Fans' Forum minutes: 03/10/11
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CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB SUPPORTERS’ CONSULTATIVE FORUM, 2011/12 SEASON DRAFT MINUTES, 2nd MEETING (CONFERENCE CALL)
Conference call held at 8.00pm on Monday 3rd October 2011
Attendees Club title/ group represented
- Acott, Graham: season ticket (“ST”) holder
- Austin, Dave: CFCUK
- Brown, Francis: 16-21 age group
- Buck, Bruce: Club: Chairman
- Chidgey, David: Chelsea Football Fancast
- Coffey, Patrick: member
- Fiorellino, Trizia: Chelsea Supporters Group
- Gordon-Brown, Patrick: Chelsea Supporters Club
- Gourlay, Ron: Club: Chief Executive
- Hounsome, William: member
- Jenkins, Simon: home/ away ST holder
- Littlejohns, Tom: over 65’s
- Marriott, Bryan: family section
- Micharikopoulos, Dimitris: non-UK branch
- Regan, Andy: Electoral Reform Services (Chair)
- Sampson, Peter: CFCnet
- Shaw, Alan: Club: Company Secretary
- Shaw, Martin: member
- Wright, Frank: ST holder
Apologies for absence Krendel, Paul exec members/ box holders
Bruce Buck: I refer to a press release now on the website relating to Chelsea Pitch Owners (“CPO”), the entity set up in the 1990’s to prevent property developers purchasing the ground and possibly forcing the Club from Stamford Bridge. Mr Abramovich believes that such protection is no longer needed. The Club proposes that it buys back the stands and pitch which the CPO owns so they can be operated by the Club.
The Club proposes a shareholders’ meeting on 27th October at which shareholders can vote for or against the proposals. The Club originally leant the CPO £10 million for the purchase. Around £1.5 million has been repaid to the Club. The Club proposes purchasing the pitch and stands for £10 million thereby wiping out the outstanding loan in effect, with the balance of £1.5 million probably being used by CPO to pay back the original shareholders.
There are no plans at present to move from Stamford Bridge. There were discussions previously with developers regarding possible alternative sites. If others come to us with proposals we will listen to them. There are no discussions at present.
The Club believes this is the best way forward for the shareholders and more importantly for the fans and the Club. There are incentives to vote in favour. Firstly, there will be £1.5 million for the CPO to do with as they see fit. Secondly the Club has said it will not move more than three miles between now and 2020. The reason for this date is that there are possible sites within that radius in the next few years but none of those will be available after that date. We also propose that in a new stadium 10% of tickets will be available to under 21s and their families.
In addition those voting in favour will have their names on a wall or walkway in a new stadium. Those voting in favour will also be given priority for season tickets in a new stadium.
We have looked in great detail in the past five or six years at ways to increase our capacity at Stamford Bridge. We have a 12 acre site with limited access to Fulham Road which makes it difficult. There would be limited financial benefits given the cost. However we don’t rule out possible redevelopment at the current stadium to increase capacity.
Trizia Fiorellino: Why now?
Bruce Buck: This is probably something we should have dealt with earlier when cleaning up various aspects from the Bates era such as the Eurobonds and other structural aspects. We finally got round to doing it.
In addition when we had discussions with others we were asked what would happen to Stamford Bridge and we couldn’t answer that. We would not move unless we had the ability to incorporate the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge into the deal.
Trizia Fiorellino: It sounds like there is a long term move being planned and the reason for this change is that CPO own the name “Chelsea Football Club”.
Bruce Buck: There is no plan in place. We have talked to developers about White City, Earl’s Court and Nine Elms at various points. We have had no talks regarding moves further than south or west London.
Trizia Fiorellino: After 2020 there would be no limit on the distance for a move. Could you at least guarantee the Club will stay in the Borough?
Bruce Buck: The reason is as given above regarding possible sites in the area. We can’t guarantee we would stay in the Borough even before 2020.
David Chidgey: Is this a precursor to a move or redevelopment? The aim of CPO is so we wouldn’t move.
Bruce Buck: I disagree with that as being the aim of CPO. The Club was under pressure from its banks in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and from property developers. The worry was that the Club would be pushed somewhere it didn’t want to go. We don’t consider that is a real risk under Mr Abramovich.
David Chidgey: We have a scrupulous owner with the best interests of the Club at heart. Nevertheless these changes would make it easier to move. A three mile radius is a long way and could incorporate Wormwood Scrubbs.
Bruce Buck: If that is within three miles then it couldn’t be ruled out.
Bryan Marriott: Is this subject open for discussion after this call?
Bruce Buck: Yes it is. This went on the website at 8pm. Over the next few weeks we appreciate this will be discussed widely. Graham Smith can answer questions. If the Forum wants to discuss this further at some point we would be happy to. We want this to be an open process.
Trizia Fiorellino: What happens if the CPO votes against?
Bruce Buck: The Club won’t be able to move as we couldn’t redevelop Stamford Bridge to assist with funding.
Bryan Marriott: Is the Club entitled to call in the £8.5 million within a specific period?
Bruce Buck: This would be well into the future so not in our lifetimes.
Dimitris Micharikopoulos: What increase in capacity is possible at Stamford Bridge?
Bruce Buck: We could construct perhaps 3-4,000 extra seats in the Matthew Harding Stand. We would also have to consider health and safety as we have to clear the entire site in 7 or 8 minutes. As these fans would have to exit the furthest we would therefore have problems.
If we pulled down the East Stand we would probably only be allowed to build a smaller stand due to planning changes since the 1970’s. We also have the train line restricting that stand.
In the Shed End, we have the hotel and flats. Given the value of the flats, the cost of rebuilding would be prohibitive.
The West Stand is at maximum capacity in a planning perspective.
Ron Gourlay: Even after 2020 the goal would be for any move to be within three miles. We would try our best to stay as close as possible.
Bruce Buck: Over the past 8 ½ years since Mr Abramovich’s involvement there has been a much greater acknowledgement of the Club’s heritage than in the previous 20 years, including acknowledging our former heroes. The owner is clearly not in this for the money and he is aware of your concerns in protecting the history of the Club. Not only are there no plans to move but it may not be appropriate to move anyway. With developments in the digital and media arenas then ten years from now fewer may want to come to live matches. This is a watching brief.
If you have one off questions please address them to Graham. If you want a further meeting please refer that to Andy.
Thank you for your time and for attending at short notice.
The meeting ended at 8.30pm.
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