Stadia mania seems to be gripping the Premier League: a week after Tottenham announced plans for a new stadium, Chelsea are apparently considering a move away from their Stamford Bridge home to a purpose-built ground in Battersea.
A design drawn up by architect HOK Sport - who already have experience in English football stadia, boasting both Wembley and the Emirates on their resume - puts a stadium of between 65,000 and 75,000 seats in a new complex in Battersea. According to the report, the club would seek to transform their existing ground, where they've played since 1904, into luxury flats, a revenue stream that has been a success for Arsenal, where 90% of flats at the development on Highbury stadium have now been sold.
Whether the Chelsea faithful would welcome a move is another matter. It's hardly on the scale of Wimbledon's move to Milton Keynes, but Battersea is an hour's walk from the Bridge, on the south side of the river, and in a different borough. Retaining the Chelsea name may also prove problematic: the rights owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners, a non-profit group with a significant attraction to Stamford Bridge. Battersea Blues, anybody? Understandably, the club have swiftly assured fans that the report is false, though they don't deny that they are looking at all options with regard to increasing attendance.
One has to question whether the league leaders should bother. Despite chief executive Peter Kenyon's attempts to turn Chelsea into an international footballing brand, the club lack the history and culture of rivals like Manchester United, Arsenal, and Liverpool, and can boast of nothing like the support those clubs enjoy. Stamford Bridge often struggles to fill its 42,000 seats for games against lesser opposition, and this season even Champions League games have been played before less than sell-out crowds. A designer new stadium may seem like the perfect trinket for a team of superstars, but if the fans aren't there to fill the seats, it could look like a £500 million gimmick.
Image by danjn under the Creative Commons Attribution license