LONDON - MARCH 25: (FILE PHOTO) An aerial view of Battersea power station March 25, 2007 in London, England. Chelsea FC are planning to construct a new stadium on the site containing the Grade II listed building. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Big news for Chelsea FC today. The club have announced on Friday that they've made a bid for a new home - the Battersea Power Station site. To some, this will be excellent news, and to others it won't be, but there's some interesting stuff in the release that I'd like to touch on. First, the most important:
We are not the only interested parties and there is no certainty that we will be successful. We also appreciate that we have many significant hurdles to address if we are to build a new stadium on the site, including winning the support of our fans, the Chelsea Pitch Owners shareholders and local Wandsworth residents, as well as securing the approval of Wandsworth Council, the Greater London Authority and heritage authorities.
This is obviously not a done deal and the CPO could (and should, if they believe it's the correct decision) block any potential relocation of Chelsea FC. I would guess that the club is confident that securing the Battersea site would overcome the opposition from the CPO over a move, because it would rather blow up the rhetoric around Chelsea wanting to move to Tau Ceti or whatever, but they've misread the situation before and could well be doing so now.
As Chelsea mention in the above quote, there are other parties interested in the Battersea site, although it's honestly rather difficult to figure out why you'd want it unless you could do cool things with the power station. Chelsea are definitely going to do cool things with the power station:
Working with architects and planning experts we have developed a plan to preserve all the significant aspects of Battersea Power Station. The four iconic chimneys and wash towers along with the Grade II* listed west turbine hall and control room will be restored and retained in their original locations and provide a unique architectural backdrop to a world-class stadium with a capacity of around 60,000 seats.
Following feedback from fans, our initial plans include a 15,000-all seated one-tier stand behind the south goal, likely to be the biggest one-tier stand in football. Also as suggested by many fans, the stadium proposed is rectangular in shape with four separate stands. The design includes a bigger family area and more room for disabled supporters.
A 15,000 seat on-tier stand behind the south goal? That's reasonably impressive, but still doesn't come close to Borussia Dortmund's 25,000 stand at the Westfalonstadion, although BVB do have a significant advantage in not being forced into all-seater stadiums. Chelsea look like they've got a very cool stadium in mind here.
Of course, one of the problems with the Battersea site is that it's south of the river and it's a bit of a pig to get to. The Blues have an answer to that as well:
We would also make a significant contribution towards the Northern Line Extension, a new high-volume transport link proposed for the area.
Remember that the club can spend as much as they like on infrastructure and such without incurring the wrath of UEFA for Financial Fair Play, so there's plenty of money to play with. I have no idea what a 'significant contribution' might be to a tube line, but it's pretty clear that the Northern Line Extension is what would make the whole project viable.
So, summing up, Chelsea want to build a cool new stadium at the Battersea site, but there are lots of hurdles to overcome. They'll need to buy the site, convince the Chelsea Pitch Owners to let them move, get planning permission for the new ground, ensure that the Northern Line Extension goes through, build said new ground, sell Stamford Bridge and then move.
There are a lot of things that could go wrong (or right, if you hate the idea of a move away from the Bridge) in that process, so a) don't bet on it happening and b) definitely don't bet on it happening anytime soon.
As for me, I like the idea quite a lot. Moving away from Stamford Bridge would be sad, but if the architects get the stadium right (and not all modern grounds need be soulless) and the transport links work properly, I'll be happy enough. It's been clear for quite some time that Chelsea need to grow their match day revenue, and a move is the only feasible way of doing it. We can be rightly proud of our long affiliation with Stamford Bridge, but a new stadium would be a massive legacy for Roman Abramovich to leave the club, securing our future as a footballing powerhouse.
I find it difficult to say no to that.