Todd Boehly picks up baton of Chelsea F.C.



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Chelsea takeover questions future of Stamford Bridge Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

The Premier League club Chelsea F.C. (UK) finally have new owners. It’s a new era for the ‘Blues’ after almost two decades under Roman Abramovich, and after a battle to be the successful bidder it is almost time to see what American businessmen Todd Boehly and Mark Walter, Clearlake Capital (private equity firm in Santa Monica, California, US), and billionaire businessman from Switzerland Hansjörg Wyss have planned for the club.

The ‘football.london’ stated that the group are spending £2.5billion on purchasing Chelsea and have already had to commit to £1.75billion in further investment that will include funding for Stamford Bridge, the academy, the women’s team and Kingsmeadow, and the Chelsea Foundation. Indeed, in the early stages of the bidding process with the Raine Group, the consortium’s plans for Stamford Bridge were deemed impressive.

The Chelsea Football Club is an English professional football club based in Fulham, West London (UK). Founded in 1905, they play their matches at their home ground, Stamford Bridge. The club competes in the Premier League, the top division of English football.

The Stamford Bridge is a football stadium in Fulham, adjacent to the borough of Chelsea in West London (UK). It is the home of Premier League club Chelsea F.C. With a capacity of 40,834, it is the ninth largest venue of the 2022-2023 Premier League seasons.

Kingsmeadow is a football stadium in Norbiton, Kingston upon Thames, London (UK), which is used for home matches by Chelsea Women and Chelsea U23s. It was formerly the home of Kingstonian F.C. (English semi-professional football club) and the EFL League One club AFC Wimbledon and has a capacity of 4,850, with 2,265 seats. The freehold of the site is owned by the Kingston Council.

Earlier, in March this year, the club’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the United Kingdom Government as part of the latter’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The above step was taken to stop Abramovich making money from Chelsea.

The ‘football.london’ further stated that in his first words following the takeover Boehly confirmed his intention to invest in the club.

Affirmed Boehly, “Our vision as owners is clear: We want to make the fans proud. Along with our commitment to developing the youth squad and acquiring the best talent, our plan of action is to invest in the club for the long term and build on Chelsea’s remarkable history of success.”

Likewise, Clearlake Capital founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano, have outlined where they see their investment being directed under their ownership. The investment group have the largest stake in the consortium. They said Chelsea will see “Investment across infrastructure, technology and Sports Science to support the incredible Chelsea football and commercial teams.”

While it retains plenty of history and nostalgia and remains a stadium close to the hearts of Chelsea supporters, due to its size, Stamford Bridge is often identified as part of Chelsea’s infrastructure that could leave them behind other elite teams in the Premier League. However, the location of the ground means a mammoth undertaking will be required to improve facilities sufficiently to draw them in line with the likes of their peer teams Arsenal F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur F.C. in terms of capacity.

In addition, Chelsea Pitch Owners hold the freehold to Stamford Bridge and the name of Chelsea F.C. They are a group made up of more than 23,000 individual shares and were involved in discussions with the parties interested in purchasing Chelsea. They made clear their priorities were: That football continues to be played at Stamford Bridge by a team called Chelsea F.C., the redevelopment of the ground to create the best stadium in London for the best team in London, agreeing a process that ensures the outstanding loan to the club is resolved in a mutually beneficial way, and underpinning the future of Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) as part of the Chelsea infrastructure.

Reports emerged early in the takeover process that the consortium had engaged in talks over redeveloping Stamford Bridge. Jonathan Goldstein, a property developer, is part of the consortium and talks were said to be underway with David Hickey, the former Project Director for the abandoned attempt at redeveloping the ground under Abramovich. Architect Jane Marie Smith, who worked on £200million improvements to the home of Boehly’s Major League Baseball (MLB) team Los Angeles Dodgers – the 56,000-capacity Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (US) – is also said to have been consulted. Boehly is Dodgers part-owner.

However, in recent years, Boehly has also spoken about the direction he sees English football stadiums are heading in. He sees them becoming more invested in ensuring supporters spend more time in the venues.

Boehly said in 2019, “The new stadiums that [English clubs] are building, they’re starting to take an American approach to stadiums and making them environments. They were very utilitarian, historically, but now they’re starting to think about themselves as ‘lifestyle’. If you look at what Americans are good at, it’s been building lifestyle within stadiums. Originally, stadiums would be a place where you would go and then leave, just watch an event. Now they’re starting to think about how do we entertain you earlier and how do we keep you longer. That obviously works on lots of levels – it drives the experience, it drives the economics and it also takes away from the congestion of arrival and departure.”

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