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Nov 7, 2011

Chelsea need new stadium - Gourlay

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay has warned the club could struggle to compete in Europe unless they move to a new stadium.

• Chelsea fail in stadium ownership bid

The club's hopes of moving grounds suffered a setback at the hands of their fans last month after shareholders in the Chelsea Pitch Owners company rejected a proposal to buy back the land upon which Stamford Bridge is built.

It was a defeat for Blues owner Roman Abramovich and Gourlay said no decision had yet been made as to whether a fresh vote will be called at next month's AGM.

Gourlay insisted, however, that it was imperative a solution was found, claiming the club has "outgrown" Stamford Bridge.

He also revealed plans to reveal a naming rights sponsor for the ground in the new year.

"We have one of smallest stadiums in Europe," Gourlay told the International Football Arena in Zurich.

"We have corporate hospitality that is second to none and 30,000 season ticket holders. But we have a stadium slightly larger than 40,000 which drops to 38,000 on Champions League nights.

"We have to find a solution."

He added: "We have outgrown our stadium and tried every way possible to extend capacity.

"We need a 60-65,000 stadium. We have the eighth biggest stadium in England and the 61st biggest in Europe.

"But when you look at the activity of stadiums planned for next few years, we will fall out of top 75 which can only be restrictive to the football club.

"In the meantime we continue on our conversations to see if there is any way at all to extend Stamford Bridge.

"We hope to make an announcement on naming rights for Stamford Bridge within the next six to eight months. It would make a big step because we have to drive up the revenues."

Having lost one CPO vote, Gourlay refused to say whether the next month's AGM, which requires only a 50% majority, would prompt another ballot.

"This is a time for reflection, to sit down with the owner and discuss the situation," he said.

"We thought we made a very good proposal to the CPO shareholders. They decided on a 'no' vote.

"We got 62% but it's time to discuss it with Roman and the board. We have been very transparent in terms of venues."

In a wide-ranging address to the conference, Gourlay admitted that promoting Chelsea's brand in key markets like Asia - the club's prime overseas target - was just as important as satisfying lifelong local fans.

"We are very proud to be considered among the elite but unfortunately we have failed to win the Champions League," Gourlay added.

"When you talk about football clubs, you have to talk about businesses. Fans see them as football clubs, sponsors see them as brands. That's the way we have to operate."

Insisting Chelsea would have few problems adapting to UEFA's forthcoming financial fair play rules, Gourlay admitted they nevertheless posed significant challenges.

"We are looking to reduce our costs and balance the books but we still have to produce a very strong team to compete at the highest level," he added.

Gourlay said the club were also intent on identifying the Chelsea fans who were involved in chanting against QPR defender Anton Ferdinand during last week's Champions League match in Genk.

"We know the people who travelled but we don't know who participated in any of that chanting," he said. "If and when they are identified we need to sit down and discuss it."

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