The following post was an assignment for the Football Marketing & Management course at Sports Business Institute Barcelona. We analyzed what needs to be considered, if Chelsea would want to replace Stamford Bridge.
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham wrote on 9 March 2012 on their website that Stamford Bridge currently has a capacity of 41,837 making it the eighth largest ground in the Premier League but Chelsea FC wants to generate extra match day income so it can compete with rivals like Manchester United and Arsenal (lbhf.gov.uk). Considering that the average attendance in the years between 2010 and 2013 was approximately 41,400 (footballgroundguide.com), which means close to being sold-out during all home games, it is a legitimate thought to expand the capacity of the stadium for higher match day revenue.
Important considerations have to be given to the undertaking of such a project: Shall the given stadium be expanded? Is it possible? Or, shall the club move to a new location? Furthermore, how will the fans perceive the expansion or the move? According to Cllr Nick Botterill, H&F Council’s deputy leader, “Stamford Bridge is Chelsea’s historic home and the council believes it should be their future home. We want the Blues to stay at Stamford Bridge and, if it can be done sensibly without negatively affecting local people, increase the ground’s capacity so they can retain their position as one of Europe’s top clubs. (lbhf.gov.uk)”
As the Juventus Stadium case has taught many football executives, building a new stadium that caters more to fans’ and corporate partners’ needs and wants can improve matchday revenues in unimaginable dimensions (BBC). Juventus decided to rebuild a new stadium on the location of their old stadium, Stadio Delle Alpi, and create an experience around it, all in the name of Juventus FC. A museum, VIP lounge, corporate boxes, a unique Juventus store and selected tours make a visit to the club-owned stadium an experience to cherish and remember, even for non-fans. It is important to exploit the opportunity to take a visitor’s time and embellish it with more activities than only the 90 minutes during the match.
In the case of Chelsea FC, it is advisable to do research on what their fans, occasional visitors, and – very important – corporate stakeholders want to experience when visiting the new Stamford Bridge. Do fans want to be dispersed all across the stadium or do they want to build a wall of fans, like it is the case with Borussia Dortmund’s 25,000 people fan-wall? Furthermore, a question, which needs to be asked, is, ‘What can we offer to corporate stakeholders in return for better commercial deals?’ This can go from exclusive matchday skyboxes to conference rooms, etc.
In addition, a larger stadium does not necessarily mean a better atmosphere. Especially, if seats stay empty (dailymail.co.uk). In the case of Chelsea, though, a capacity increase sounds like a legitimate move given their matchday attendance in recent years. At the same time, that could improve the seat-category divide and make more room for fans that cannot afford higher-priced tickets.
The most important points that need to be considered are the most basic ones: What do our most loyal stakeholders want and need from us, and how can we make them happier in a sustainable way? With thorough research and by talking to their stakeholders, Chelsea will be able to give a very detailed answer to the above-mentioned questions and will be able to come up with the right plan to launch the project and successfully build a new Stamford Bridge to be competitive in regard to hospitality with other European greats.