Chelsea Pitch Owners

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Chelsea Pitch Owners is a non-profit public limited company formed to ensure that the freehold of Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground is owned by fans of the club, following threats to the grounds existence from property developers in the 1980s.


History of pitch ownership

Gus Mears bought the Stamford Bridge ground in 1905 and his grandsons, David and Brian Mears, sold it in 1984 to Marler Estates plc, later owned by Cabra Estates plc. The ground was viewed by them as a commercial property asset and was to have it redeveloped ending football at the ground. Ken Bates fought them through various stalling tactics and founded a "Save the Bridge" campaign in April 1987 to try and raise £15m in two years (when the clubs lease was due to expire) to attempt to buy the freehold back.

When Cabra Estates went into provisional liquidation, the site was purchased by West Register (Properties) Limited, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland, who granted an option to Chelsea Village to buy the site either as a whole or in seperately priced parts, including in particular the ground for £5m at any time up to 8th December, 2012.

Chelsea Pitch Owners

Chelsea Pitch Owners plc (CPO) was created in March 1993 to be totally independent of the management and ownership of the Club with the intention to raise funds to buy the freehold and rent the ground back to the Club. The Club was only allowed to use the ground for "football and ancillary" activities and if the Club should ever leave Stamford Bridge, it must change its name and hand over the rights of Chelsea Football Club to CPO.

Ellis & Partners Limited offered 69,998 ordinary shares of £100 each with the intention that no one person should be in a position to exercise control or manipulate CPO. Nobody can have more than 100 votes in CPO, no matter how many shares they hold and the CPO directors must not be directors of the Club. In December of 1997, a non-recourse loan of £10 million was provided to CPO by Chelsea Village (now Chelsea Football Club Ltd) to purchase the freehold of the ground, with funds raised from ongoing share sales intended to eventually pay back the loan. In return CPO granted Chelsea F.C. a 199-year lease.

The original directors were: Tony Banks MP, Dennis Wise, Ron Hockings, Steve Frankham and Gary Pinchen.

2011 proposal


In the years following Roman Abramovich's purchase of Chelsea in 2003, the need to significantly increase revenues from gate receipts via increased capacity was identified by the club as a long-term necessity if Chelsea were to become financially self-sufficient, rather than continue to rely on the Russian billionaire's investment in order to compete with Europe's richest clubs. This need became more pressing after UEFA introduced Financial Fair Play Regulations that would come into effect from 2012. [1]

Due to the penned-in nature of Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, and health and safety rules relating to egress, expansion of the ground was eventually deemed practically impossible, and during the opening weeks of the 2011-12 season Chelsea officials announced that they would be seeking to purchase the freehold of Stamford Bridge from CPO in order to be in a position to enter serious negotiations for potential sites in the surrounding area, upon which a new stadium could be built. Chelsea's proposal included a guarantee that any new stadium would be within 3 miles of Stamford Bridge, provided the club decided to move before 2020. [2] Chairman Bruce Buck sought to explain the deadline by suggesting that any potential site would likely have been sold by then, leaving the club no choice but to look further afield. [3]

"Say No CPO" campaign

Main article: Say No CPO.

With the club having made an offer to buy back the freehold at the beginning of October [4], many supporters were critical of both the club's proposals and the way that the issue had been handled. With a vote to be held on 27 October, opposition to the club's offer was formalised in the formation of a "Say No CPO" (SNCPO) campaign, which sought to encourage CPO shareholders to oppose the club's plans. [5] While the SNCPO campaign wasn't opposed to the club moving in principle, its members criticised the short timeframe between the announcement of the club's intention to purchase the freehold and the vote itself, and the fact that shares continued to be sold after the announcement, with 20 maximum voting blocks of 100 shares having been purchased in the week prior to the vote; more than the previous 7 years combined. Concerns were also raised as to what would happen were Roman Abramovich to sell the club for any reason. [6]

Shareholder vote

At an extraordinary general meeting and vote held at Stamford Bridge on 27 October 2011, Chelsea failed to secure backing for their proposal from holders of over 75% of the shares in CPO; the percentage required to agree to the sale. 61.6% of the vote (3,569 votes) supported the club's proposal. The defeat meant that the freehold remained the property of CPO. [7]

Following the announcement of the result, a SNCPO statement stressed that negotiations would continue: "We are pleased with the outcome of today's meeting. We hope this is a prelude to a process of negotiation between the club and shareholders to reach a naturally acceptable outcome.",[8] while Bruce Buck commented, "We will meet with Mr Abramovich and the rest of the board and decide what, if anything, we will do to take things forward. We are all Chelsea fans and I can only hope that, on Saturday, we all get together, support this club and beat the crap out of Arsenal."

Official CPO documents

Differing versions of the share certificates.

CPO share certificate 1993
CPO share certificate 2007

The following letters confirm CPO keep the rights to the Chelsea Football Club name should the club move from Stamford Bridge.

From Ken Bates (CFC) 18/3/1993
From Steve Frankham (CPO) 17/2/1993
From Bob Sewell (CPO) 7/11/2003

External links

Official site

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