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.

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