In our previous blog, we shared our experience visiting the Emirates stadium in London. We had planned our day so that we could cover the Emirates stadium in the morning and Stamford Bridge in the afternoon. So, as soon as we finished our visit to Arsenal’s home ground, we headed to Stamford Bridge – home of Champions League winners (2020-21), Chelsea Football Club.
Stamford Bridge – The Home of Chelsea Football Club
One of the big six clubs in English football, Chelsea Football Club is based in Fulham, West London. Founded in 1905, Chelsea competes in the Premier League, the top division of English football. Their home ground since the start of the club is Stamford Bridge. The reigning champions of Europe, Chelsea has a huge fan following all around the globe, including our home state Kerala, India.
About Stamford Bridge
First opened in 1877 as an athletic ground, Stamford Bridge was used by the London Athletic Club until 1904. However, in 1904, an English businessman named Gus Mears and his brother Joseph acquired the athletics stadium to turn it into a football ground. He wished to lease it to Fulham FC, but they turned down his offer. So, Mears decided to find his own club to use the stadium.
Although the stadium was in the borough of Fulham, as there was already a team named Fulham, Mears chose to name his club after the adjacent borough of Chelsea. Some other names like Kensington FC, Stamford Bridge FC, and London FC were also considered. Chelsea has played all their home matches at Stamford Bridge.
Evolution of Stamford Bridge
Change has been constant in the history of Stamford Bridge. The first significant change was from an athletic ground to a football stadium. As an athletic ground, it had a capacity of close to 100000 with a single stand for 5000 spectators on one side. The capacity was slightly reduced as Stamford Bridge became a football stadium. The stadium’s highest official attendance is 82,905 for a league match.
However, changes in safety rules and regulations meant changes in stadium facilities too. As a result, Stamford Bridge saw major changes over the years, especially in the 1990s when it was renovated into a modern, all-seater stadium. Plans are afoot for further changes and expansion, which will see the stadium getting a new look and feel.
Stamford Bridge served as a venue for several England international matches, FA Cup Finals, FA Cup semi-finals, and Charity Shield games. It also hosted several other sports, such as cricket, rugby, speedway, greyhound racing, baseball, and American football.
Redevelopment and financial crisis
Chelsea went through a turbulent time during the 1970s and 80s as the ambitious redevelopment of the stadium led to financial instability. Consequently, the club had to sell its star players, and the team was relegated. The crisis was so big that the Mears family could no longer afford to keep the club and sold it to Ken Bates for a nominal sum of £1!
However, as Stamford Bridge freehold was already sold to property developers, Chelsea was on the verge of losing its home. But, Ken Bates fought a long-running legal battle for the stadium freehold and made a deal with the banks when the property developers became bankrupt in a market crash.
But another financial crisis in the early 2000s saw another ownership change when the Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the club.
A Quick look at the Performance of Chelsea Football Club
Chelsea won the League championship, their first major honour, in 1955. It won the FA Cup for the first time in 1970 and the Cup Winners’ Cup (its first major European honor) in 1971. However, the club suffered a period of decline in the late 1970s, which continued until the late 1990s.
Since 2000, the club has enjoyed its most successful run – Chelsea won five Premier League titles, two UEFA Champions League titles, and two UEFA Europa League titles during this period. The performance has been so good that Chelsea is one of the five clubs to have won all three of UEFA’s main club competitions. It is also the first English club to achieve the UEFA treble, the only London club to have won the Champions League, and the only club to have won all three major European competitions twice.
Our Visit to Stamford Bridge
We arrived well in advance for our stadium tour scheduled for 3 PM. It gave us an opportunity to walk around and see the stadium from the outside. Soon, we collected our tickets from the museum building and waited for the tour guide to arrive. We took the opportunity to click a pic with the Champions League and Super cup trophies. Soon, our guide came and took us on tour.
First View of the Ground
The tour started with a view of the ground. The guide informed us about the ground, pitch, and seating arrangements. It was a lovely session with good-natured jokes directed towards rival fans like us. He then took us to the press stand, where the journalists sit during a match. We saw the mini-screens that the press members use for replays if they missed some live-action or needed a second look at something. It was pretty nice to see it all.
The Usual Sights
From there, we headed to the press conference room. The guide told us all about the press conference room, its capacity and the like. We got an opportunity to go where the manager addresses the press and click some pics.
Then the guide took us to the away dressing room. As expected, it had minimum facilities. However, they had hung jerseys of various rival players. We had a quick look at them and saw some of the legendary names in English football. Overall, it was an exciting feeling.
The next stop was the home dressing room. Again, as in the case of all home dressing rooms, this was tastefully done with powerful, motivational messages written all around. The home dressing room was much more spacious and comfortable. The Chelsea fans in the tour group were excited to be there. Even for a non-fan, being in that room is a thrilling experience.
The Tunnel and Players Dugout
Soon, it was time to walk through the players’ tunnel to the pitchside. We walked through the tunnel accompanied by the matchday anthem in the background. It is an exhilarating experience to walk along the tunnel and get the first view of the pitch. A goosebumps moment, no matter how many times one does it! Plus, it was interesting to see ourselves on the big sightscreen at the corner as we walked out of the tunnel.
The players’ dugouts are close by – on either side of the tunnel end. We sat there and looked around, enjoying the view of the ground and the stadium. The guide explained the ticket prices, membership details, and other things as we sat there at the dugout. With that, the guided tour ended, and the guide took us outside the stadium.
It was well past four when we exited the stadium and headed to the museum. To make matters worse, we took the wrong turn and hence had to take the long way back to the museum. Huffing and puffing, we arrived at the museum by 4.30. It meant we had just half an hour to see everything. So we hurried along and reached the upper floor to start the museum tour.
The visuals and memorabilia from the champions league final were on display. In fact, the jerseys, match day ball, and other items are the first thing you notice as you enter the museum. We had a quick look at it all and headed to other sections. Boots, jerseys, pics, and other items from the earlier years were displayed there.
It was disappointing to see the trophy room sealed off in preparation for an event later that evening. But, we and a few others located a guide on duty and told him we wished to see the trophy room as it was part of the tour we paid for. He spoke to some higher authority and soon was allowed access. The trophy room is a spectacular sight indeed. It is home to five Premier League titles, eight FA Cups, four Women’s Super League trophies, and other achievements such as community shield.
We also saw the old, present, and future models of Stamford Bridge and learned more about the club’s history from the beginning. Although we had to rush through it all, we were happy to see the museum.
A Walk Outside the Stamford Bridge
We exited the museum via the Nike superstore and decided to walk around the stadium once again. If you ever visit a stadium, we suggest that you take a walk outside the stadium too, if possible. It can be pretty refreshing in itself.
We saw the iconic shed end – it is named after a shed built for bookmakers to protect their books from rain. In the 1960s and 70s, the most vociferous home fans and supporters favoured the shed end. We also saw the shed wall – a remnant of the original ground in 1877 – adorned with player pics, stats, and other exciting information.
We also chatted with an Indian lady staying at the apartment nearby. A die-hard Frank Lampard fan, she was there with her mom and child, enjoying an evening stroll.
Our Verdict of Stamford Bridge Tour
Stamford Bridge is definitely a must-see if you are a Chelsea fan. If you are a football fan and wish to visit a stadium, Stamford Bridge can be a good option for you too. If you have seen other stadiums, you might not find anything unique or extra special on this tour. Nevertheless, if you are a football fan, you will likely enjoy the tour.
We enjoyed the tour. The guide was funny and interactive. He shared all the essential information without going too much into the details. There was enough time to click pics and ask questions. Even the guide at the museum was very helpful. It was nice speaking to him and hearing him talk about watching the match at the old stadium with his father.
The only thing that left a sour taste was the security guards outside the stadium. We felt very uncomfortable when they asked us questions and eyed us suspiciously as we shot our vlog at the premises. Of course, we get that they were only doing their duty, and a set of people each holding cameras and other gadgets might be an unusual sight for them. We totally understand their being cautious. But, that doesn’t warrant the rather uncourteous treatment we received at their hands – or so we felt. It spoiled an otherwise beautiful experience for us.
Some Trivia from Stamford Bridge
- Chelsea’s home kit colours are royal blue shirts and shorts with white socks
- The club’s crest features a ceremonial lion holding a staff
- The club has rivalries with neighbouring teams Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, and a historic rivalry with Leeds United
- Based on attendance figures, Chelsea has the sixth-largest fanbase in England
- Since 2003, Chelsea have been owned by Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich
How to Reach Stamford Bridge?
Stamford Bridge is located on Fulham Road, London, SW6 1HS. You can reach the stadium by tube, bus, walking or cycling. If you are arriving from far, the best way to get to the stadium is by tube.
The nearest tube station is Fulham Broadway on the District Line. You can board a train to Earls Court and change for Wimbledon-bound trains. It is hardly a five-minute walk to the stadium from the Fulham Broadway station. Apart from this, there are two Overground stations close to Stamford Bridge – West Brompton and Imperial Wharf. Both are around a 15-minute walk from the stadium. Both these stations are on a direct line to Clapham Junction station.
It is advisable not to drive to the stadium as parking can be a real problem. Alternatively, you can arrive at the stadium by bus – numbers 14, 211 and 414.
If you are looking for matchday ticket information, check the official site here. However, if your wish to do a stadium tour, you can find all relevant information on the stadium and museum tour here.
Here’s our Vlog on Stamford Bridge