Chelsea Deny Fixing Votes to Buy Back Freehold of Stadium

January 19, 2012

Chelsea FC today have adamantly denied claims they tried to fix the vote to buy back the freehold of Stamford Bridge.

English tabloid newspaper, The Sun, reported today that people associated with owner Roman Abramovich and club directors bought a number of Chelsea Pitch Owner (CPO) shares ahead of a ballot last October to decide whether the club could purchase the land from the company.

CPO was set up in 1993 to protect the club from being forced out of the stadium they have played at since their formation in 1905.

A total of 2,517 shares were bought between October 3 and the suspension of trading on October 20, of which 1,686 shouldn’t have been re-issued because of a restriction agreed by CPO directors a year before.

There are allegations that a lot of the shares were bought by people who had strong connections with the boardroom in order to secure the 75 per cent share of the vote they required.

If someone purchased 100 shares (at a £100 each) it would secure 100 votes but in the end only 61.5 per cent were in favour and CPO maintained the freehold for now.

Today’s report suggests Chelsea tried to use underhand methods to ensure the motion was passed.

However, a club spokesman said: “As we have previously stated, when approached by people asking how they can help, we responded that they should vote in favour of the motion if they have shares, or buy shares and vote in favour of the motion. We categorically deny any allegations of wrongdoing against the club or anyone connected to the club.”

The mass buying of shares was actually pursued by both sides and a fans’ organisation was set up called SAYNOCPO to lobby support against the club’s plans.

There have been suggestions that Chelsea, who have yet to decide to leave Stamford Bridge, are looking to sell the site and build a cheaper venue elsewhere in order for Abramovich to make a significant profit due to the value of real estate in SW6.

But it is believed all funds from the sale of the ground would go into the development of a new ground and the club expect there to be a shortfall, which Abramovich or a loan from a bank would have to make up.

CPO will be holding their Annual General Meeting at Stamford Bridge tomorrow when a motion to begin the re-selling of shares is on the agenda.

Some fans feel it could pave the way for more individuals close to the boardroom to buy shares so that any future vote regarding the freehold will go in Chelsea’s favour next time.

As yet there has been no date set for a second ballot on the issue, but sources at SAYNOCPO, who campaigned strongly against the club’s proposal back in October, fear they could hold another one during the off-season when it will be harder to alert fans who own shares to the issue.

In a statement today SAYNOCPO said: “The (Sun) article would appear to vindicate our long-standing position on this issue regarding organised gerrymandering of the vote. We feel the sale of shares in CPO should remain suspended until discussions have taken place to prevent such practices being repeated in future.

“We have previously suggested this issue can be solved by only re-opening share sales via a new class of share, with a maximum of 1 (or 10) voting rights per person, with proof of identity and UK address requirement, and we would urge the board of CPO to adopt this measure.”