Wednesday 9 May 2012

Power to the people.....some facts

Since Chelsea announced the Battersea power station bid there has been quite a bit of speculation and misinformation going around.  Let us try to deal with some of it.

On the stadium design

Yes, we are all frustrated that the club are not yet prepared to publish designs but the designs are most certainly there and they are apparently fabulous and innovative. We should remember that the bid was based on the study carried out by Almacantar, Vinoly  and KPF. That feasibility study obviously convinced the club of the possibilities.

The bid is at an early stage and it would not be appropriate for the club to start trumpeting their plans before it is even accepted. When the time is right, and should the club purchase the site, it is likely that designs will be published to accompany the next step; consultation and planning permission. When certainty enters the process, that would also seem the right time for the club to approach CPO again. What should NOT be doubted is the feasibility of a stadium at Battersea in terms of construction and space. The club would simply not be making this bid otherwise; it is a bid to which they may have to make an enormous financial commitment  in the relatively near future.

The Bridge

We understand that this huge show of intent has given some fans the idea that the club has set its face against expanding SB. Consequently, there have been some strange theories that have essentially concluded that SB is a far more feasible site than the 39 acres on offer at Battersea.
The recent statement from CPO which exposed the paucity of LBHFs case left most of us in little doubt as to the enormous risks of trying to develop the Bridge. The council tacitly admitted, via their crass urgings that the club should try to buy Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions, that in order for an expansion to be remotely possible, the space occupied by those flats is needed. Very little needs to be added to their other argument that the club should charge fans more to get in.

We should think very carefully about what any sort of expanded stadium would be like. If a magic wand could be waved, we think virtually all Chelsea fans would prefer to stay at SB. But in all honesty, any expansion, even to 50,000 would not only be a waste of time and money, but it would be a squashed, unpleasant, unproductive stadium - and a pig to build - that could not include the facilities required to produce a sustainable model for the future.  Surely it is far better for the club to consider a purpose built, spectacular stadium that would be the home of CFC for future generations. Us old gits do need to let go sometimes perhaps? That may be an unpopular view but the club - the club we all demand be successful and at the top of the game - are wrestling with a mammoth business conundrum and we feel they deserve our support. Still, that is a decision for the future.

The costs

This has also been causing some confusion. The basic argument appears to be that purchasing and building at Battersea would cost far more than building a new stadium at SB. Well, in the first instance, we know that building that stadium of 55k (not 60,000 - the council have intimated they would only "look" at 55k) is virtually impossible on all sorts of levels. And that extra 5,000 is quite significant, quite apart from the other benefits of a new build at Battersea.

But of course, the enormous difference is that Chelsea have entered into a joint venture with a large property developer and as such will reap the rewards of the full development at Battersea. That means, it would be fair to presume, that their partner Almacantar will be making an investment into the purchase too. The project is supposed to be self-funding and the long term residential, retail and leisure aspects of the site is where the money will come from, along with the sale or development of Stamford Bridge. This is a very significant new dimension to anything we have considered before. We cannot expect Abramovich to shell out several hundred million. We might like him to or think he could afford it, but that is surely unreasonable.  What we do not know is whether Chelsea and Almacantar will run the development at SB too or whether they will simply sell to another developer. The proceeds from the sale will not be as significant as people expect. Possibly 300 million? Maybe less with a cussed council around. So it is a moderate contribution and can in no way be considered a "land grab".

The fact remains, however, that Chelsea have "gone large". It might all fall apart at bid stage (although we would expect them to get to round two).  But if they are successful then there is really something to think about. We can only imagine that conversations have been had with the Mayor's office and we do not give much credence to the speculative stories that 
Boris wouldn't like it. He is a politician and will thus see  the benefits of finally getting something done with the site, getting the Northern Line extension completed and seeing his iconic building retained and restored. Chelsea come with liquidity and a plan. But politicians, as we have seen with LBHF are a difficult bunch so perhaps a risk exists. We will soon know.

So our advice is be patient. Those designs will dazzle us soon enough. If you still want to stay at Stamford Bridge regardless, then you will have your say if you are a shareholder. But we would suggest that your arguments retain some credibility by not trying to convince the rest of us that Stamford Bridge is bigger and a better build option than Battersea. No amount of amateur, back-of-a-fag-packet computer graphics is going to change the reality of the situation.

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