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Chelsea have only ever had one home ground, Stamford Bridge, where they have played since foundation. The stadium is located on the border of Fulham and Chelsea, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, within the Moore Park Estate also known as Walham Green. The official record attendance at the stadium is 82,905, on 12 October 1935 in a league match against Arsenal, however over 100,000 were reported to have attended a friendly match against Dynamo Moscow in 1945. Stamford Bridge recorded the highest average attendances in England in the 1919-20 and 1954-55 seasons.
- Inauguration: 28 April 1877
- Stadium Capacity: 41,841
- Pitch: 103 x 67 metres
- Address: Fulham Road, London, SW6 1HS
- Record Attendance (official): 82,905 v Arsenal on 12 October 1935
18th century maps show a 'Stanford Creek' running along the route of what is now a railway line at the back of the East Stand as a tributary of the Thames.
The stream had two local bridges: Stanford Bridge on the Fulham Road (also recorded as Little Chelsea Bridge) and Stanbridge on the Kings Road, now known as Stanley Bridge. Stanford Creek, Stanford Bridge and Stanbridge no doubt all contributed in some uncertain way to the eventual name of Stamford Bridge, which must have been further suggested by the well known Battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, a famous victory by King Harold Godwinson over King Harald Hardråde of Norway in 1066, which took place shortly before Harold's defeat at the hands of the Normans at the Battle of Hastings.
Stamford Bridge was officially opened on 28 April 1877. For the first 28 years of its existence it was used almost exclusively by the London Athletics Club as an arena for athletics meetings and not at all for football. In 1904 the ground was acquired by businessman Gus Mears and his brother Joseph, who had previously acquired additional land (formerly a large market garden) with the aim of staging football matches on the now 12.5 acre (51,000 m²) site.Mears family by the noted football architect Archibald Leitch. They offered to lease the stadium to Fulham Football Club, but the offer was turned down. As a consequence, the owners decided to form their own football club to occupy their new ground. Most football clubs were founded first, and then sought grounds in which to play, but Chelsea were founded for Stamford Bridge. Since there was already a football club named Fulham in the borough, the founders decided to adopt the name of the adjacent borough of Chelsea for the new club, having rejected names such as Kensington FC, Stamford Bridge FC and London FC.
As originally constructed, Stamford Bridge was an athletics track and the pitch was initially located in the middle of the running track. This meant that spectators were separated from the field of play on all sides by the width of running track and, on the north and south sides, the separation was particularly large because the long sides of the running track considerably exceeded the length of the football pitch. The stadium had a single stand for 5,000 spectators on the east side. Designed by Archibald Leitch, it is an exact replica of the Johnny Haynes stand he had previously built at the re-developed Craven Cottage (and the main reason why Fulham had chosen not to move into the new ground). The other sides were all open in a vast bowl and thousands of tons of material excavated from the building of the Piccadilly Line provided high terracing for standing spectators exposed to the elements on the west side.
Stamford Bridge had an official capacity of around 100,000, making it the second largest ground in England after Crystal Palace, the FA Cup final venue. Stamford Bridge itself hosted the final for the first three years after the First World War from 1920 to 1922, after which it was replaced by Wembley.
In 1930, a new terrace was built on the south side for more standing spectators. Only part of this was roofed and it became known as "The Shed End". This became the most favoured spot for the loudest and most die-hard support, until the terrace was demolished in 1994 (when all-seater stadiums became compulsory by law as a safety measure in light of the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough disaster). The seated stand which replaced it is still known as the Shed End (see below).
In 1939, a small two storied North Stand including seating was erected. It was originally intended to span the entire northern end, but the outbreak of World War II and its aftermath compelled the club to keep the stand small. It was demolished and replaced by open terracing for standing supporters in 1975. The North Terrace was closed in 1993 and the present North Stand of two tiers (the Matthew Harding Stand) was then constructed at that end.
In 1964-65, a seated West Stand was built to replace the existing terracing on the west side. Most of the West Stand consisted of rising ranks of wooden tip up seats on iron frames, but seating at the very front was on concrete forms known as "the Benches". The old West Stand was demolished in 1998 and replaced by the current West Stand.
A vast new East Stand was built in 1973, originally intended as the start of a comprehensive redevelopment of the stadium which was abandoned when the football club ran into financial difficulties. The East Stand essentially survives in its 1973 three tiered cantilevered form, although it has been much refurbished and modernised since.
The cost of building the East Stand escalated out of control after shortages of materials and a builders' strike. The increase in the cost, combined with other factors, sent the club into decline. As a part of financial restructuring in the late 1970s, the freehold was separated from the club and when new Chelsea chairman Ken Bates bought the club for £1 in 1982, he didn't buy the stadium. A large chunk of the Stamford Bridge freehold was subsequently sold to property developers Marler Estates. The sale resulted in a long and acrimonious legal fight between Bates and Marler Estates. Marler Estates was ultimately forced to bankruptcy after a market crash in the early 1990s, allowing Bates to do a deal with its banks and re-unite the freehold with the club.
The re-building of the stadium commenced again and successive building phases during the 1990s have eliminated the original running track. The construction of the 1973 East Stand started the process of eliminating the track. All stands, now roofed and all-seater, are immediately adjacent to the pitch. The pitch, the turnstiles, and the naming rights of the club are now owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners, an organization set up to prevent the stadium from being purchased by property developers again.
The Matthew Harding Stand, previously known as the North Stand, is along the north edge of the pitch. It is named after former Chelsea director Matthew Harding, who transformed the club in the early 1990s before his death in a helicopter accident on October 22, 1996. His considerable investment in the club enabled construction of the stand which was completed during the 1997-98 season. It has two tiers and accommodates most season-ticket holders, giving it an enthusiastic atmosphere, especially in the lower tier. Any proposal to enlarge the facility would necessitate demolition of the adjacent 'Chelsea World of Sport' museum.
For some UEFA Champions League matches, this stand operates at reduced capacity, some entrances being obstructed by the presence of TV outside-broadcast vehicles.
The oldest stand, the East Stand is located along the east side of the pitch. Previously it was the home to away supporters on the bottom tier, however at the start of the 2005-06 season then-manager José Mourinho requested the move of the family section to this part of the stand to boost team morale. The stand has three tiers and is the heart of the stadium, housing the tunnel, dugout, dressing rooms, conference room, press centre, AV and commentary box. The middle tier is occupied by facilities, clubs, and executive suites. The upper tier provides spectators with one of the best views in the stadium.
The Shed End is located along the south side of the pitch. The stand has two tiers. The lower tier used to be home to the family centre, however for the 2005-06 season and beyond the club has moved the away fans to the East corner of the stand (Gates 1-3 of the Upper Tier and around half of the Lower). The Shed also contains the centenary museum and a memorial wall where families of deceased fans are able to leave a permanent memorial of their loved ones indicating their eternal support for the club.
This stand was built during the mid 1990s and along with the Matthew Harding Stand is an area of the ground in which many vocal fans congregate.
The West Stand, recently updated, is located along the west side of the pitch. It has three tiers, in addition to a row of executive boxes that stretches the length of the stand.
The stand is the main external 'face' of the stadium, being the first thing fans see when entering the primary gate on Fulham Road. The Main entrance is flanked by the Spackman and Speedie hospitality entrances, named after former players Nigel Spackman and David Speedie. The stand also features the largest concourse area in the stadium.
The aforementioned executive boxes are also known as the Millennium Suites and are the home of the majority of matchday hospitality guests. Each box is also named after a former Chelsea player (names in brackets):
- Tambling Suite (Bobby Tambling)
- Clarke Suite (Steve Clarke)
- Harris Suite (Ron Harris)
- 'Drakes' (Ted Drake)
- Bonetti (Peter Bonetti)
- Hollins (John Hollins)
Stamford Bridge is located within walking distance of several London Underground and Overground stations, in addition to local bus routes that serve Fulham Broadway.
Underground and rail stations
- Fulham Broadway (London Underground: District Line) 0.3 miles
- Imperial Wharf (London Overground) 0.5 miles
- Parsons Green (London Underground: District Line) 0.8 miles
- West Brompton (London Underground: District Line, London Overground, National Rail) 0.9 miles
- Earl's Court (London Underground: District & Piccadilly Lines) 1.1 miles
- West Kensington (London Underground: District Line) 1.2 miles
- As of 17 January 2010.
- 11 (towards Liverpool Street)
- 14 (towards Putney Heath and Warren Street)
- 28 (towards Kensal Rise and Wandsworth)
- 211 (towards Hammersmith and Waterloo)
- 295 (towards Clapham Junction and Ladbroke Grove)
- 391 (towards Richmond and Sands End)
- 414 (towards Maida Hill and Putney Bridge)
- 424 (towards Fulham and Putney Heath)
- N11 (Night bus: towards Ealing Broadway and Liverpool Street)
- N28 (Night bus: towards Camden Town and Wandsworth)
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