Chelsea fans decide on club's future

Chelsea fans will have a tough decision to make in the next few weeks, one that could be crucial in deciding the future of the club. The Chelsea board have more or less set their heart on a move away from Stamford Bridge, to a hypothetical 60,000 stadium nearby, with the most likely sites looking like Chelsea Wharf or Nine Elms in Battersea, across the river.

The club want the 12,000 fans who invested in the Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) scheme to sell up to the club, so that they can own the ground and then sell it, so that when their new stadium is being built they have the old ground as collateral. However many Chelsea fans are extremely nervous about this: for one it's far from a given that the club would see a full house each week in such a huge stadium, especially with the current prices they charge. For another older fans are well aware of what happened in the 1970s, when the building of the Bridge's East Stand basically bankrupted the club and saw them into nearly two decades of financial crisis, relegations and bad football. The club say that they won't move more than three miles away from the current site before 2020, but that has struck many as a threat: 'if we don't move within the next eight years, we will look at sites away from the area.'

'Chelsea have set up a meeting in just three weeks' time to discuss an issue that is fundamental to the future of the club,' said Tim Rolls, a CPO shareholder since 1994. 'The fact that the EGM is scheduled for 11.30am on the morning after the Carling Cup tie at Everton, from which fans can expect to return at anything up to 3am, also seems remarkable but, apart from the timing, there are concerns over a lack of clarity in what the club intends to do longer-term. There were huge gaps in the letter we have received in terms of information and explanation.

'What happens if Roman Abramovich ever seeks to leave the club? People are genuinely grateful for what he has done for us in the last eight years, but there is a recognition that CPO's existence has provided a safeguard for the club to ensure Stamford Bridge remains our home. If the freehold was bought back, the club's owner would call all the shots and, while Mr Abramovich has always done the right thing by the fans, generally speaking, he will not be around forever. CPO's foundation was designed to prevent Chelsea FC ever becoming homeless and offered the fans some power at our club. So the ownership of the pitch is a safety we should be reluctant to give up.

'This is an emotional issue, inevitably, because Chelsea is Stamford Bridge and Stamford Bridge is Chelsea. For most of us, moving is not something we want. Most of the CPO shares were sold 15 years ago so very few under-35s are going to be involved. It'll be an 'old school support' who have the vote – a lot of other fans would be against selling up, but they're not shareholders and don't have a voice – and working out the demographic of those shareholders will be difficult. Some won't turn up, others won't be attending Chelsea any more, some might even be dead. So there's an issue with the potential turn-out at the meeting itself, regardless of the Everton match the night before.

'This is obviously an enabling act and, as it stands, I will vote no. This is not a financial issue – though I would have liked the club to have at least offered to take into account inflation over the last 15 years in their offer – but we would like more clarity as to what the club intends to do in the long-term before we relinquish the one remaining influence we retain in Chelsea. We need them to be up front.'

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