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Abramovich weighing up options

Fri 28th Oct 2011 | Clubs Ownership

Billionaire Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and his board were forced to rethink their proposal to Chelsea Pitch Owners, which was seen as a precursor to a move to a new ground, after it was voted down by Blues fans at an extraordinary general meeting on Thursday.

Chelsea failed to convince the holders of 75 per cent or more of the shares in CPO to back them at the emotionally-charged gathering in Stamford Bridge's Great Hall.

The outcome prevented the club regaining ownership of the land they sold to supporter-led group CPO in the 1990s in order to ensure they were not made homeless by property developers.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck played down the consequences of the vote, saying: "Honestly and truly, we don't view the results as somehow catastrophic in any sense.

"There were two major hurdles we have gotten over in their process and we all love Chelsea Football Club and we will move on and conquer together."

Those "two major hurdles" as far as Buck was concerned were that most supporters now appear to recognise leaving Stamford Bridge may be necessary for the club's financial future, and that Earls Court was not the only acceptable location for a new ground.

Chelsea made an offer to buy back the Stamford Bridge freehold at the start of the month, saying they would not be able to build a new stadium unless they could profit from the land on which their current home sits.

Their opponents, spearheaded by the 'Say No CPO' (SNCPO) campaign, insisted they were not against relocation in principle but criticised the club for a lack of transparency, failing to give enough time for the issues to be debated and an unwillingness to negotiate terms.

There were calls for the existing CPO agreement to be transferred to any new stadium, with several shareholders expressing fears about the club's future post-Abramovich.

But they were most angry about CPO's apparent failure to contact all shareholders and their decision to continue to sell shares after Chelsea announced their proposal on October 3.

There were accusations that most of them bought since that date ended up in the hands of 20 individuals with loyalties to the club.

King, who hinted he would resign as chairman after facing repeated calls for his head, admitted "there were some shares bought in bulk", but pointed out the CPO board would also have been criticised by the 'no' campaign had they prevented people from purchasing them after October 3.

If King resigns, CPO will have a new chairman at their annual general meeting in December, and SNCPO spokesman Tim Rolls was expecting Abramovich to return with another offer before then.

Rolls branded the handling of the defeated proposal as "a PR disaster from start to finish", criticising the club for publishing an article on their website which suggested former vice-chairman Matthew Harding - who died in 1996 - would have backed their plans.

"The use of Matthew Harding - 'This is what Matthew would have wanted' - was ridiculous in particular," he said.

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