Stamford Bridge (stadium)

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Stamford Bridge
The Bridge
Stamford Bridge Clear Skies.JPG
Full name Stamford Bridge
Location Fulham, London, SW6 1HS
Coordinates 51°28′54″N 0°11′28″W / 51.48167°N 0.19111°W / 51.48167; -0.19111Coordinates: 51°28′54″N 0°11′28″W / 51.48167°N 0.19111°W / 51.48167; -0.19111
Built 1876
Opened 28 April 1877[1]
Renovated 1904–1905, 1990s
Owner Chelsea Pitch Owners plc
Operator Chelsea F.C.
Surface Grass
Architect Archibald Leitch (1887)
Capacity 41,798[2]
Executive suites 51
Record attendance 82,905 (Chelsea-Arsenal, 12 October 1935)
Field dimensions 103 x 67 metres (112.6 x 73.2 yards)[3]
Tenants
London Athletics Club (1877–1904)
Chelsea F.C. (1905–)
London Monarchs (NFL Europe) (1997)

Stamford Bridge (/ˈstæm.fərd ˈbrɪ/) is a football stadium located in Fulham, London, SW6 1HS. It is the home ground of Chelsea Football Club. The stadium is located within the Moore Park Estate also known as Walham Green and is often referred to as simply The Bridge.[4][5] The capacity is 41,798,[6] making it the eighth largest ground in the Premier League.

Opened in 1877, the stadium was used by the London Athletics Club until 1905, when new owner Gus Mears founded Chelsea Football Club to occupy the ground; Chelsea have played their home games there ever since. It has undergone numerous major changes over the years, most recently in the 1990s when it was renovated into a modern, all-seater stadium.

Stamford Bridge has been used as a venue for England international matches, FA Cup Finals, FA Cup semi-finals and Charity Shield games. It has also hosted numerous other sports, such as cricket, rugby union, speedway, greyhound racing, baseball and American football. The stadium's highest official attendance is 82,905, for a league match between Chelsea and Arsenal on 12 October 1935.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

B&W photo of the stadium from the air
Bird's Eye Picture of Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in 1909

'Stamford Bridge' is considered to be a corruption of 'Samfordesbrigge' meaning 'the bridge at the sandy ford'.[7] Eighteenth century maps show a 'Stanford Creek' running along the route of what is now a railway line at the back of the East Stand as a tributary of the Thames. The upper reaches of this tributary have been variously known as Billingswell Ditch, Pools Creek and Counters Creek. In mediaeval times the Creek was known as Billingwell Dyche, derived from 'Billing's spring or stream'. It formed the boundary between the parishes of Kensington and Fulham. By the eighteenth century the creek had become known as Counter's Creek which is the name it has retained since.[8]

The stream had two local bridges: Stamford Bridge on the Fulham Road (also recorded as Little Chelsea Bridge) and Stanbridge on the Kings Road, now known as Stanley Bridge.The existing Stamford Bridge was built of brick in 1860–2 and has been partly reconstructed since then.

The brand New Stamford Bridge stadium in August 1905
Chelsea beat West Brom at Stamford Bridge in September 1905

Stamford Bridge opened in 1877 as a home for the London Athletics Club and was used almost exclusively for that purpose until 1904, when the lease was acquired by brothers Gus and Joseph Mears, who wanted to stage high-profile professional football matches there. However, previous to this, in 1898, Stamford Bridge played host to the World Championship of shinty between Beauly Shinty Club and London Camanachd.[9] Stamford Bridge was built close to Lillie Bridge, an older sports ground which had hosted the 1873 FA Cup Final and the first ever amateur boxing matches (among other things). It was initially offered to Fulham Football Club, but they turned it down for financial reasons. They considered selling the land to the Great Western Railway Company, but ultimately decided to found their own football club instead, Chelsea, to occupy the ground as a rival to Fulham. Noted football ground architect Archibald Leitch, who had also designed Ibrox, Celtic Park, Craven Cottage and Hampden Park, was hired to construct the stadium. In its early days, Stamford Bridge stadium was served by a small railway station, Chelsea and Fulham railway station, which was later closed after World War II bombing.[10]

Stamford Bridge had an official capacity of around 100,000, making it the second largest ground in England after Crystal Palace. It was used as the FA Cup final venue. As originally constructed, Stamford Bridge was an athletics track and the pitch was initially located in the middle of the running track. This meant that spectators were separated from the field of play on all sides by the width of running track and, on the north and south sides, the separation was particularly large because the long sides of the running track considerably exceeded the length of the football pitch. The stadium had a single stand for 5,000 spectators on the east side. Designed by Archibald Leitch, it is an exact replica of the Johnny Haynes stand he had previously built at the re-developed Craven Cottage (and the main reason why Fulham had chosen not to move into the new ground). The other sides were all open in a vast bowl and thousands of tons of material excavated from the building of the Piccadilly Line provided high terracing for standing spectators exposed to the elements on the west side.

In 1945, Stamford Bridge staged one of the most notable matches in its history. Soviet side FC Dynamo Moscow were invited to tour the United Kingdom at the end of the Second World War and Chelsea were the first side they faced. An estimated crowd of over 100,000 crammed into Stamford Bridge to watch an exciting 3–3 draw, with many spectators on the dog track and on top of the stands.

Crisis[edit]

In the early 1970s the club's owners embarked on an ambitious project to renovate Stamford Bridge. However, the cost of building the East Stand escalated out of control after shortages of materials and a builders' strike and the remainder of the ground remained untouched. The new East Stand was finished, but the most of the (unusable) running tracks remained, and the new stand was also displaced by approx. 20 meters, compared to the pitch. The idea was to move the entire stadium towards the north. But due to the financial situation in the mid 1970s the other stands weren't finished until into the 1990s. The increase in the costs, combined with other factors, sent the club into decline. As a part of financial restructuring in the late 1970s, the freehold was separated from the club and when new Chelsea chairman Ken Bates bought the club for £1 in 1982, he did not buy the ground. A large chunk of the Stamford Bridge freehold was subsequently sold to property developers Marler Estates. The sale resulted in a long and acrimonious legal fight between Bates and Marler Estates. Marler Estates was ultimately forced into bankruptcy after a market crash in the early 1990s, allowing Bates to do a deal with its banks and re-unite the freehold with the club.

During the 1984-85 season, following a series of pitch invasions and fights by football hooligans during matches at the stadium, chairman Ken Bates erected an electric perimeter fence between the stands and the pitch – identical to the one which effectively controlled cattle on his dairy farm. However, the electric fence was never turned on and before long it was dismantled, due to the GLC blocking it from being switched on for health and safety reasons.[11]

With the Taylor Report arising from the Hillsborough disaster being published in January 1990 and ordering all top division clubs to have all-seater stadiums in time for the 1994-95 season, Chelsea's plan for a 34,000-seat stadium at Stamford Bridge was given approval by Hammersmith and Fulham council on 19 July 1990.[12]

The re-building of the stadium commenced again and successive building phases during the 1990s eliminated the original running track. The construction of the 1973 East Stand initiated the process of eliminating the track. All stands, now roofed and all-seater, are immediately adjacent to the pitch. This structure has the effect of concentrating and capturing the noise of supporters. Paradoxically, the noise was louder prior to the 1990s redevelopment, when supporters were dispersed at a distance from the pitch on open terraces, even though average attendances were around half of what they are now. The pitch, the turnstiles, and the naming rights of the club are now owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners, an organisation set up to prevent the stadium from being purchased by property developers again.

KSS Design Group (architects) designed the complete redevelopment of Stamford Bridge Stadium and its hotels, megastore, offices and residential buildings.[13]

Other uses[edit]

Stamford Bridge was the venue of the FA Cup Final from 1920 to 1922, before being replaced by Wembley Stadium in 1923. It has staged ten FA Cup semi-finals, ten Charity Shield matches, and three England matches, the last in 1932. It was one of the home venues for the representative London XI team that played in the original Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. The team played the home leg of the two-legged final at Stamford Bridge, drawing 2–2 with FC Barcelona; they lost the away leg 6–0, however.

Results of FA Cup Finals at Stamford Bridge

Year Attendance Winner Runner-up
1920 50,018 Aston Villa 1–0 Huddersfield Town
1921 72,805 Tottenham Hotspur 1–0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1922 53,000 Huddersfield Town 1–0 Preston North End

Stamford Bridge has also hosted a variety of other sporting events since Chelsea have occupied the ground. In October 1905 it hosted a rugby union match between the All Blacks and Middlesex,[14] and in 1914 hosted a baseball match between the touring New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox.[15] A speedway team operated from the stadium from 1929 until 1932, winning the Southern League in their opening season. Initially open meetings were held there in 1928. A nineteen-year-old junior rider, Charlie Biddle, was killed in a racing accident. In 1931, black cinders were laid onto the circuit suitable for use by speedway and athletics.[16] Greyhound racing was first held at the stadium on 31 July 1937 and continued until 1 August 1968.[16] A midget car meeting reportedly attracted a crowd of 50,000 people in 1948.[16]

The ground was used in 1980 for the first major day-night floodlit cricket match between Essex and West Indies (although organised by Surrey) which was a commercial success; the following year it hosted the final of the inaugural Lambert & Butler county cricket competition. It, however, failed and the experiment of playing cricket on football grounds was ended. Stamford Bridge briefly hosted American football – despite not being long enough for a regulation-size gridiron field – when the London Monarchs were based there in 1997.

Stands[edit]

Matthew Harding Stand[edit]

Capacity: 10,884

The Matthew Harding Stand

The Matthew Harding Stand, previously known as the North Stand, is along the north edge of the pitch. In 1939, a small two storied North Stand including seating was erected. It was originally intended to span the entire northern end, but the outbreak of World War II and its aftermath compelled the club to keep the stand small. It was demolished and replaced by open terracing for standing supporters in 1976. The North Terrace was closed in 1993 and the present North Stand of two tiers (the Matthew Harding Stand) was then constructed at that end.

It is named after former Chelsea director Matthew Harding, whose investment helped transform the club in the early 1990s before his death in a helicopter accident on 22 October 1996. His investment in the club enabled construction of the stand which was completed in time for the 1996–97 season. It has two tiers and accommodates most season-ticket holders, giving it an enthusiastic atmosphere, especially in the lower tier. Any proposal to enlarge the facility would necessitate demolition of the adjacent 'Chelsea World of Sport' museum.

For some Champions League matches, this stand operates at reduced capacity, some entrances being obstructed by the presence of TV outside-broadcast vehicles.

East Stand[edit]

Current capacity: 19,014

The East Stand and Shed End

The only covered stand when Stamford Bridge was renovated into a football ground in 1905, the East Stand had a gabled corrugated iron roof, with around 6,000 seats and a terraced enclosure. The stand remained until 1973, when it was demolished in what was meant to be the opening phase of a comprehensive redevelopment of the stadium. The new stand was opened at the start of the 1974–75 season, but due to the ensuing financial difficulties at the club, it was the only part of the development to be completed.

The East Stand essentially survives in its 1973 three-tiered cantilevered form, although it has been much refurbished and modernised since. It is the heart of the stadium, housing the tunnel, dugout, dressing rooms, conference room, press centre, AV and commentary box. The middle tier is occupied by facilities, clubs, and executive suites. The upper tier provides spectators with one of the best views of the pitch and it is the only section to have survived the extensive redevelopment of the 90s. Previously, it was the home to away supporters on the bottom tier. However, at the start of the 2005/2006 season, then-manager José Mourinho requested that the family section move to this part of the stand, to boost team morale. Away fans were moved to the shed end.

Shed End[edit]

Capacity: 6,831
The Shed End is located along the south side of the pitch. In 1930, a new terrace was built on the south side, for more standing spectators. It was originally known as the Fulham Road End, but supporters nicknamed it 'The Shed' and this led the club to officially change its name. It became the most favoured spot for the loudest and most die-hard support, until the terrace was demolished in 1994, when all-seater stadia became compulsory by law as a safety measure in light of the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough disaster. The seated stand which replaced it is still known as the Shed End (see below).

The new stand opened in time for the 1997/98 season. Along with the Matthew Harding Stand, it is an area of the ground where many vocal fans congregate today. The view from the upper tier is widely regarded as one of the best in the stadium. The Shed also contains the centenary museum and a memorial wall, where families of deceased fans are able to leave a permanent memorial of their loved ones, indicating their eternal support for the club. A large chunk of the original Shed End terrace still stands today and runs along the south side of the stadium. It has recently been decorated with lights and large images of Chelsea legends. Since 2005, it has been where away supporters are housed; they are allocated 3,000 tickets towards the east side, roughly half of the capacity of the stand.

Peter Osgood's ashes were laid to rest under the shed end penalty spot in 2006.

West Stand[edit]

Capacity: 13,500

The West Stand

In 1964–65, a seated West Stand was built to replace the existing terracing on the west side. Most of the West Stand consisted of rising ranks of wooden tip up seats on iron frames, but seating at the very front was on concrete forms known as "the Benches". The old West Stand was demolished in 1997 and replaced by the current West Stand. It has three tiers, in addition to a row of executive boxes that stretches the length of the stand.

The lower tier was built on schedule and opened in 1998. However, difficulties with planning permission meant that the stand was not fully completed until 2001. Construction of the stand almost caused another financial crisis, which would have seen the club fall into administration, but for the intervention of Roman Abramovich. In borrowing £70m from Eurobonds to finance the project, Ken Bates put Chelsea into a perilous financial position, primarily because of the repayment terms.

The new Stamford Bridge West Stand exterior

Now complete, the stand is the main external 'face' of the stadium, being the first thing fans see when entering the primary gate on Fulham Road. The Main Entrance is flanked by the Spackman and Speedie hospitality entrances, named after former Chelsea players Nigel Spackman and David Speedie. The stand also features the largest concourse area in the stadium, it is also known as the 'Great Hall' and is used for many functions at Stamford Bridge, including the Chelsea Player of the Year ceremony.

The aforementioned executive boxes, also known as the Millennium Suites, are the home of the majority of matchday hospitality guests. Each box is also named after a former Chelsea player (names in brackets):

In October 2010 a nine-foot statue of Chelsea forward Peter Osgood, created by Philip Jackson, was unveiled by Peter's widow, Lynn. It is positioned in a recess of the West Stand near the Millennium Reception.

A plaque on the side, written by official club historian Rick Glanvill, reads:

"STAMFORD BRIDGE HAS MANY HEROES BUT ONLY ONE KING
GRACEFUL TECHNICIAN • NERVELESS STRIKER
ICON OF THE SWINGING SIXTIES
ADORED BY FANS • SCORER OF IMMORTAL CUP FINAL GOALS
A BIG MAN FOR A GOLDEN AGE"

Other features[edit]

Stamford Bridge East Entrance

When Stamford Bridge was redeveloped in the Ken Bates era, many additional features were added to the complex, including two hotels, apartments, bars, restaurants, the Chelsea Megastore, and an interactive visitor attraction called Chelsea World of Sport. The intention was that these facilities would provide extra revenue to support the football side of the business, but they were less successful than hoped, and before the Abramovich takeover in 2003, the debt taken on to finance them was a major burden on the club. Soon after the takeover, a decision was taken to drop the "Chelsea Village" brand and refocus on Chelsea as a football club. However, the stadium is sometimes still referred to as part of Chelsea Village or "The Village".

Centenary Museum[edit]

2005 saw the opening of a new club museum, known as the Chelsea Museum or the Centenary Museum, to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the club. The museum is located in the former Shed Galleria. Visitors are able to visit the WAGs lounge and then watch an introductory video message from the vice-president Richard Attenborough. They are then guided decade by decade through the club's history seeing old programmes, past shirts, José Mourinho's coat and other memorabilia. A motto on the wall of the museum reads "I am not from the bottle. I am a special one.",[17] a reference to Mourinho's famous quote upon signing as manager for Chelsea.[18]

On 6 June 2011 a new museum with improved and interactive exhibits opened behind the Matthew Harding stand. It is the largest football museum in London.[19]

Megastore[edit]

The current Megastore is on the south-west corner of the stadium. The store is two floors. The first floor mainly consists of souvenirs and children's gear. The second floor is filled with training jerseys, coats, and replica jerseys. There are also two smaller shops, one located at the Stamford Gate entrance and the other inside the new museum building behind the Matthew Harding stand.

Future[edit]

Under Roman Abramovich's control, the club has announced that it wants to extend Stamford Bridge to around 55,000 seats.[20] However, its location in a heavily built-up part of Inner London, near a main road and two railway lines, makes this very difficult. The dispersal of an additional 13,000 fans into the residential roads of the Moore Park Estate, would undoubtedly create congestion and conflict.

Alternative possibilities include moving from Stamford Bridge to a location such as, the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, White City, Battersea Power Station, the Imperial Road Gasworks (off the Kings Road on the Fulham and Chelsea border) and the Chelsea Barracks.[21] But, under the Chelsea Pitch Owners articles of association, the club would relinquish the name 'Chelsea Football Club' should it ever move from Stamford Bridge.[22] On 3 October 2011, the club issued a statement, in which it proposed to buy back the freehold from Chelsea Pitch Owners Plc. This has been widely speculated as the first move by the football club to begin their movement away from the current stadium. On 27 October 2011, Chelsea FC failed in its bid to buy back the freehold, with shareholders of the CPO voting against selling the land.[23] On 4 May 2012, Chelsea FC announced a bid to purchase Battersea Power Station, as part of plans to build a new 60,000-seater stadium on the site.[24] Though they were not the preferred bidders, they released artistic impressions of the proposed stadium at the BPS on 22 June 2012.[25]

Details[edit]

Records[edit]

Record Attendance: 82,905 v Arsenal on 12 October 1935 (note this is for a Chelsea 'domestic' game, there have been many events at Stamford Bridge exceeding 100,000)

Lowest Attendance: 3,000 attended at a Chelsea v Lincoln match in 1906.

Average attendances[edit]

  • Premier League
    • 1992–93: 18,755
    • 1993–94: 19,211
    • 1994–95: 21,062
    • 1995–96: 25,598
    • 1996–97: 27,617
    • 1997–98: 33,387
    • 1998–99: 34,571
    • 1999–00: 34,532
    • 2000–01: 34,700
    • 2001–02: 38,834
    • 2002–03: 39,784
    • 2003–04: 41,234
    • 2004–05: 41,870
    • 2005–06: 41,902
    • 2006–07: 41,909
    • 2007–08: 41,397
    • 2008–09: 41,590
    • 2009–10: 41,425
    • 2010–11: 41,435[26]
    • 2011-12: 41,478[27]
    • 2012-13: 41,462[28]
    • 2013-14"': 41,490[29]

Premier League (1992–2009): 34,780
Total Premier League: 22,239,771 (696 games)

International matches[edit]

Access[edit]

Stamford Bridge is easily accessible by public transport.

Public transport access
Service Station/Stop Line/Route Walking Distance
from Stamford Bridge
London Buses London Buses Walham Green 11, 14, 211, 414, N11 200 yards (180 m) 2 mins
Fulham Broadway/
Fulham Town Hall
28, 295, 391, 424, N28[30] 0.2 miles (0.32 km) 5 mins
London Underground London Underground Fulham Broadway District line 0.2 miles (0.32 km) 5 mins
Earl's Court District line
Piccadilly line
1.1 miles (1.8 km) 27 mins
West Brompton District line 1 mile (1.6 km) 25mins
London Overground London Overground Imperial Wharf West London West London Line 0.8 miles (1.3 km) 20 mins
National Rail National Rail Southern Railways
London River Services London River Services Chelsea Harbour Pier London River Services (next to Imperial Wharf station) 20 mins

References[edit]

  1. ^ Stadium History chelseafc.com
  2. ^ "Premier League Handbook Season 2013/14" (PDF). Premier League. Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  3. ^ CLUB INFORMATION chelseafc.com
  4. ^ "Premier Talents Brings Brazilian Blue to the Bridge". chelseafc.com. 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  5. ^ "Chelsea v Manchester United battle has lost its edge". Daily Telegraph. 2011-02-26. Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  6. ^ "Premier League Handbook Season 2013/14" (PDF). Premier League. Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Charles James Feret Fulham Old and New vol. ii, 1900
  8. ^ J. E. B. Gover, Allen Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-Names of Middlesex 1942
  9. ^ http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/tm_objectid=17713141&method=full&siteid=66633&headline=it-s-the-theatre-of-drams--name_page.html
  10. ^ "Chelsea & Fulham". Disused Stations. Subterranea Britannica. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Newcastle's Freddy Shepherd
  12. ^ The Times and The Sunday Times Archive
  13. ^ "KSS Design". KSS Design Group
  14. ^ "All Blacks". Rugbyfootballhistory.com. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  15. ^ "Countdown to SABR Day 2011". BaseballGB.co.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c Bamford, R & Jarvis J.(2001). Homes of British Speedway. ISBN 0-7524-2210-3
  17. ^ BBC – Phil McNulty: Mourinho still pure theatre
  18. ^ Jason Cowley, NS Man of the year - Jose Mourinho – New Statesman
  19. ^ Chelsea FC Museum
  20. ^ "Kenyon confirms Blues will stay at Stamford Bridge". RTÉ Sport. 2006-04-12. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  21. ^ "Chelsea plan Bridge redevelopment". BBC. 2006-01-20. Retrieved 2007-11-17. 
  22. ^ Glanvill, Rick (2006). Chelsea FC: The Official Biography. pp. 91–92. 
  23. ^ [1].
  24. ^ Chelsea Bid For Battersea Site
  25. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2163169/Chelsea-images-Battersea-Power-Station-stadium.html
  26. ^ http://www.european-football-statistics.co.uk/attnclub/chls.htm
  27. ^ http://www.european-football-statistics.co.uk/attnclub/chls.htm
  28. ^ http://www.european-football-statistics.co.uk/attnclub/chls.htm
  29. ^ http://espnfc.com/stats/attendance/_/league/eng.1/barclays-premier-league?cc=4716
  30. ^ http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gettingaround/maps/buses/pdf/fulhambroadway-2095.pdf

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Old Trafford
Manchester
FA Cup
Final Venue

19201922
Succeeded by
Wembley Stadium
London