There has been speculations from Football fans around the world on who owns Stamford Bridge, the home ground of Chelsea Football Club.
Some football fans believe the stadium was rented to Chelsea FC as they pay yearly rent, while some believe Chelsea own the stadium.
Since Chelsea FC is being formed in 1905, they’ve spent their entire history playing all their home games at the Stamford Bridge stadium.
However, Chelsea does not directly owns the stadium as Stamford Bridge is owned and managed by a non-profit organization, a subsidiary of Chelsea FC which also retain the right to the club name “Chelsea Football Club”.
Though Stamford Bridge has not always been owned by the non-profit organization but has had several owners since been built in 1877.
In these article, we’ll clear the air on who is the rightful owner of Stamford Bridge.
History of Stamford Bridge
Stamford Bridge is the home ground of Chelsea Football Club with capacity of 40834, but it hasn’t always been that way and the site has quite a history.
Stamford Bridge (/ˈstæmfərd/) is a football stadium in Fulham, adjacent to the borough of Chelsea in South West London, commonly referred to as The Bridge.
Fulham mentioned is a City in London just like Manchester, It is the city where Stamford Bridge is located and does not literally mean the Fulham Football Club.
The existing Stamford Bridge was built of brick in 1860–1862 and since been partly reconstructed.
Stamford Bridge Grounds officially opened on 28th April 1877 and for the first 28 years of its existence, was used almost exclusively by the London Athletic Club as an arena for athletics meetings.
In 1904 the ownership of the ground changed hands when two brothers Mr Henry Augustus (Gus) Mears and Mr Joseph Theophilus (JT) Mears acquire the land to stage one of the biggest professional football match.
The original capacity was planned for 100,000 and at the time, which was the second largest venue in the country, behind that at The Crystal Palace.
Initially the ground was offered to Fulham Football Club, but they turned it down for some financial reasons. Then the Mears decided to found their own football club, Chelsea, to occupy the ground as a rival to Fulham.
on March 10th, 1905, the inaugural meeting of the football club was called to order by Gus Mears and his brother JT Mears. As there was already a club named “Fulham”, a range of names such as “Kensington FC“, “Stamford Bridge FC” and “London FC” were considered.
But the name of the adjoining London borough was settled on and Chelsea Football Club was born and moved into Stamford Bridge in time to start the 1905/1906 season.
In 1945, Stamford Bridge staged one of the most notable matches in its history. FC Dynamo Moscow were invited to tour the United Kingdom at the end of the Second World War and Chelsea were the first side they faced. An estimated crowd of over 100,000 crammed into Stamford Bridge to watch an exciting 3–3 draw.
In the early 70s, the club owner embark on a project to renovate Stamford Bridge. However, lately in the mid-70’s the club went into some financial crisis as the club struggled in the league, attendance drop and debt increases.
These led Chelsea to relegation to the Second division in 1975 before finally returning to the First division in 1984.
Late 70’s, with the club virtually bankrupt. The owners made the drastic decision to sell the Stamford Bridge site to property developers (Marler Estates) to pay off some of the debts.
It was a decision that very nearly saw Chelsea lose it’s ground, be forced to share stadium with neighboring club, Fulham or QPR.
New chairman, Ben Kates bought the club for £1 in 1982, he did not buy the ground. A 10 years fight in 1992 between Ben Kates and Marler Estates saw him win back the ownership of Stamford Bridge.
Stamford Bridge has been a venue for England international matches, FA Cup Finals, FA Cup semi-finals and Charity Shield games with the stadium highest official attendance recorded to be 82,905 in a league match player between Chelsea and Arsenal on October 12,1935.
Who owns Stamford Bridge
There have been lots of clamour between football fans around the world on who owns Stamford Bridge with some claiming the stadium was owned and rented to Chelsea by Fulham Football Club.
Below the give full details on the ownership and management of Stamford Bridge.
This ownership evolved from a period of financial doubt in the 1990s, when the Club’s then owner granted the freehold of the then stadium footprint to the Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO).
These is to ensure that through ownership by multiple fans, the stadium could never be sold to property developers and no one person can unduly influence the organisation.
The concept behind having multi-fan ownership of the CPO is so that no one person can unduly influence the organisation.
The CPO also owns the name Chelsea Football Club Ltd, which is licensed back to the club on condition that the first team play their home matches at Stamford Bridge.
This means that should Chelsea move to another stadium in the future, they would not be able to use the name Chelsea Football Club without permission from 75% of CPO shareholders.
In conclusion, Stamford Bridge is owned and managed by the Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) as it owns both the freehold of the Stamford Bridge stadium and the naming rights of Chelsea Football Club.
Stamford Bridge owners throughout the history
The Stamford Bridge ground been built eight years to Chelsea’s formation in 1877. The London Athletic Club were the first tenants and owners of Stamford Bridge.
From 1877 to 1904, the world’s oldest independent track and field club used the ground mainly as an arena for athletic meeting.
In 1904, the ground was bought by two brothers Gus and Joseph Mears, who formed Chelsea a year later to play at their stadium.
The Mears brothers owned Stamford Bridge and Chelsea FC up untill the 1980s when they sold the club to Ben Kates for a fee of around £1.
Bates inherited a club with financial crisis which result to selling the ground to a property developer.
Property developers, Marler Estates purchased the ground and rented it out to the club.
Soon after, Marler Estates was declared bankruptcy in the early 1990s and Chelsea were able to buy back Stamford Bridge ground.
The ownership and management have since then been passed onto the Chelsea Pitch Owners, who remain in control to this day.
Chelsea Pitch Owners
Chelsea Pitch Owners (“CPO”) are a non-profit organisation which is part of the Chelsea Football Club that owns the freehold and upkeep the home ground of Chelsea Football Club.
The organization offers shares to the public as shareholders can be of any age from all around the world not only having a share of the freehold but share a passion for CFC and its future.
Among them are also Chelsea former players as shareholders including Pat Nevin, Steve Clarke, Marcel Desailly, immy Floyd Hasselbaink, David Webb, Dennis Wise and the late Ray Wilkins.
With former Chelsea skipper, John Terry honoured as the president of the organization.
As the CPO protects the future of the stadium, they also allow and embrace fans to buy and acquire shares to own part of their loved football club.
Fans interested in acquiring the shares can get more details on how to buy shares here.
The Abramovich Era – Chelsea’s plan on Stamford Bridge.
Since the recent owner of Chelsea, Roman Abramovich take possession of the club. There has been some plans and speculation on the club leaving Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s Previous plan on leaving Stamford Bridge
Since the Roman Abramovich takeover in 2003, there has been rumours of a proposed move away from Stamford Bridge.
The club has name five different locations to become the new home of Chelsea FC which are Earls Court Exhibition Centre, White City, Battersea Power Station, the Imperial Road Gasworks, and the Chelsea Barracks.
However, the main setback from leaving the Stamford Bridge is the contents of the Chelsea Pitch Owners’ remit.
As part of the organization freehold of the stadium, they also own the rights to the name “Chelsea Football Club” which state the fact that Chelsea would also have to completely change their name if they’re to completely move away from the Stamford Bridge.
In bid to overcome this, the club made attempted to take back control of the freehold from the Chelsea Pitch Owners by selling the ground in 2011 which was rejected by the shareholders.
Despite the rejection, the club still continue to bid for the purchase of Battersea Power Station in 2012 but were not the preferred bidders.
Alternative to Leaving Stamford Bridge
After the unsuccessful plans to move from the Bridge, Chelsea now instead prefer to redevelop Stamford Bridge with permission secured from Hammersmith and Fulham council in January 2017.
The planning permission allows the club to increase the stadium capacity to 60,000. Full permission to develop the ground to reach the planned capacity has been granted by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.
As a result, it’s likely Chelsea will spend some time playing their home games elsewhere on a temporary basis while the stadium is being re-constructed.
They’ve made an approach to spend these temporary period at Twickenham Stadium, home to the English rugby union.
Another alternative is the English Football Association’s Wembley Stadium. A deal had originally been agreed for Chelsea to spend three seasons at Wembley, which is supposed to start in 2017-18 as early as 2016.
The Blues want exclusive use of the stadium, but a deal had already been set up for Tottenham Hotspur to use Wembley whilst their White Hart Lane stadium was demolished and rebuilt.
As of summer 2020, the plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge now remain on hold.
Amazing Facts about Stamford Bridge
- Stamford Bridge is not actually located in Chelsea, but just over the border in the neighbouring London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
- The weather vane which has sat on top of the East Stand for decades is modelled on former striker George Hilsdon, who became the first person to score 100 goals for Chelsea in 1910.
- Legendary Chelsea striker Peter Osgood’s ashes were laid to rest under the Stamford Bridge pitch’s penalty spot, in front of the Shed End.
- Chelsea are one of only three Premier League clubs to have played in the same stadium for their entire history, the other two being Liverpool (Anfield) and Sheffield United (Bramall Lane).
- The Chelsea dressing room at the Bridge has the slogan ‘This is our home’ painted in large letters across the floor, as well as inspirational words and phrases on the walls.
- Away fans used to sit next to the tunnel and the dug-outs in the East Stand, but were moved further away from the players to the Shed End at the request of then-manager Jose Mourinho in 2005.
- The Shed End was once named the Fulham Road End. However, the fans’ nickname for it, referring to the strange roof added to keep bookmakers dry at greyhound races, became so popular the club adopted it officially.
- Stamford Bridge was briefly the home of the FA Cup, hosting three finals in a row at the start of the 1920s, although Chelsea didn’t get the chance to play an FA Cup final on home turf.