Chelsea has today (Friday) confirmed that more than 900 fans will be unable to attend its opening match of the 2021-22 Premier League season due to delays in installing rail seating at its Stamford Bridge stadium.

Chelsea face Crystal Palace tomorrow and said 298 seats in Block 8/9 and 610 seats in Block 16 of the Matthew Harding Lower will not be available, adding tickets for the affected seats will not work on the turnstile system.

Chelsea in April had announced a series of planned upgrades at Stamford Bridge, with new rail seating to be installed at the stadium for the 2021-22 season. Subject to approval from the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) and its Safety Advisory Group (SAG), the rail seating was to be fitted in the Matthew Harding Lower and Shed End Upper and Lower tiers.

The change will result in just over 500 seats being lost in the areas concerned but Chelsea said the decision had been taken ahead of any future government decision to introduce safe standing across the Premier League.

The announcement had been made following months of consultation with the SGSA and Hammersmith and Fulham Council, as well as independent architects, to find the optimum solution for the stadium.

Over the summer, the club has been replacing over 12,000 seats in the Shed Upper and Lower Stand and the Matthew Harding Lower Stand with rail seating. The Shed Upper and Lower are complete and the major parts of the Matthew Harding Lower are also on track.

However, Chelsea yesterday warned that the manufacturer is currently unable to guarantee the supply and fitting of some remaining specialist parts in sections in the Matthew Harding Lower before Saturday’s match against Palace.

Today’s news will come as a major blow to those fans affected, with tomorrow’s game representing the first chance for a full house at Stamford Bridge since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020. Sports venues in England were cleared to open at full capacity from July 19 after the UK Government on July 5 announced that COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Chelsea said: “We realise we have let these supporters down and sincerely apologise for the fact this has happened. If you are a season ticket holder you will receive a pro-rata refund for the match plus a refund of any reasonable pre-booked travel costs.

“Affected members will receive a full refund, plus a refund of any reasonable pre-booked travel costs. All affected season tickets holders and members will retain loyalty points for this match. 

“In addition, after discussions with the Fans Forum and several supporter groups, affected season ticket holders and members will also receive a complimentary ticket to one of the first three home Champions League Group stage games this season. You will be contacted at the end of next week regarding the process for redeeming this.

“When we embarked upon this project we had detailed plans to complete it on time and written undertakings from the manufacturer they could meet the schedule. Everyone at the club is very upset that we weren’t able to achieve this and recognise that we should have done better.”

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