Full name : Stamford Bridge
Location : Fulham Broadway, London, England
Coordinates : 51° 28′ 54.17″ N, 0° 11′ 27.5″ W
Built : 1876
Opened : 1877
Renovated : 1904-5, 1990s
Owner : Chelsea Pitch Owners plc
Operator : Chelsea
Surface : Grass
Architect : Archibald Leitch (1887)
Capacity : 42,055
Field dimensions : 110 x 75 yards (100 x 69 metres)
Tenants : Chelsea (1905-present)
Stamford Bridge is a football stadium on the border of Fulham and Chelsea, in
the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham that is home to Chelsea
Football Club. The stadium is located within the Moore Park Estate also known
as Walham Green. It is nicknamed “The Bridge” by the club’s supporters. The
capacity is 42,055, making it the eighth largest ground in the Premier League
(see List of Premier League stadiums).
18th 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 stream had two local bridges: Stanford Bridge on the Fulham Road (also
recorded as Little Chelsea Bridge) and Stanbridge on the King’s Road, now
known as Stanley Bridge. Stanford Creek, Stanford Bridge and Stanbridge no
doubt all contributed in some uncertain way to the eventual name of Stamford
Bridge, which must have been further suggested by the well known Battle of
Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, a famous victory by King Harold Godwinson
against the Vikings in 1066 that took place shortly before his defeat by the
Normans at the Battle of Hastings.
Middlesex play the ‘Original’ New Zealand All Blacks in October 1905 at the new
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, Stam-
ford Bridge played host to the World Championship of shinty between Beauly
Shinty Club and London Camanachd. 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. 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 Ful-
ham. Noted football ground architect Archibald Leitch, who had also designed
Ibrox, Celtic Park, Craven Cottage and Hampden Park, was hired to construct
In 1930, a new terrace was built on the south side for more standing spectators
Only part of this was roofed and it became known as “The Shed”. This became
the favoured spot for the loudest and most die-hard support until the terrace
was demolished in 1994 (when all-seater stadiums became compulsory by law
as a safety measure in light of the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough dis-
aster). The seated stand which replaced it is still known as the Shed End.
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 1975.
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.
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 1998 and replaced by
the current West Stand.
A vast new East Stand was built in 1973, originally intended as the start of a
comprehensive redevelopment of the stadium which was abandoned when the
football club ran into financial difficulties. The East Stand essentially survives in
its 1973 three tiered cantilevered form, although it has been much refurbished
and modernised since.
The cost of building the East Stand escalated out of control after shortages of
materials and a builders’ strike. The increase in the cost, 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 chair-
man Ken Bates bought the club for £1 in 1982, he didn’t buy the stadium. 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 to
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.
The re-building of the stadium commenced again and successive building
phases during the 1990s have eliminated the original running track. The cons-
truction of the 1973 East Stand started 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 sounds louder now than when supporters was dis-
persed at a distance from the pitch on open terraces, although the stadium
capacity is approximately half of what it was. The pitch, the turnstiles, and the
naming rights of the club are now owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners, an orga-
nization set up to prevent the stadium from being purchased by property de-
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 spec-
tators 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.
Stamford Bridge had an official capacity of around 100,000, making it the se-
cond largest ground in England after Crystal Palace, the FA Cup final venue.
Stamford Bridge itself hosted the final for the first three years after the First
World War from 1920 to 1922, after which it was replaced by Wembley.
Under Roman Abramovich’s control, the club has announced that it wants to
extend Stamford Bridge to around 55,000 seats; 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 conges-
tion 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. 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.
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