Monday 26 November 2012

Chimneys? No problem!

It has been another normal week of fantastically weird goings on at the Bridge. We ought to be used to it by now.

Our interest is, however, mightily piqued by two particular issues that should they end up being true and/or successful would put the management departures and arrivals into the shade. The first we have alluded to in our previous blog; the issue of talks with the Malaysians who own Battersea Power Station.

It is certain, according to our various sources, that the club are engaged in trying to reach an agreement with Setia over the development of the power station itself, a toxic and expensive problem for the owners. Individuals within the owning organisation have conflicting opinions on whether CFC are the answer but the biggest doubt appears to be over the ability of CFC to offer Stamford Bridge as part of a contra arrangement. Our last blog addressed this very matter and knowing it to be true now only strengthens the view that something should be done to ensure we all make our feelings known. We were quite good at that on Sunday....

The other issue to interest us is the persistent rumour that Roman Abramovich is showing an interest in buying, lock stock and barrel, CapCo, owners of Earls Court. The implications of doing so are clear and it would not surprise us in the least if the rumour was true. Indeed, the stories in the press are well sourced (and logical) and we ourselves have heard similar suggestions from people linked to the political establishment in the areas. CapCo are having trouble at EC, with High Court hearings pending and almost universal condemnation of the master plan from residents, designers, the exhibition industry etc. Not to mention the issue of money. The sharp rise in CapCo shares suggests the market is keeping a wary eye on things too. RBKC gave approval to their part of the scheme recently and this was to be fully expected - there was never any doubt that they would. But the problems persist.

There remains, at both sites, the question of planning permission and political will but owning something gives the club a bit more leverage to say the least. And money talks - especially now.

If the club are indeed taking an aggressive and acquisitive approach to both sites, we would be very pleased. In fact, we think it highly likely that this is the case and one expects they have finally reached the conclusion that working with, and trying to gently negotiate, the political self interest and duplicity surrounding both sites has produced little. A decision to confront it head on with cash and determination is to be heartily welcomed by Chelsea fans.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Time for a message?

It has been a while since anything of note regarding CFC's stadium situation emerged. Earl's Court remains interesting now that the residents of West Ken and Gibbs Green estates have won the right to challenge the development in the High Court. All sorts of things might happen there.

One curiosity though is Battersea. More specifically, since it was announced that the Setia bid had been successful, we have heard nothing from the club; no submission, no statements giving up on it - nothing. We do find that a bit curious and as ever lots of rumours are flying regarding what is going on there, what might be happening with the development, hints of viability issues for the Malaysians. More specifically that Almacantar were the only recognised developer in the
running with an end-user for the Power Station. If we were the Malaysians, we would ask why none of the big UK players wanted it? It all leads us to believe that the club have certainly not given up the ghost; the circumstances have changed now that the Malaysians own the
site. Those chimneys, no doubt English Heritage and the costs of conversion et al are causing issues for the developers but could Chelsea be digging around, offering to remove the major "risk"? We think it highly likely but it got us thinking about the new status quo that exists.

It is our firm belief that the "no" vote caused a critical blip in our plans to hijack the Earl's Court development. Big players in the property market play all the angles, especially when they own the rights to a lucrative plot - CapCo most certainly did that and it was up to CFC to deliver. Crucially, what one imagines they will have to deliver is Stamford Bridge so that a developer has something to make up for allowing the club to occupy a swathe of valuable potential residential property space. Can CFC provide that as part of any deal? Is the first "no" vote giving Setia, or CapCo for that matter, pause for thought? It seems unlikely to us that SAYNO would muster enough support to stymie a stadium at either Earl's Court or Battersea. And we have heard even the most ardent SAYNO supporters say that they would be happy to see the club move to either site.

With locations limited, the club find itself in a very awkward position. It is one thing CFC wanting to play its cards close to its chest but one imagines that Setia and/or CapCo, searching as they are for capital and political support, feel the same way about revealing anything radical. The
one uncertainty remains the reaction of this small band of Chelsea supporters. The fact is that Chelsea fans are generally inactive when it comes to forcing positive change but are adept at working themselves and others into a lather about perceived wrongdoing. Conspiracy theories have dogged this entire issue. The almost total acceptance of LBHF's position is evidence of that.

The conundrum is impossibly tricky. For the club to ask CPO shareholders for their shares, one expects they will now, after the first fiasco, explain the plan. That plan may depend on swift manoeuvres and secrecy up to a point. But any potential CFC partner will want to know
that the club can deliver the land at Stamford Bridge in return for a plot at either EC or BPS. But how can it do that until a vote is taken?

The only solution we can think of is for Chelsea Pitch Owners to make it abundantly clear what they WOULD accept by way of location and perhaps then the club can enter into negotiations with confidence should such negotiations be on offer.

Could a resolution committing to sell for a site within, say, 2.5 miles of SB be a way forward? It would probably be unwise to mention the specific sites or tie it down to the two main ones; who knows what might emerge? And we have to bear in mind the delicacies. But we do know that certain areas, previously discussed, would be unacceptable so the mile marker is crucial. Could the various fan groups make it abundantly clear what their position on the two sites are? We, for example, are more than happy to say that we would sell our own shares for Battersea or Earls Court.

Whatever is done, we have an awful fear that the unpredictability of CPO shareholders and the recent bad blood is shackling the club somewhat. How often might the club be asked "can you get the shares?" Maybe the destiny of the club is more in our hands than we think? Maybe we have to give a strong positive message to the club and others about what we will do and thus strengthen their hand as they try to achieve what we all aspire to?