Chelsea Football Club (also known as The Blues or previously The Pensioners) are an English professional football club based in west London. Founded in 1905, they play in the Premier League and have spent most of their history in the top tier in English football. They have had two broad periods of success, one during the 1960s and early 1970s, and the second from the late 1990s to the present day. Chelsea have won three league titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups and two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups.
Chelsea’s home is the 42,055 capacity Stamford Bridge football stadium in Fulham, West London, where they have played since their foundation. Despite their name, the club are based just outside the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. In 2003, the club was bought by Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich.
The Chelsea’s traditional kit colours are royal blue shirts and shorts with white socks. Their traditional crest is a ceremonial blue lion holding a staff; a modified version of this was adopted in 2005. Chelsea are one of the best-supported clubs in the United Kingdom, with an estimated fanbase of around four million.
History of Chelsea:
Chelsea were founded on March 14, 1905 at The Rising Sun pub (now The Butcher’s
Hook), opposite the present-day main entrance to the ground on Fulham Road, and were elected to the Football League shortly afterwards. The club’s early years saw little success; the closest they came to winning a major trophy was reaching the FA Cup final in 1915, where they lost to Sheffield United. Chelsea gained a reputation for signing big-name players and for being entertainers, but made little impact on the English game in the inter-war years.
Former England centre-forward Ted Drake became manager in 1952 and proceeded to modernise the club. He removed the club’s Chelsea pensioner crest, improved the youth set-up and training regime, rebuilt the side, and led Chelsea to their first major trophy success – the League championship – in 1954–55. The following season saw UEFA create the European Champions’ Cup, but after objections from The Football League and the FA Chelsea were persuaded to withdraw from the competition before it started.
The 1960’s saw the emergence of a talented young Chelsea side under manager Tommy Docherty. They challenged for honours throughout the decade, and endured several near-misses. They were on course for a treble of League, FA Cup and League Cup going into the final stages of the 1964–65 season, winning the League Cup but faltering late on in the other two. In three seasons the side were beaten in three major semi-finals and were FA Cup runners-up. In 1970 Chelsea were FA Cup winners, beating Leeds United 2–1 in a final replay. Chelsea took their first European honour, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup triumph, the following year, with another replayed win, this time over Real Madrid in Athens.
The late 1970s and the 1980’s were a turbulent period for Chelsea. An ambitious redevelopment of Stamford Bridge threatened the financial stability of the club, star players were sold and the team were relegated. Further problems were caused by a notorious hooligan element among the support, which was to plague the club throughout the decade. Chelsea were, at the nadir of their fortunes, acquired by Ken Bates for the nominal sum of £1, although by now the Stamford Bridge freehold had been sold to property developers, meaning the club faced losing their home.
On the pitch, the team had fared little better, coming close to relegation to the Third Division for the first time, but in 1983 manager John Neal put together an impressive new team for minimal outlay. Chelsea won the Second Division title in 1983–84 and established themselves in the top division, before being relegated again in 1988. The club bounced back immediately by winning the Second Division championship in 1988–89.
After a long-running legal battle, Bates reunited the stadium freehold with the club in 1992 by doing a deal with the banks of the property developers, who had been bankrupted by a market crash. Chelsea’s form in the new Premier League was unconvincing, although they did reach the FA Cup final in 1994. It was not until the appointment of former European Footballer of the Year Ruud Gullit as player-manager in 1996 that their fortunes changed. He added several top-class international players to the side, particularly Gianfranco Zola, as the club won the FA Cup in 1997 and established themselves as one of England’s top sides again. Gullit was replaced by Gianluca Vialli, who led the team to victory in the League Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998, the FA Cup in 2000 and the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in 2000. Vialli was sacked in favour of another Italian, Claudio Ranieri, who guided Chelsea to the 2002 FA Cup final and Champions League qualification in 2002–03.
In June 2003, Bates sold Chelsea to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for £140 million, completing what was then the biggest-ever sale of an English football club. Owing to Abramovich’s Russian heritage, the club were soon popularly dubbed “Chelski” in the British media. Over £100 million was spent on new players, but Ranieri was unable to deliver any trophies, so he was replaced by successful Portuguese coach José Mourinho, who had just guided FC Porto to victory in the UEFA Champions League.
In 2005, Chelsea’s centenary year, the club became Premiership champions in a record-breaking season (most clean sheets, fewest goals conceded, most victories, most points earned), League Cup winners with a 3–2 win over Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium and reached the Champions League semi-finals. The following year, they were again League Champions, equalling their own Premiership record of 29 wins set the previous season. They also became the fifth team to win back-to-back championships since the Second World War and the first London club to do so since Arsenal in 1933–34. In 2007 Chelsea won the League Cup for the second time in three years, and finished 2nd in the Premier League. To end the season, Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup final, the first at the new Wembley Stadium.
Stamford Bridge: Chelsea have only ever had one home ground, Stamford Bridge, where they have played since foundation. It was officially opened on 28 April 1877. For the first 28 years of its existence it was used almost exclusively by the London Athletics Club as an arena for athletics meetings and not at all for football. In 1904 the ground was acquired by businessman Gus Mears and his brother, J T Mears, who had previously acquired additional land (formerly a large market garden) with the aim of staging football matches on the now 12.5 acre (51,000 m²) site. Stamford Bridge was designed for the Mears family by the noted football architect Archibald Leitch. They offered the stadium to Fulham Football Club, but the offer was turned down. As a consequence, the owners decided to form their own football club to occupy their new ground. Most football clubs were founded first, and then sought grounds in which to play, but Chelsea were founded for Stamford Bridge. Since there was already a football club named Fulham in the borough, the founders decided to adopt the name of the adjacent borough of Chelsea for the new club, having rejected names such as Kensington FC, Stamford Bridge FC and London FC.
Starting with an open bowl-like design and one covered terrace, Stamford Bridge had an original capacity of around 100,000. The early 1930’s saw the construction of a terrace on the southern part of the ground with a roof that covered around one fifth of the stand. It eventually became known as the “Shed End”, the home of Chelsea’s most loyal and vocal supporters, particularly during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The exact origins of the name are unclear, but the fact that the roof looked like a corrugated iron shed roof played a part.
During the late 1960s and early 70s, the club’s owners embarked on a modernisation of Stamford Bridge with plans for a 50,000 all-seater stadium. Work began on the East Stand in the early 1970s but the cost almost brought the club to its knees, and the freehold was sold to property developers. Following a long legal battle, it was not until the mid-1990s that Chelsea’s future at the stadium was secured and renovation work resumed. The north, west and southern parts of the ground were converted into all-seater stands and moved closer to the pitch, a process completed by 2001.
The Stamford Bridge pitch, the freehold, the turnstiles and Chelsea’s naming rights are now owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners, a non-profit organisation in which fans are the shareholders. The CPO was created to ensure the stadium could never again be sold to developers. It also means that if someone tries to move the football club to a new stadium they could not use the Chelsea FC name.
The club plans to increase its capacity to over 50,000. Owing to its location in a built-up part of London on a main road and next to two railway lines, fans can only enter the stadium through the Fulham Road entrance, which places severe constraints on expansion due to health and safety regulations. As a result, Chelsea have been linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge to sites including the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Battersea Power Station and the Chelsea Barracks. However, the club have reiterated their desire to keep Chelsea at their current home.
Since the club’s foundation, Chelsea have had four main crests, though all underwent minor variations. In 1905, Chelsea adopted as their first crest the image of a Chelsea pensioner, which obviously contributed to the “pensioner” nickname, and remained for the next half-century, though it never appeared on the shirts. As part of Ted Drake‘s modernisation of the club from 1952 onwards, he insisted that the pensioner badge be removed from the match day programme in order to change the club’s image and that a new crest be adopted. As a stop-gap, a temporary emblem comprising simply the initials C.F.C. was adopted for one year.
In 1953, Chelsea’s crest was changed to an upright blue lion looking backwards and holding a staff, which was to endure for the next three decades. This crest was based on elements in the coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea with the “lion rampant regardant” taken from the arms of then club president Viscount Chelsea and the staff from the Abbots of Westminster, former Lords of the Manor of Chelsea. It also featured three red roses, to represent England, and two footballs. This was the first club badge to appear on shirts, since the policy of putting the crest on the shirts was only adopted in the early 1960s.
In 1986, with new owners now at the club, Chelsea’s crest was changed again as part of another attempt to modernise and to capitalise on new marketing opportunities. The new badge featured a more naturalistic non-heraldic lion, yellow and not blue, standing over the C.F.C. initials. It lasted for the next 19 years, with some modifications such as the use of different colours. With new ownership, and the club’s centenary approaching, combined with demands from fans for the club’s traditional badge to be restored, it was decided that the crest should be changed again in 2004.
The new crest was officially adopted for the start of the 2005–06 season and marks a return to the older design of the blue heraldic lion holding a staff. As with previous crests, this one has appeared in various colours, including white and gold.
Chelsea have always worn blue shirts, although they initially adopted a lighter shade than the current version, and unlike today wore white shorts and dark blue socks. The lighter blue was taken from the racing colours of then club president, Earl Cadogan. The light blue shirts were short-lived, however, and replaced by a royal blue version in around 1912. When Tommy Docherty became manager in the early 1960s he changed the kit again, adding blue shorts (which have remained ever since) and white socks, believing it made the club’s colours more distinctive, since no other major side used that combination; this kit was first worn during the 1964–65 season.
Chelsea’s traditional away colours are all yellow or all white with blue trim, but, as with most teams, they have had some more unusual ones. The first away strip consisted of black and white stripes and for one game in the 1960s the team wore Inter Milan-style blue and black stripes, again at Docherty’s behest. Other memorable away kits include a mint green strip in the 1980s, a red and white checked one in the early 90s and a graphite and tangerine addition in the mid-1990s.
The 2007/2008 Chelsea away strip consists of an ‘electric yellow’ shirt with thick black lines forming separate panels of the shirt. The adidas three stripes are black, and run down the arms. It is worn with black shorts and black socks, but in the case of further clashes it is worn with “electric yellow” shorts and/or socks. The crest on the shirt is in “electric yellow” and black to go with the rest of the kit, instead of the usual blue, white, red and gold. For the 07/08 season, there is also a third kit, which is all white with blue and black trim.
Chelsea’s kit is currently manufactured by Adidas, which is contracted to supply the club’s kit from 2006 to 2011. Their previous kit manufacturer was Umbro. Chelsea’s first shirt sponsor was Gulf Air, agreed midway through the 1983–84 season. Following that, the club were sponsored by Grange Farms, Bai Lin tea and Italian company Simod before a long-term deal was signed with computer manufacturer Commodore International in 1989; Amiga, an off-shoot of Commodore, also appeared on the shirts. Chelsea were subsequently sponsored by Coors beer (1995–97), Autoglass (1997–2001) and Emirates Airline (2001–05). Chelsea’s current shirt sponsor is Samsung Mobile.
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