Chelsea will learn today whether they have succeeded in buying back the freehold of Stamford Bridge in what is being seen as the first step towards a move to a new 60,000-seater stadium.
An increasingly-bitter campaign between those who support the club’s plans to re-aquire the land they sold to fan-led group Chelsea Pitch Owners in the 1990s and those who oppose it will draw to a close during an extraordinary general meeting at the Blues’ home ground.
Both sides have waged a public relations war in a bid to rally support for their cause since Chelsea first announced their proposal on October 3.
The plans are seen as a precursor to a move to a new stadium, something that could help the club better compete in terms of matchday revenue with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal under the constraints of Financial Fair Play.
Chelsea have insisted they have not yet decided whether to relocate, but say they need to have the ability to sell the land on which Stamford Bridge sits before negotiating with developers at any new site – with Earls Court, Battersea and White City all possible destinations.
While not opposed in principle to a move, those against the buyback proposal - spearheaded by the ’Say No CPO’ (SNCPO) campaign – have accused the club of not giving enough notice of the vote, a lack of transparency, and have demanded that the existing CPO agreement be transferred to any new ground.
Chelsea say they have been open and transparent throughout and believe the threat which led to CPO’s formation – a fear of the club being made homeless by property developers – has disappeared forever because the Blues are now worth more than any land a stadium would occupy.
Both sides have spent the past three weeks attempting to woo CPO shareholders as well as encouraging their supporters to buy up as many shares as possible.
Indeed, the last week before trading was suspended saw more than £200,000 spent on the £100 shares – around 10% of the entire shares in issue – with more sold during that period than during the previous seven years.
SNCPO fear most of those have been bought by those with loyalties to the club and they were not optimistic yesterday about the outcome of the vote.
A spokesperson told Press Association Sport: “Around £250,000 worth of shares were sold in the last week before they went off sale.
“My assumption would be that most of them are yes votes.”
Chelsea were taking nothing for granted, insisting they had no idea how the vote would go.
The outcome will be determined by the number of owners of the near 18,000 shares who turn up or vote by proxy, with SNCPO confident of a guaranteed 1,000-1,500 supporters worth around 3,000 votes.
There will be opportunities for shareholders to quiz the CPO board at today’s meeting, with SNCPO distributing a list of suggested questions beforehand in bid to get their concerns addressed prior to the vote.