. In this very large document are appendices that set out the various aspects of the development. It also gives a summary of the consultations on it  - which includes a cursory dismissal of the concerns of West Ken and Gibbs Green residents. It is not surprising that the council are so determinedly driving their concerns to the periphery as we predicted they would and so it comes down to the Mayor (see previous blogs). But the section of the SPD that concerns Chelsea is the Cultural strategy.

All such large developments need to satisfy particular policies within the Mayor's London Plan. The one that concerns culture states;

'Support for and enhancement of arts, culture, sport and entertainment provision' (Policy 4.6)

This is a fairly loose policy as you can see. In the SPD, the detail surrounding this issue is seemingly not going to change and it would be wrong to expect the council to explicitly state a football stadium.  It then becomes an issue of interpretation. In their submission to the council on Seagrave Road, Chelsea provided a strong indication that they could satisfy the needs of the SPD with a stadium. The SPD indicates that a cultural facility (and they use several large museums as examples) would need to provide similar use to the existing exhibition space and should be one of the first things to go up on the development to help sustain the businesses that have come to rely on the exhibition centres.

It goes further;

8.11 An analysis of various cultural venues throughout Great Britain is shown in Table 8.1. With this in mind, the authorities will expect that, to be considered 'large', cultural facilities should have:

  • a minimum footprint of 2,500sqm (GEA);

  • a minimum floorspace of 10,000sqm (GIA);

  • a hosting capacity of at least 2,000 visitors; and

  • attract approximately 750,000 visitors per year.

8.12 The extent to which one or several attractions anchor the cultural destination will not only depend on the size of the venue(s), but also the offer, location and how the attraction(s) are supported by smaller cultural venues, artists' studios, other creative workshop and studio space and bars / restaurants. Table 8.1 lists examples of smaller cultural facilities, showing that they can occupy relatively small spaces, which is likely to meet a demand for cultural space from local organisations. The extent to which the arts and cultural offer create a destination must therefore be considered in the cultural strategy, as required above.

8.13 RBKC Core Strategy Policy CA7d indicates that a cultural facility must be located near to public transport accessibility. As Earl's Court Underground Station is the busiest station in the OA, at least one cultural facility must be located in the same general location. The type, size and offer must be such to sustain a culture facility in this location for the longer term. In this location it will help to create a sense of arrival to the OA from Earl's Court Underground Station. It will also ensure cultural facilities are provided early in the site's development, aiding those existing business that depend on the current footfall from the exhibition centres.


So what we have is an attempt to attract a large cultural provider. We have hinted that within certain circles, it is accepted that a football stadium qualifies as a cultural destination or provision.  Interesting to note that a very short distance away, The Design Museum are about to begin work on their brand new home at The Commonwealth Institute so it is hard to imagine who might want to take up residence at EC. However, with the desire for "Artists studios" etc, it seems to us that Chelsea are batting on a sticky wicket. It is possible they could include provision of such things or contribute to a smaller venue although you must note the minimum scale the council expects this cultural facility to attract. Truth is, 750,000 visitors per year is only achievable by a major cultural institution and one wonders who would want to invest in a new home here or how CapCo can make such a thing pay. Of course, a 60,000 football stadium would bring at least 1 million per season so CFC would more than qualify. 

It is necessary to note the sort of numbers the council want as a MINIMUM so one wonders why they might object to a stadium?  But let us be honest, whilst the club have plenty to work with on this, it is clear the councils don't want a stadium because with their housing plans and provision within the existing masterplan, there is simply no room. That leaves us relying on the Mayor and other potential judicial reviews, financial problems for the development and CapCo themselves managing to carry the whole thing off. 

There is plenty of evidence to suggest there is a lot of very dodgy business about EC. Chelsea have been trying for over a year to have this SPD changed and we have seen the abhorrent behaviour of the council over the expansion of SB.  With the (likely) signing off of the SPD tonight, the chances of a stadium at EC have diminished slightly but have certainly not been extinguished since the Mayor has to sign it all off and see the full planning applications. In one way, this is just process. But the council are playing a game with the club with regard to Stamford Bridge and as soon as they believe their position is secure at EC and they have successfully railroaded their plan through, they will no doubt adopt their traditional intransigent position on the club. That is why the meeting with the council and the CPO board is critical in getting them to actually say what is possible. Anybody who believes a single word of the council's statements on SB is genuinely being duped. You should ask yourself one question; why would a 60,000 stadium at SB apparently be aceptable after years of restriction but one a short distance away on a huge new development NOT be acceptable. A cursory glance through this blog will give you the answer.

More is, of course, to come.

Thursday 15 March 2012

CPO to meet H&F

In our blog from yesterday, we suggested that the CPO board should pursue the council for further detail (which was noticeably absent from their response to Chelsea's SB expansion statement) of why they believe the club's home can, in fact, be expanded. We are therefore pleased to see this statement on the CPO website;

"In light of the recent statements from Chelsea Football Club and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) regarding the possible redevelopment of the Stamford Bridge stadium site, the CPO board has requested a meeting with Councillor Nick Botterill of LBHF. We feel this would enable us to obtain a clearer understanding of how the council would assist Chelsea FC on this vitally important issue. We will report back to CPO shareholders once this meeting has taken place."

One hopes the council will accept the meeting invitation and puts before the CPO board facts and figures that are not merely hot air and obfuscation, designed to delay the work of the club in securing our future. With news of their unsuccessful consultation at WK and GG, H&F have some serious problems. CFC have been very clear and open about the work done on the SB expansion and it is time the council gave us more than vacuous words designed to agitate and mislead Chelsea fans.  The meeting, if Hammersmith and Fulham accept the invitation, will enable the CPO board to draw definitive conclusions about the possibilites as set out by the club; we should remember that the entire CPO board were very convinced by the case put to them by Chelsea and their consultants. Can the council provide genuine and credible evidence to the contrary? Will they give conrete assurances that a huge stadium that they will not countenance down the road at the much more suitable Earls Court site is acceptable to them on our small and congested plot of land bordered by houses and railway lines?

It will be a very interesting meeting indeed. If, of course, the council participate in it....let's hope they do.

Update on West Ken and Gibbs Green estates

Further to yesterday's blog about the Mayor's Question time, we should clarify that the consultations for West Ken and Gibbs Green estates were indeed concluded (contrary to the previous blog). We have also managed to discover a touch more about this; the residents of those estates voted comprehensively against the knocking down of their homes for the CapCo development. The questioning by Gavron of the mayor yesterday was suggesting that Boris should do something about it, given the absolutely majority against it, but that because he owned a huge chunk of equity via the freeholds and leases, he was not going to in order that HE got a pocket full of money. This is where the suggestion of a secret deal comes in. Boris, on the other hand said  that he was being asked to comment on something at a stage that, were he to do so, would prevent him actually doing the very thing she wanted him to do. Complicated.

We still don't have the exact figures but, of those that voted, the No majority outnumbered the Yes votes "by a factor of several to one". So a big blow to Hammersmith and Fulham but there is a chance they will railroad the scheme. The mayor can, as suggested by Gavron, derail the whole thing and get CapCo to start again. Let us hope that he does so and does not risk huge criticism by kicking hundreds of people out of their homes after a resounding rejection of the bribes offered to them. Let us also hope he has got a secret deal; with Chelsea and Capco to redraw the master plan and get a stadium in there. If he were to do that there would still be planning obstacles but we should be feeling a little bit more positive now. Of course, Boris might also be coveting the CapCo dollar...but they now have a very dangerous political tightrope to walk given the results of the  consultation. 


In further (supporting) news, the GG/WK residents groups all seem to believe that the publication today of the government's proposals to allow local residents to force councils to allow them to run their own estates (see effectively sounds the death knell for LBHF's plan to incorporate the estates in the overall EC development. We shall have to wait and see but, blimey, it is getting interesting.


Wednesday 14 March 2012

Boris has the key? And a word on SayNo.

Some of you may have paid attention to Mayor's Question Time this morning when the subject of the Earl's Court Development was discussed. Some interesting issues arose from it although perhaps they offered as many questions as answers. However, it is worth looking at some key points that came out of the exchanges.

  • The resident' EC consultation finished on Monday and the result (according to Nicky Gavron the Labour leader) is that a majority of the residents have rejected the development plans (no figures provided). The consultation on WK and GG is not concluded and we have heard some very sinister sounding news about the sort of tactics the council are employing on that. The words "immoral" and "corrupt" have been bandied about but perhaps more on that soon. £100 million can, we suppose, make one do and say some very desperate and silly things.....
  • Apparently Boris, in his capacity as Mayor, is the largest landowner of the site as he owns Lillie Bridge through TfL and the Earls Court Exhibition Centre (ECEC) freehold which is leased to CapCo. Reference to Lillie Bridge Depot as being a critical issue has come to our attention before and this is a strong hint as to why that nugget was placed before us.
  • CapCo cannot redevelop ECEC without both an extension of their lease (only 29 years left on EC1) and a change of use agreement as it's protected as an exhibition space.
  • Gavron also asked Boris not to rush through a deal before the mayoral election and made reference to a supposed 'secret deal' between Boris and CapCo. We don't know for sure what this is a reference to but we have a hunch what it "could" be.

What this all means is that Boris is in fact holding some pretty killer cards on this development. How he chooses to play it is to be discovered but we have of course hinted at what he believes would be right to have there. He has urged the councils to consider a stadium or sporting facility as the "cultural" provision there. We hear that Kensington and Chelsea are soon to sign off the draft SPD and are a little irked at the delay being caused to H&F doing the same...WK and GG obviously a big sticking point. K&C are likely to remain resistant to Chelsea and planning will be extremely difficult on their side of the development.

We have to hope the residents at WK and GG give H&F a bloody nose which will bring them back to the drawing board on EC. Boris. Do your job.

We feel we ought to say a few words about SayNo CPO's latest comments about Stamford Bridge. Clearly, they were hoping and expecting a rousing, killer blow from the council after Chelsea's statement. As we know, no such thing did, or could, materialise after the club's thorough press release about the possibilities. SayNo cling to the principle that a stadium could "in theory" be built to the necessary specs but in reality seemed fairly resigned to the fact that it is a virtual impossibility. After all, a floating stadium in the English Channel is probably possible with the right amount of money but unlikely to be possible either. Incidentally, we hope that CPO speak to the council independently of the club and ask them to give details of just what they think is possible and how it differs from what Chelsea have told us.

SayNo do make a few sensible remarks about moving forward but the statement, yet again, is reduced to childish and petulant paranoia with comments about "genuine" majority votes etc etc. They also look forward to Gray Smith's "investigation" which seems as far away from being delivered as ever. We all want the results published so the EGM can be scheduled and we can all put forward ideas and resolutions that will engage more fans, solve the concerns about share purchases and distribution et al. But we wait..and we wait...and we wait. Could it be there is nothing to actually "investigate"? That nothing illegal or wrong has taken place and all the previous dark aspersions that SayNoCPO have cast against the club are just hot air? We shall see. Looking forward to hearing from you Mr Smith...

Friday 9 March 2012

H&F reach their nadir

So Hammersmith and Fulham have finally responded to Chelsea’s forensic explanation of why Stamford Bridge is not expandable. And what did it say? Did we get counter plans? Drawings? Explanations of how it could be done? Offers of help from the council? An indication of their intent? Anything concrete at all? 

No. What we got was effectively, ”We know six hundred million smackers is a lot of money but you shouldn’t worry about that. It would cost you more to move away”.

Um, let’s think about this.

So Chelsea should pay upwards of six hundred million pounds to build a stadium that 

a) the council have been telling them for years they have no chance of giving permission for
b) that will involve years of planning hell 
c) would need a compulsory purchase that would make the eyes water
d) which would still be cramped
e) offer difficult sight lines 
f) probably fail to offer the sort of corporate facilities the business model would require
g) would probably fail every rule in the Green Guide

....the Green Guide, let us be aware, that council planners must use when considering options and which means, in all likelihood, that the plans wouldn't get given Hammersmith and Fulham.

H&F also signally fail to offer any explanation of how they think it is possible. It is also a remarkable development to hear a council actually SAY they think a 60,000 stadium would a) be possible b) benefit the area and residents. Of course, they could, if they wanted, lobby to have such a stadium at Earl’s Court, make such promising statements about that and include it in their SPD for the EC development. Surely they too would welcome such a stadium half a mile down the railway track? But they won’t. Why? £100 million for starters.

It is a duplicitous, dishonest and quite absurdly ridiculous statement that actually means nothing at all.
Chelsea would be fools to trust the council on this. The club must also demand that H&F spend THEIR money on doing a feasibility study that shows something different to Chelsea’s. We are curious what residents in the area are thinking today having read that H&F think it would be fine to bulldoze their homes under a mass Compulsory Purchase order.

A genuine embarrassment to the council.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Battersea Ahoy

An eagle eyed mole has drawn our attention to an extremely interesting and mouthwatering piece on the industry website

It speaks very much for itself and we print the piece in full below.  Chelsea, along with their lobbying at Earl's Court have clearly been busy over on the other side of the river....obvious hurdles exist when you consider the council's quotes in this piece but something 'beautiful' is nice to hear and the architect thinks he is on to a winner. Chelsea obviously have to bid for the grotesquely expensive site too.

Chelsea FC has 'beautiful' Battersea plan
8 March 2012 | By Joey Gardiner

Kohn Pederson Fox founder tells Mipim audience that scheme will ‘make the most’ of defunct power station.

Architect Kohn Pederson Fox said it has developed a “very beautiful scheme” for Chelsea Football Club to relocate to Battersea Power Station, which will retain an active use for the grade-II* listed structure.

Speaking at Mipim, KPF founder Gene Kohn said that the scheme, drawn up with Chelsea’s development partner Almacantar, would “make the most” of the defunct power station.

His comments came as the planned sale of the power station site by administrator Ernst & Young and the surrounding regeneration of the Nine Elms area of London was the main talking point at this year’s Mipim property festival in Cannes. The previous redevelopment plan, being taken forward by Real Estate Opportunities, collapsed into administration in November last year after it was unable to pay debts to Lloyds Bank and Irish bad bank NAMA. Chelsea’s move with Almacantar and KPF is so far the only publicly confirmed interested party in the site, valued at about £500m. Administrators were reported to be optimistic the sale would complete in the first half of 2012.

Kohn said: “We have a very beautiful scheme that presumes we’re making the most of the power station itself. It will have an active use for the power station, and I can’t think of much else that could make as good a use of it as we’re proposing.”

But Wandsworth council leader Ravi Govindia, also speaking at Mipim, downplayed the Chelsea bid, saying he was not aware of moves to bring the club to Battersea and questioned whether it would fit in with existing plans. “With the idea for a football stand, you have to wonder,” he said.

Battersea Power Station is the highest profile part of the Nine Elms redevelopment area, which is dependent on the construction of an extension to the Northern Line, and also includes the £500m US Embassy, the redevelopment of Covent Garden Flower Market, and the 1,870-home Nine Elms Parkside project by the Royal Mail, which received planning permission this week. Govindia said the Nine Elms Strategy Board, which governs the redevelopment of the area, could yet become a legally defined body with statutory powers to drive the plan.

There is also another, perhaps coincidental piece of news today which is that the mayor has set out his plans and conditions for the Battersea development area. It is a big document and you can find it here

We have only scanned it in a rudimentary way but one passage in it interested us...

The Mayor is in the process of producing four opportunity area planning frameworks
for West London, at Park Royal, White City, Earl’s Court and West Kensington
and Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea. The Mayor wants to ensure that development
of these opportunity areas is sustainable and integrated and that crucially it can
be supported by the London transport network. TfL have produced a subregional
transport model to assess the longer term impacts of development and
identify mitigation measures. Each of the framework areas performs a different
function within the London economy. White City is anchored by the retail
offer at Shepherd’s Bush Metropolitan town centre and has potential for a
mixed use commercial centre focused on creative, media biomedical research and
development, as well as 4,500 new homes. The regeneration of Earl’s Court and West
Kensington will be residential-led with a new cultural destination
, and Vauxhall Nine
Elms Battersea will be integrated as a new mixed use part of the Central Activities
Zone. Park Royal provides an important strategic reservoir of industrial land which
offers an opportunity for the relocation of industrial uses displaced from the other
opportunity areas.

We are not sure how the Mayor's planning framework dovetails with the draft planning framework published by the two councils in west London and which Chelsea have been lobbying to include a stadium as part of the 'cultural' provision. It may well be that the cultural destination is simply the exhibition facility but as we have said before, the definition of  'cultural facility' has come to include a stadium in the minds of some working on the project....

An enticing yet still a little confusing picture is emerging of Chelsea keeping their options very much open.

Friday 2 March 2012

Stamford Bridge statement

The beauty of today's Chelsea statement is, among other things, that it is very clear and thus we don't have to revisit it or apply any real analysis to the technical detail it contains. The clarity of the facts speak volumes.

It is to the club's credit that they took the ultimate desire of a sixty thousand capacity stadium and spent money on having architects try to fit a pint into a half pint pot. In theory, this is possible. But only in theory. The reality is far from possible and it is a fact that apart from having extremely cramped seats and setting fans almost 200 metres from the far goal, it would never get planning permission, would cost an astronomical amount and - eye-watering, this - would require the sort of compulsory purchase that has never been seen in London outside of the Olympic 2012 development. Fifty five thousand has all the exact same drawbacks and would only cost 25 million less. A piecemeal expansion would cost nearly two hundred million...And is probably the only option the council would countenance giving planning permission for.

So that, as they say, is that.

Let us look at why the club have waited to do this. That is easy to answer; CFC will, whatever happens in the future, have to work with the council and have to tread carefully. However, due to all of the factors we have made clear elsewhere, the council have become more and more dishonest in their dealings with the club, have fed erroneous information to SayNo supporters and have been economical about their communication with the club on this matter. It has, one must conclude, become too powerful an itch for the club to resist scratching any further. Fans, via badly informed briefings to agenda led journalists, have persisted in propagating rumours that the club have not looked at these issues in full. At the AGM we saw the result of this when several fans raised the issue of profiteering and land grabs. It must have been terrifically frustrating for the club to have to hold its tongue in the belief that they were trying to maintain a sense of propriety with the council. When it became clear the council were not reciprocating, driven by their desperation over EC, the club probably reached the end of its tether.

It has to be acknowledged that in issuing such a detailed analysis of their options at the Bridge, Chelsea have somewhat weakened their general commercial flexibility and clout. They have revealed more about their difficulties than they might necessarily want to; another reason why they haven't been quick to issue this when it is obvious it would have been something of a balm to many fans. But this also helps explain why the council took the chances they did when they were being so disingenuous after the EGM. They would simply not have expected Chelsea to be so explicit, to give away such sensitive information and they would most certainly not have expected the club to make very clear that politicians at the very top of the council had been at some of those meetings - conversations we should recall the council were denying having. Chelsea have essentially declared semi-war on the council and probably hope that it will ultimately mean they can still work effectively with them going forward. But it is a warning shot; don't play games with us, our fans or our business because we will not stand for it any longer.

So what might the council do now? It would not be a surprise to see a statement from them next week. It would likely dispute Chelsea's figures but we know they have little idea of such things and are keen to spend the clubs money for them. They may even deny they have made very clear they would throw out such plans at planning permission stage, as stated by the club. The club seems to have pre-empted that by quoting extensively from the Green Guide, the very guide that planners themselves will use to determine the applicable legislation. In truth, the council have indeed been very clear to the club what is possible and what they would permit. We refer you again to the pointed mention in the statement of the leader of the council. H&F, we would venture, thought they could keep the conspiracies going, safe in the knowledge that Chelsea would not reveal too much and thence get the EC development issues sorted. So expect a statement, for it to be extremely specious and full of holes.

Another question that has occupied some are the comments about the club not having any plans to move and that this statement did not prove that they intended to. It does sound an odd thing to say given the evidence presented but it is certainly true to say that the club DON'T have any plans to move yet. We know they want to get in at Earl's Court and this is public knowledge now. We take it to be just a simple statement of fact; that thus far, this is the work they have done, they know the options at Stamford Bridge and perhaps, over time, staying and developing to fifty thousand may be a viable solution. Unlikely, we agree. But we don't see anything other than a "courtesy" to CPO and fans whilst there are no concrete proposals for an alternative and the appropriate votes have not been made. Indeed, it is probably true that they don't "want" to leave Stamford Bridge. None of us really do, do we? It is just that we might have to one day.

Our belief is that now this running sore has been somewhat covered, we as fans and shareholders can move forward and consider proper proposals should they come forward from the club. Once Gray Smith has actually done the work he promised to do (but which in recent CPO board minutes of a meeting he did not attend, we can see was pressured to actually get on and do) we can look ahead with a clear view to the EGM. At that meeting we can take the next steps to put forward resolutions that will bring more fans into the fold, offer transparency and give more members of the Chelsea family a vote in our future.