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 famous Moore Park Estate or 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.
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, Stamford 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 Fulham. Noted football ground architect Archibald Leitch, who had also designed Ibrox, Celtic Park, Craven Cottage and Hampden Park, was hired to construct the stadium.
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 spectators 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 second 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.
Results of FA Cup Finals at Stamford Bridge
|1920||50,018||Aston Villa||1||Huddersfield Town||0|
|1921||72,805||Tottenham Hotspur||1||Wolverhampton Wanderers||0|
|1922||53,000||Huddersfield Town||1||Preston North End||0|
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 stadium became compulsory by law as a safety measure in light of the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough disaster). The seated stand which replaced it is still known as the Shed End (see above).
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 re-building of the stadium commenced again and successive building phases during the 1990s have eliminated the original running track: the 1973 East Stand began this process. All stands are now roofed and all-seater, and are immediately adjacent to the pitch. This has had the effect of concentrating and capturing the noise of the supporters, which paradoxically appears louder now than when support was dispersed 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 organisation set up to prevent the stadium ever being purchased by property developers again.
In 1945, Stamford Bridge staged one of the most notable matches in its history. Soviet side FC Dynamo Moscow were invited to tour the United Kingdom at the end of the Second World War and Chelsea were the first side they faced. An estimated crowd of over 100,000 crammed into Stamford Bridge to watch an exciting 3-3 draw, with many spectators on the dog track and on top of the stands.
The stadium was also one of the home venues for the London XI team that played in the original Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, today called the UEFA Cup. Having played at various other stadia in London in the group and knockout stages, the team played the home leg of the two-legged final at Stamford Bridge, drawing 2-2 with FC Barcelona; they lost the away leg 6-0, however.
The ground was used in 1980 for the first major day-night floodlit cricket match between Essex and West Indies (although organised by Surrey) which was a commercial success; the following year it hosted the final of the inaugural Lambert & Butler county cricket competition. It, however, failed and the experiment of playing cricket on football grounds was ended.
Its nearest tube station is Fulham Broadway tube station.
The Matthew Harding Stand, previously known as the North Stand, is along the north edge of the pitch. It is named after former Chelsea director Matthew Harding, who transformed the club in the early 1990s before his death in a helicopter accident on October 22, 1996. His considerable investment in the club enabled construction of the stand which was completed during the 1997-98 season. It has two tiers and accommodates most season-ticket holders, giving it an enthusiastic atmosphere, especially in the lower tier. Any proposal to enlarge the facility would necessitate demolition of the adjacent 'Chelsea World of Sport' museum.
For some European championship matches, this stand operates at reduced capacity, some entrances being obstructed by the presence of TV outside-broadcast vehicles.
The oldest stand, the East Stand is located along the east side of the pitch. Previously it was the home to away supporters on the bottom tier, however at the start of the 2005/2006 season then-manager José Mourinho requested the move of the family section to this part of the stand to boost team morale. The stand has three tiers and is the heart of the stadium, housing the tunnel, dugout, dressing rooms, conference room, press centre, AV and commentary box. The middle tier is occupied by facilities, clubs, and executive suites. The upper tier provides spectators with one of the best views in the stadium.
The Shed End is located along the south side of the pitch. The stand has two tiers. The lower tier used to be home to the family centre, however for the 2005/2006 season and beyond the club has moved the away fans to the East corner of the stand (Gates 1-3 of the Upper Tier and around half of the Lower). The Shed also contains the centenary museum and a memorial wall where families of deceased fans are able to leave a permanent memorial of their loved ones indicating their eternal support for the club.
This stand was built during the mid 1990s.
The West Stand, recently updated, is located along the west side of the pitch. It has three tiers, in addition to a row of executive boxes that stretches the length of the stand.
The construction of the stand was almost responsible for Chelsea's financial crisis, which would've seen the club fall into administration but for the intervention of Abramovich. In borrowing some £70m from Eurobonds to finance the project, Ken Bates put Chelsea into a perilous financial position, primarily because of the repayment terms.
Now complete, the stand is the main external 'face' of the stadium, being the first thing fans see when entering the primary gate on Fulham Road. The Main Entrance is flanked by the Spackman and Speedie hospitality entrances, named after former Chelsea players Nigel Spackman and David Speedie. The stand also features the largest concourse area in the stadium.
The aforementioned executive boxes are also known as the Millennium Suites and are the home of the majority of matchday hospitality guests. Each box is also named after a former Chelsea player (names in brackets):
2005 saw the opening of a new club museum, known as the Chelsea Museum or the Centenary Museum, to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the club. The museum is located in the former Shed Galleria. Visitors are able to visit the WAGs lounge and then watch an introductory video message from the vice-president Richard Attenborough. They are then guided decade by decade through the club's history seeing old programmes, past shirts, José Mourinho's coat and other memorabilia.
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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