Chelsea have moved a step closer towards building a new stadium after making an offer to buy back the parts of Stamford Bridge sold to supporters in the 1990s.
Blues chairman Bruce Buck and chief executive Ron Gourlay have said that the club had still to decide whether to move to a new home but insisted they would not be able to do so unless they regained ownership of the pitch and stands at Stamford Bridge.
Buck and Gourlay appealed to the 12,000 CPO shareholders - most of whom are fans - to sell their 15,000 shares to the club for the price they paid for them in return for various incentives at any new stadium. Buck said: "Everyone bought these shares as a way of helping the club and they also bought them as mementoes and souvenirs."
He added: "We haven't considered making them a big offer because we believe that they are fans of Chelsea Football Club and want to do what's best for Chelsea Football Club and we've offered them a couple of things relating to their role as a fan."
The pitch and stands currently belong to a company called Chelsea Pitch Owners, which was formed in 1993 to prevent the stadium falling into the hands of property developers.
The threat of Chelsea being made homeless subsided when Roman Abramovich bought the club but they are now unable to move from Stamford Bridge unless they can profit from the land it sits on.
The incentives for selling up include a guarantee that Chelsea would only relocate within a three-mile radius of Stamford Bridge if the club did decide to move before 2020.
Buck and Gourlay could not make any promises beyond that year because the sites they would currently consider - which are understood to include Earls Court, Battersea Nine Elms and possibly White City - are likely to become unavailable during the next eight years.
Buck insisted the club had explored in great detail the possibility of redeveloping Stamford Bridge but that every idea put forward had proven impractical or too expensive.
He added: "I wouldn't say that we've given up but, after five or six years of looking at it, I would say that we're doubtful that we could do something at a reasonable cost."
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