Revealed: The first changes to Stamford Bridge planned by Chelsea's new owners
Chelsea’s new ownership led by Todd Boehly are investing in a major upgrade to Stamford Bridge that includes renovation of the West Stand and new murals around the stadium – a strategy that they have pursued before with Boehly's American sports franchises.
Boehly, who is the club’s new chairman and interim sporting director, has entrusted the project to executive Janet Marie Smith, who has renovated some of the most famous venues in US sport. Those include Dodger Stadium, home to the Los Angeles Major League Baseball franchise owned by another Boehly-led consortium.
In baseball, Smith has also renovated the Atlanta Braves’ Turner Field and Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, owned by the same group of American investors that control Liverpool.
The Boehly-Clearlake consortium now in control of Chelsea, who play their first home game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, want to create a greater sense of belonging for fans around the stadium and also spell out the club’s identity in its environs.
There are further plans for changes around Fulham Broadway, the road to the south of the stadium and the only access point to Stamford Bridge. It will be the easily achievable changes to the ground that are the first step.
Under his ownership of the LA Dodgers, Boehly invested around £200 million updating Dodger Stadium and it was regarded as integral to making the team a success and reconnecting with fans. In 2020, eight years after buying the franchise, Boehly’s ownership group finally secured the Dodgers' first World Series victory since 1988.
Although the current changes to Stamford Bridge may seem relatively trivial compared to the vast task of building a new stadium in the tight 10-acre site, they have been much discussed among the new ownership.
The former owner Roman Abramovich gained planning permission for a 60,000-capacity stadium on the site that could have cost in excess of £2 billion when alternative tenancies were factored in. That project was never embarked upon and the changes proposed by Boehly’s group are tiny by comparison and only cosmetic, doing nothing to increase the 41,600 capacity.
The plans for Stamford Bridge include new metre-high illuminated letters spelling out “Chelsea FC” and a new larger club crest on the West Stand where the main reception of the club is located. There will be new vertical banners adorned with images of each of the full set of trophies won by the club over its history. The club’s megastore will get a new LED screen and frontage. There will be what the club describes as a “kinetic wall” on the West Stand which will be illuminated. The green tinted windows of the stand will be changed to blue with a vinyl covering.
The East Stand will be painted at its southern end with a new “Chelsea football club” mural similar to the one that already exists at the Shed End. The area earmarked on the East Stand for the new work is currently just a plain steel end to the stand that looms above fans making their way from Fulham Broadway to the back of the East Stand, which runs parallel to the train tracks to the east of the stadium. At the northern end of the East Stand, a new heritage Chelsea crest will adorn the club’s museum building which is also home to the Chelsea health club and spa.
A new mural featuring words from favourite fan chants is also planned for the area behind The Shed End which was rebuilt in 1998 to sit closer to the pitch, with its old retaining wall preserved. The Shed End will also get a new sign of its own. The club has also applied to install new LED screens on the outside of the West Stand and Shed End – primarily to communicate with supporters coming into the ground.
The planning application to Chelsea’s local authority, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham says that the changes will “refresh the stadium appearance while also drawing upon key design features that reference the club’s long history at Stamford Bridge”.