Stadium modernization and expansion
This is the priority project that will absorb a good part of the 2 billion dollars of investment promised by the future buyer: to provide Chelsea with a stadium worthy of the English and European elite. 117 years old, Stamford Bridge has certainly had a facelift thanks to Ken Bates, owner of the “Blues” until 2003, who had modernized it by creating two hotels, restaurants, bars and a gigantic product store. derivatives, but its capacity remains reduced to 42,000 places. It is only the 9th Premier League stadium, far from the other, often ultra-modern stadiums of Manchester United (75,000 seats), Manchester City (55,000), Liverpool (54,000), Arsenal (60,000) or Tottenham (62,000).
“Match day” revenues (ticketing, catering, boxes and merchandising) are significantly lower than those of their competitors. Roman Abramovich, from whom Todd Boehly and his associates will buy Chelsea, had presented a modernization project in 2014, worth 1.4 billion pounds (1.7 billion EUR), to increase it to 60,000 places, but he had stopped everything in 2018 after the British government refused to renew his work visa. He had, however, asked the American bank Raine, which supervised the sale process, to require candidates to submit an investment project in the stadium.
The future buyers, Boehly and his partner Mark Walter, were able to take advantage of their sporting and commercial successes at the head of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise, whose superb stadium overlooks Los Angeles. The example of Tottenham could inspire them: the Spurs have paid more than a billion euros for their stadium which, since 2019, has become a must in the English capital to host major sporting events (boxing, rugby, relocated NFL matches ), as well as concerts.
Stabilize the workforce
Chelsea have been operating under a special license since sanctions were imposed on Roman Abramovich two months ago following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Due to the restrictions imposed, the “Blues” could not sign new players or extend existing contracts. Defenders Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen will go free at the end of the season and will have to be replaced. But thanks to Abramovich’s lavish spending, the team remains very competitive. Just a year ago, Chelsea won their second Champions League by beating Manchester City (1-0) in the final. Despite the difficulties of recent weeks, the club is well placed to finish in the top 4 in the league and find the very lucrative C1 next year. As the sale process continues, the club can focus on building a squad capable of challenging City and Liverpool for the title next season. “When the situation is clear, we can make decisions, make choices“, said German coach Thomas Tuchel on Friday.
Much to the chagrin of British politicians and public opinion, Abramovich’s name was still regularly chanted by Chelsea fans despite his closeness to the Kremlin and sanctions. The oligarch is revered for his prodigiousness during his nineteen years of reign and the trophies won, including two Champions Leagues. The very influential Chelsea Supporters Foundation (CST) was a key player in the selection process and the American Ricketts family, a time in the race for takeover, threw in the towel in particular because of the hostility of the CST from his view.
Sporting success will be the shortest way to the hearts of supporters, but it is not a foregone conclusion. Some fear that for a better return on investment the very unpopular project of a closed European Super League will be revived. At other Premier League clubs, fans have shown hostility towards their American owners, such as at Manchester United whose decline is attributed to the Glazer family, owners of the Red Devils since 2005. At Liverpool, owners Americans, the Fenway Sports Group, convinced thanks to the sporting successes of the Reds, including, in 2020, a first title of champion of England since …. 1990. But discontent is never far away, especially when we talk about to increase ticket prices.