Chelsea Football Club has made a presentation to the directors of Chelsea Pitch Owners, highlighting the work the club has carried out since 2004 analysing the potential to increase capacity at Stamford Bridge.
Set out below is a summary of that presentation. We are not in any way stating that the club has made a decision on the need to move. This is certainly not the case and the Board and the owner are, as we have continually said, keen to stay at Stamford Bridge.
In November 2011, Hammersmith and Fulham Council issued a press release to the effect that they proposed to examine with us whether there were planning options to expand Stamford Bridge, recognising that 'such a project must be economically viable, benefit local businesses and not unreasonably affect residents'.
Chelsea Football Club supports the above criteria and, in fact, has been investigating expanding Stamford Bridge with the same criteria in mind for the last eight years.
Since November 2011, the club has had four substantive meetings with senior members of Hammersmith and Fulham Council (including the leader and the deputy leader) and senior planning officials reviewing the club's work. The council is now briefed on the club's perspective on options available for Stamford Bridge expansion.
SECTION 1 - Some basic facts
Stamford Bridge sits on 11.9 acres in central London. While this is large enough for the current capacity of 41,837, it is generally accepted by stadium architects and construction companies that a new 60,000 stadium would require approximately 18-20 acres of land in a largely square or rectangular shape.
Stamford Bridge sits in a sensitive area of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and directly on the western border of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. There are two conservation areas to the south and east of the stadium, a substantial number of locally listed buildings very close by, and the Brompton Cemetery to the east which includes some Grade 1 listed monuments.
There are also a large number of residential properties immediately adjacent to the stadium, including to the south along the Fulham Road, to the north on the north side of the underground line and the Oswald Stoll home for ex-servicemen and other properties, to the west of the stadium.
Stamford Bridge is also bounded by railway lines on two sides - the north and the east - and is an unusual stadium in that it has three main exits all of which head to the south onto the Fulham Road.
These three exits - Stamford Gate, Bovril Gate and Britannia Gate - have a combined width of just over 50 metres. Based on the Fourth Edition of the Green Guide for people flows at football matches, the existing exits are currently just large enough to ensure all 41,837 spectators can leave the stadium site within the required emergency egress time.
The Green Guide is the report that sets out the guidance that has to be adhered to for safety at sports grounds and is the guidance that the licensing authority will apply as part of granting a licence for a major sport venue. However, since Stamford Bridge was last upgraded in 2001 (West Stand), the Green Guide has been updated further in 2008 (Fifth Edition). Thus, if we were to rebuild the stadium exactly as it is, the current ingress/egress routes would not be sufficient. This means that any significant change to the stadium's design or capacity will require that the club will need to find one third more egress width (an additional 16 metres) around the ground. This would mean either widening one or more of the three existing exits, or finding new additional exits.
In commercial terms it is important to note that, at a capacity of 41,837, Chelsea ranks only 30th in the current table of European club stadia. With a number of clubs planning to increase their capacities both here and in Europe, Chelsea is likely to drop down further in future years.
The stadium capacity of 41,837 has further limitations due to TV demands. For example, for certain Champions League matches up to 10% of the capacity is taken out to accommodate TV outside broadcasting equipment (contained in large trucks), meaning that on some of the biggest nights of the year the club has less than 38,000 seats available and some season-ticket holders in the Matthew Harding Stand have to be relocated to seats elsewhere in the stadium for those matches. The club currently has to provide more than 2,000 square metres of space for outside broadcast facilities and this will increase with the arrival of enhanced digital TV.
With only 5,000 seats for corporate hospitality and a total capacity nearly 19,000 less than the Emirates stadium and nearly 34,000 less than Old Trafford, the club earns approximately £26m less than Arsenal and £41m less than Manchester United per season in matchday revenue. However, Chelsea currently ranks sixth in Europe by turnover. This is a considerable achievement given the capacity limitation of our stadium, and is driven in part by broadcasting rights, by very high occupancy levels on matchdays and very successful wider commercial operations, including events at the Bridge, the income from the hotels and restaurants, revenues from the museum and stadium tours and international activities. Our performance is also affected by the fact that admission prices at Stamford Bridge are among the highest in the Premier League.
The capacity, pricing and to a certain extent the design constraints of our current stadium also limit availability of tickets for families, younger fans (especially the 16-21 market) and people with disabilities.
The club has retained the following consultants to help us in our evaluations of the options available at Stamford Bridge: CB Richard Ellis (planning), AFL (architects), Steer Davies Gleave (safety and transport) and London Communications Agency (political consultancy). These firms have worked with the club for many years and were involved in the rebuilding of the Matthew Harding, Shed End and West stands. They have been engaged to look at Stamford Bridge options since 2004.
The club has made clear for some time that its preference is to stay at Stamford Bridge if at all possible. However it has also made clear that it needs to increase capacity to meet demand, widen access, keep admission prices at an appropriate level and improve the fan matchday experience. And of course increase revenues to help meet the requirements of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, which are now in force. It has therefore looked in detail at the potential to increase capacity at Stamford Bridge and the second section of this document summarises that work.
It is worth noting that all of the work we have undertaken in connection with Stamford Bridge expansion or rebuild assumes that our playing pitch remains at its current dimensions. Over the years, several managers and players have suggested that our pitch is too small, particularly in width. We are currently below the UEFA minimum requirements and need a waiver to compete in UEFA tournaments. We do meet Premier League requirements but the Premier League would allow an additional seven metres of width if we so desired.
If our work described in this summary included a larger pitch, then the issues associated with a new build stadium would be further aggravated and the expansion option, assuming feasibility from a construction perspective, would be reduced substantially in the number of seats that could be provided.
SECTION 2 - THE STUDIES
The club set our advisers three main questions to answer when looking at the future of Stamford Bridge:
1. Could a 60,000 new build stadium be delivered at Stamford Bridge?
2. If it were possible, what would be the design, financial, logistical and planning implications?
3. If the club looked at extending the current stadium to deliver a capacity of 55,000 what would be the design, financial, logistical and planning implications?
1. Could a 60,000 new-build stadium be delivered at Stamford Bridge?
The architect and other consultants were asked to look at a complete new build at Stamford Bridge.
The architect reviewed many possible shapes for the stadium and advised that an elliptical-shaped stadium would be the most efficient stadium design on the Stamford Bridge site. He therefore took a stadium design similar to the Emirates, and, allowing for the regulation-required 15 metre concourse all the way around the stadium, concluded that such a stadium could not fit on the current Stamford Bridge site.
However, it could just fit on the area bounded by the railway lines and the Fulham Road, although decking would be required over the railway lines both for stadium construction and for emergency and normal ingress/egress and the concourse would come right up to the edge of the Fulham Road, necessitating the acquisition and demolition of nearly all of the homes and other buildings along this frontage of the Fulham Road.
In addition the club would need to acquire significant additional land, including homes, offices and the Oswald Stoll property, as well as a number of homes whose rights of light would be significantly affected by a new, larger stadium.
2. If it were possible to locate a 60,000 stadium on the site, what would be the design, financial, logistical and planning implications?
The scale of such a stadium on a site bordered by two conservation areas and a large numbers of homes mainly at two to four storeys in height would be significant. With the water table in this area quite high, the ability to dig down and set the stadium much lower than grade is hampered.
In financial terms the club's advisers have estimated that the project could cost in excess of
£600 million when the costs of acquiring land and properties, demolition, design and build, planning costs, ingress and egress as well as playing away and ground sharing for at least three years are taken into consideration.
In logistical terms the implications of adding 18,000 more spectators at Stamford Bridge are significant and the club instructed an expert in transport and people movement to look at how the club might handle an increase of more than 40% to the current transport network.
The consultant calculated that the club would need an extra 50 metres of exit width for the emergency egress of 60,000 from Stamford Bridge and advised that exiting only onto the Fulham Road was likely to be unacceptable, especially as Fulham Broadway tube station is already at full capacity, currently handling in the region of 14,000 fans in the hour immediately after a match. The additional fans would have to be channelled as directly as possible to Earl's Court, West Brompton and West Kensington stations to the north.
The consultant advised that at least two new egress routes would be essential and, assuming these could not be via Brompton Cemetery given its listed status, they had to be to the north along Seagrave Road and along the railway line cutting to West Brompton station. The consultant calculated that these routes could deliver a total of approximately 12 metres of width and thereby provide egress for around 8,000 fans an hour. Therefore it would mean that a further 38 metres of exit space would be required along the Fulham Road frontage to cope with the other 10,000 extra fans and the requirements of version five of the Green Guide.
The council has indicated to us that a 60,000 new-build stadium has little chance of acceptability due to planning impact. The below points come under the most scrutiny:
- The conservation area to the south of the stadium would not just be affected, but would need to be redrawn and reduced in size - Locally listed buildings in the conservation area would need to be demolished - The nature conservation area which runs along the railway line would need to be downgraded - The local authority would have to commit to a considerable number of Compulsory Purchase Orders to acquire homes and properties affected either directly (demolition) or indirectly (rights of light). These Compulsory Purchase Orders would be of a magnitude not yet seen in London except for the Olympic 2012 site.
It is worth noting that a new-build to 55,000 would have all the implications referred to above except for a reduced build cost of £25 million (and a reduced revenue stream in the future).
3. If the club looked at extending the current stands to deliver a capacity of 55,000 what would be the design, financial, logistical and planning implications?
The West Stand was completed only 12 years ago and is the tallest and largest stand with 13,416 seats, and is responsible for 53% of the club's matchday revenues. The consultants have advised us that changing its configuration would impact on the ability to achieve the same revenues, and any additional seats generated would be well beyond the recommended 90m optimal viewing distance to the halfway line.
The East Stand, built in the 1970s, with a capacity of 10,893, is actually an incredibly efficient stand and cannot be extended further due to its age and is responsible for 26% of the club's matchday revenues. Of all the stands it is the most suitable to be rebuilt. However to meet the modern requirements, the stand would need to be much larger, with the rake substantially reduced and would need to be built out over the railway line and cemetery to the east, incurring considerable cost and planning issues. Furthermore, if all this is feasible, and we believe it is not, the stand would only see an increase of perhaps 2,000-2,500 more spectators due to the modern space and access requirements.
The Matthew Harding Stand, built in 1994, with a current capacity of 10,865, could from a construction and architectural perspective, be extended by perhaps a further 8,000 seats.
Similarly, the Shed End, built in 1998 with 6,663 seats along with the hotel, offices, flats and Megastore, could, from a construction and architectural perspective, be extended if all these ancillary buildings were acquired and demolished, and the capacity could be increased by around 5,000.
Some people have asked whether the four corners of Stamford Bridge could be expanded. This is limited in its potential due to the different rakes of each stand and the angles for spectators to view the whole pitch and our advisors have indicated that it is not a feasible alternative.
In reality therefore the only two stands suitable for expansion are the Matthew Harding and Shed End. However, in design terms, extending these two stands to increase capacity provides the club with a number of challenges:
- Both stands would have to be approximately double their current height
- The stands would also step back far further from the pitch than they currently do, meaning that fans would be a long way from the action. In the case of the Matthew Harding Stand it is estimated that fans at the back of the stand would be some 174 metres from the touchline at the south end
- The Matthew Harding Stand would overshadow homes across the railway line requiring their purchase
- The Shed End would move considerably closer to the homes along the Fulham Road, overhanging the Shed Wall.
Extending both stands would be very expensive. The club estimates that the cost of decking and new access routes, the acquisition of land and properties and of course the disruption for closure of the two stands for two seasons, demolition, design and building costs would come to around £177 million for the Matthew Harding Stand and £98 million for the Shed End. The cost per seat would average more than £20,000. Based on estimated incremental revenues, the club has calculated that the payback would be around 25 years. Assuming the stands had a 50-year life and 100% occupancy, this means an internal rate of return of only 2.8%.
From a business perspective, the club needs to consider the incremental revenues which would be obtained from these two rebuilt stands against recognised financial standards. The club has estimated the net annual revenue increase from the Matthew Harding Stand would be £8m and from the Shed End £3m which, together, is significantly lower than it would cost hypothetically to finance the construction of these new stands.
In logistical terms the implications of adding 13,000 more spectators at Stamford Bridge are significant. The consultants calculated that the club would still need an extra 40 metres of egress width from Stamford Bridge and again advised that exiting only onto the Fulham Road would be unacceptable as Fulham Broadway tube station is already at full capacity with a 41,837 stadium capacity.
The consultant advised that, as with the 60,000 new build, two new exit routes would still be needed to the north along Seagrave Road and along the railway line cutting to West Brompton station. The consultant calculated that these routes could deliver up to 12 metres of width and therefore provide exit for around 8,000 fans an hour. It therefore would mean that a further 28 metres of exit space would still be required along the Fulham Road frontage.
The planning implications for a 55,000 expansion would be considerable:
- The impact on the conservation areas would be significant and it is important to note that the local authority has a statutory duty to "protect and enhance conservation areas"
- Demolish locally listed buildings
- The nature conservation area which runs along the railway line would be seriously detrimentally effected
- The local authority would have to commit to a considerable number of Compulsory Purchase Orders to acquire homes and properties affected either directly (demolition) or indirectly (rights of light).
It is clear to the Board of Chelsea Football Club that a complete new build of a 60,000 seat stadium at Stamford Bridge has little chance of acceptability. We believe that, after our discussions with the council they have come to the same conclusion. A 60,000 new-build would cost over £600 million and require the club to play away for at least three seasons and, even if the economics were acceptable, the planning risks would likely be insurmountable.
Expanding Stamford Bridge to 55,000 also has a number of challenges. The cost per seat of expanding the stands is very high. The incremental revenues provide an unsatisfactory level of return, would not even cover the hypothetical financing costs, and the planning risks are significant. We believe the council recognises these challenges.
The club's exercise over the years has been to analyse a large spectrum of possible expansion options, even some which would appear to be unworkable. The Board recognises that our work will not satisfy every fan, but the Board also believes its work has been thorough, appropriate and in the best interests of the club and all of our fans.
To reiterate what was said at the beginning of this summary, the club are not in any way stating we have made a decision on the need to move.