The inference that Chelsea are seeking to move away from Stamford Bridge with the announcement of the clubs intention to purchase back the grounds freehold from the Chelsea Pitch Owners is another nail in the coffin of British footballs tradition.
Whilst the Shed, the sprawling north stand terrace and the West Stand Benches may be long gone, Fulham Broadway station may now be a shopping centre and some of the old pubs that surrounded it wine bars and restaurants, the area still represents the heart of the club, the pitch is the same one Bentley, Osgood, Nevin, Wise and Zola graced.
The very soul of British football is in our football grounds and in the communities they are at the heart of. These are the place where people go to dream on a Saturday afternoon and have done for generations. Manchester City may have been at their new ground for nearly ten seasons, but it’s not their home, still singing, as they do, of the Kippax, Moss Side and Maine Road. Equally despite their padded seats and extra legroom at the Emirates many Arsenal fans still yearn for the North Bank and Highbury.
For all its foibles – the already terrible view blocked by pillars, not to mention the wooden chairs that ruin your shins every time your team is on the attack – Goodison Park is one of the country’s most charming grounds, an ageing structure set amongst rows of terrace houses. The character of Goodison or the famous entrance to Fratton Park cannot be purchased or recreated in a new ground. Loftus Road might be ‘a shithole’ and you might not be able to see anything from the upper tier of the School End, but give me an away day at QPR over a trip to the Madjeski any day.
Villa Park is characterised by its famous red brick and Anfield has the historic one tier Kop End and the Shankly Gates, Craven Cottage the Cottage itself, whilst, The Britannia Stadium has a harvester and a Holiday Inn. From the top tier of the away end at St James Park you look out over the entire city of Newcastle, whilst at The Reebok, you overlook a retail park. St Mary’s lacks the charm of the Dell and for all the attempts by the Red Faction to create an atmosphere and with the greatest respect to Middlesbrough and their supporters is there a more depressing prospect than an early kick off at The Riverside as an away fan?
Chelsea have played at Stamford Bridge for 106 years and as fans of Arsenal, City, Southampton, Derby, Middlesbrough and all other clubs who have moved can attest the best architects in the world cannot replace that history and culture.
By Callum West