The company overseeing the regeneration of Earl’s Court has “categorically” denied reports it is in talks with Chelsea over potentially housing a new stadium for the English Premier League football club.
The West London club is currently weighing up its options as long-held ambitions to either upgrade Stamford Bridge or develop a new stadium have returned to the agenda following its takeover last year by a consortium fronted by US businessman Todd Boehly.
Earl’s Court Development Company (ECDC) last month unveiled a draft masterplan to deliver on its vision ‘to bring the wonder back to Earl’s Court’. The ambitious redevelopment will see the long neglected, largely derelict 40-acre site in Zone 1 London reinstated as a “destination for entertainment, innovation and excitement”.
This includes the delivery of up to 4,500 homes, all set within a landscape-led development which aims to go beyond net zero and become a climate-positive neighbourhood. However, talk that a new stadium for Chelsea could be part of the plans has been dismissed.
ECDC said in a statement: “We categorically deny that there are any talks taking place with Chelsea FC about a stadium relocation to the Earl’s Court site.
“We have recently launched a draft masterplan for a transformative mixed use scheme to bring the wonder back to Earl’s Court. Our masterplan proposals will deliver 4,500 homes, 15,000 jobs, acres of public space and cultural facilities in an ambitious zero carbon development. There is no football stadium in our masterplan.”
A 60,000-seat stadium at Earl’s Court has previously been touted as an option for Chelsea, with the area having also been considered as a potential site for a new stadium under plans carried out under the stewardship of the club’s former owner, Roman Abramovich.
However, any move away from Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s home since its formation in 1905, would be met with significant challenges. The club would not be able to depart Stamford Bridge and keep the moniker ‘Chelsea FC’ without securing 75% backing from the Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO). This group holds the freehold to the stadium under a 30-year agreement.
Talk of a move to Earl’s Court has also been met with fan opposition. The Times has reported an anti-Earl’s Court group has been formed by concerned fans, who have passed queries on to Chelsea’s Fan Advisory Board.
“If they consider Earl’s Court, we might see the same supporter demonstrations that put paid to the European Super League (in 2021),” a fan involved in the group told the newspaper.
“Todd Boehly has to give a guarantee that Chelsea will stay at the Bridge. Out of the 13 London clubs, only one has never moved home. Chelsea. We had a ‘Save the Bridge’ campaign in the Eighties – this is Bridge two.
“England’s three remaining historic club venues are Anfield, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, each with their own culture. We have to stay at the Bridge.”
Earlier this month, it was reported that Chelsea is considering building a new £2bn (€2.27bn/$2.47bn) stadium on the site of Stamford Bridge, with the Premier League club potentially facing up to four years at a temporary home while the work is carried out.
The Daily Mail reported that Boehly had “informally approached” Fulham owner Shahid Khan about using the latter’s Craven Cottage during the construction phase. The report added that Chelsea could use Craven Cottage for the majority of its league games, with the larger Wembley and Twickenham under consideration for higher-profile fixtures.
Reports emerged in December that Boehly had committed to a major redevelopment of Stamford Bridge. It came after Chelsea director Jonathan Goldstein said in October that the club was aiming to commence the planning process to redevelop Stamford Bridge “during the course of the next year”.
With a capacity of around 40,000, Stamford Bridge is the smallest stadium of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ and the club has been seeking to expand the venue for a number of years. A consortium led by Boehly and Clearlake Capital completed its acquisition of Chelsea in May last year, with the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge among the areas of investment outlined by the club’s new owners.
Boehly and Clearlake Capital made a £4.25bn commitment to Chelsea, with an initial £2.5bn having been paid to purchase the club. A further £1.75bn investment will be made over the next 10 years. Chelsea is reportedly hoping to a commit to a stadium plan in the summer.