Chelsea set for £500m Stamford Bridge redevelopment
'Extraordinary' project will see capacity rise to 60,000, but leave Blues needing a new home for three years
Chelsea's plans for a new £500m 60,000-seater stadium at Stamford Bridge have been given the green light by Hammersmith and Fulham council.
The three-year rebuilding plan, during which the Blues will need a temporary home, still requires the approval of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, but the planning vote is significant.
"This was a key stage victory for [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich and his dream of building a new cathedral for football in West London," says Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail, who says the project "has proved far more troublesome for Abramovich than the task of turning the team into a success on the pitch since his takeover in 2003".
Expanding stadium capacity from 41,500 has been a critical goal for Chelsea for some time. Stamford Bridge is not counted among the 60 biggest football grounds in Europe and experts say it is holding the club back.
The new ground "means Chelsea will be able to close the capacity gap with Arsenal, whose 60,000-seater Emirates brought in £101m matchday revenue last year compared to Chelsea’s £71m", says the London Evening Standard. It would also allow the Blues to keep pace with Spurs, who are redeveloping White Hart Lane into a similarly sized stadium.
"Significantly, the amount of hospitality seats at the Bridge will double to 9,200, while 13,374 extra general admission tickets will be available," says the Standard.
The paper reports Wembley is expected to become Chelsea's temporary home for three years, with the club returning to its rebuilt stadium for the start of the 2021-22 season.
Stamford Bridge's new look has been designed by the team behind Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium, built for the 2008 Olympics, and is just as eye-catching.
"It is, by any stretch of the imagination, the most ambitious west London basement conversion ever embarked upon for an old Edwardian residence of considerable sentimental value and it will certainly be one of the most expensive on record," says Sam Wallace of the Daily Telegraph.
"The plans are as ambitious as any new stadium of the modern era with extra capacity to be created by digging downwards as well as decking across the District tube line to support the giant new east side of the proposed stadium."
The "design is astonishing", although the bill could rise well beyond the widely circulated £500m figure, he adds. If Abramovich funds it himself, it "would represent the most extraordinary single investment by an owner of modern times".
However, the Russian billionaire is free to spend as much as he wants as infrastructure projects are not covered by Financial Fair Play regulations - which is just as well, says Wallace, because "the club have not selected the economy option".