Chelsea Football Club
Stamford Bridge is the iconic home of Chelsea Football Club. Interestingly the stadium was originally designed for athletics use. After opening on 28th April 1877, the following 28 years were spent hosting athletic meetings for the London Athletic Club. In 1904 the Mears brothers purchased the site along with a disused market garden, totalling 12.5 acres. After failing to entice an existing club to move to Stamford Bridge, a brand new club named Chelsea Football Club was created.
The naming of the stadium is somewhat shrouded in mystery. Maps from the era show a bridge in the region named Sanford Bridge, so it seems likely the name Stamford Bridge has derived from this. The 1930's 'shed end' terracing is likewise mysterious in its naming, the development being given no name at the time.
1964/65 and 1973/74 saw further development to Stamford Bridge. Firstly the western terrace was replaced by a seated stand, then the East Stand was built. There is little doubt the construction of the East Stand caused great financial difficulty to the club, and it entered the 1980's relegated to second division after selling many premier players.
Lost & Found
The 1980's continued to be difficult for Stamford Bridge. While Chelsea Football Club had been sold by the Mears family to businessman Ken Bates, the freehold of the historic Stamford Bridge stadium was now actually owned by a property developer. The stadium was at risk of disappearing forever. It took 10 years of bitter legal battles to buy back the site but this was achieved in 1992.
By this time, Chelsea Football Club had returned to top playing form. New laws had been introduced compelling clubs to provide seating for all spectators. As a result, the 1990's became a time of extensive development for Stamford Bridge. The North terraced area was first in 1994/95. In its place the Matthew Harding stand was erected.
The 1930's 'shed end' was redeveloped in 1997 and became the seated 'shed end' with four star hotel adjoining it. Finally in 1998 the new West stand was started, although difficulties with planning permission meant a 2 year delay before it was completed.
A Size to Match the Football Spirit
Now a fully seated stadium, Stamford Bridge has a capacity of 41,837. This makes it the 8th largest ground in the Premier League. This is a fraction of its original official capacity of 100,000. However the ground never reached that figure, official records showing the largest crowd was on 12th October 1935, with a total of 82,905 spectators. Modern average attendance is a capacity crowd. Sadly there is no feasible option to increase capacity and extend Stamford Bridge as its London surroundings prevent this.
For a small fee, visitors are able to get a behind the scenes tour of Stamford Bridge. These are popular so booking ahead is advised. Tours last around 1 hour, and run every half hour between 10am and 3pm, 7 days a week (apart from match days). There is also a museum on site open from 9.30am to 5pm. Tours include access to the museum.
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