HAMMERSMITH and Fulham Council has told Chelsea Football Club it wants them to increase the capacity of Stamford Bridge rather than move to a new ground.
The Premier League outfit want a bigger stadium to rival the 60,000-plus capacity grounds of Arsenal and Manchester United and have been making noises about leaving their home of 107 years to achieve that goal.
Stamford Bridge, which has a current capacity of 41,837, belongs to a consortium called the Chelsea Pitch Owners, who have been in a battle with the club over a proposed switch away from SW6, with Chelsea owner Roman Abramvich insisting the planning risks of remaining at the Bridge would be 'insurmountable'.
But the council has blown that theory out of the water, insisting it would cost more to move than the £600m needed to rebuild the club's existing home into a 60,000 super-stadium.
Deputy council leader Nick Botterill said: "We cannot comment on the financial conclusions Chelsea has drawn but it is very likely that any move away from Fulham would cost far more than either the £600million the club claims it would cost to rebuild its current ground or the cost of upgrading and expanding the existing Stamford Bridge structures."
Chelsea last week insisted that remaining in Fulham Road wasn't possible, saying in a statement: "It is clear that a complete new build of a 60,000-seat stadium has little chance of acceptability and that after discussions with the local council, they have come to the same conclusion."
But the council insists the club can remain and asays the Blues' continued presence in the borough is vital for the area to remain a thriving business hub.
Mr Botterill continued: "Stamford Bridge is Chelsea’s historic home and the council believes it should be their future home. We want the Blues to stay at Stamford Bridge and, if it can be done sensibly without negatively affecting local people, increase the ground's capacity so they can retain their position as one of Europe’s top clubs.
"We are proud to be the only borough in the country with three Premier League Clubs and we do not want our local businesses and residents to lose out on the economic and social benefits that this brings. Chelsea is a thriving business which contributes significant benefits to the area and we will continue to work closely with them to explore all possible avenues for keeping the club here at their original home."
Opened in 1877, Stamford Bridge was used by the London Athletics Club until 1905, when new owner Gus Mears founded Chelsea Football Club to occupy the ground. The club has played its home games there ever since, undergoing numerous major changes over the years, most recently in the 1990s when it was renovated into a modern, all-seated stadium.