Wembley sale: Chelsea stadium plans hit by £1b sale of England home to Fulham and NFL owner Shahid Khan
Blues owner Roman Abramovich is already looking for funding to help afford the projected £1billion revamp of the club’s home since 1905.
The ambitious scale of the project, which would see the current ground – and the hotels and other buildings on the site – knocked down and completely redeveloped into a futuristic amphitheatre means it is likely Chelsea will have to move out for four seasons.
Chelsea have looked at a number of temporary options, including the possibility of renting Twickenham, but the Rugby Football Union blocked the idea in January 2017.
With Spurs having rented Wembley this season – the North Londoners also had an option for next term but let the deadline pass without being taken up – it was anticipated the Blues would look to follow their capital rivals in reaching a deal with the FA.
But the sale of Wembley to Khan, who wants to make the National Stadium the new home for his Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise, appears to end any hopes Chelsea have of renting the stadium.
The Jaguars will play eight home games in the regular season, which starts at the beginning of September and finishes at the end of December, while they could then host post-season play-offs through January.
Khan and the NFL team will have priority for fixtures during that period, meaning that the England team is set to go “on the road” and play round the country for home international games in the autumn.
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And with Premier League rules stating that clubs can only have one designated home ground in any season, Chelsea will not have the option of switching games between Wembley and another smaller-capacity venue.
Unless there is an RFU U-turn over Twickenham – which would not overcome the issues that see local residents in Richmond having a veto over the number of events held at the stadium – Chelsea will be running out of alternatives.
If they want to stay in London they may have to go cap in hand to rivals Arsenal, Spurs or West Ham to play in a large venue, with the closer grounds at Loftus Road, Craven Cottage or Brentford’s replacement for Griffin Park all likely to be too small.
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One other option would be a temporary move out of the capital, with Reading a possibility.
Of course, the news that Wembley appears out of the equation might see Abramovich pull the plug on the whole scheme, although there have been no indications of that being likely up to now.
Chelsea have been pushing ahead with the plans and one of the final potential blockages was ended when the club finally reached agreement with one local houseowner who was demanding millions in compensation for loss of light.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already given his approval for the scheme while Hammersmith and Fulham Council are backing the club’s expansion plans.
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