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Chelsea ponder naming rights deal

Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium
Chelsea have no room around their Stamford Bridge ground for expansion

Chelsea chief Ron Gourlay says they would consider selling naming rights to Stamford Bridge, as long as the current name is included in the new one.

In his first interview since replacing Peter Kenyon as chief executive, Gourlay told Chelsea TV any deal would have to be with "the right partner".

"Retaining the ground's heritage is paramount to considering such a move but we think it's achievable," he said.

"On that basis we would enter into discussions over naming rights."

BBC Sport understands any possible deal would be for in the region of seven to 10 years, which would seem to end any speculation about the possibility of the club moving away from Stamford Bridge in the forseeable future.

Lehmann still has nightmares about Bridge's left foot

Gourlay said he realised how sensitive an issue the identity of the ground would be with fans, which is why the keeping the name Stamford Bridge would be essential to any deal.

But he also said he hoped fans would understand the commercial considerations which meant it had to be considered if they wanted to keep pace with their rivals.

"What we are not prepared to happen, and I am sure our fans will appreciate this, is allow our rival clubs in England and Europe to gain a competitive advantage over us in terms of the revenue they can generate through either expanding the capacity of their existing stadia or moving to a new stadium and then invest that upside in their team or the club," he said.

"Those possibilities are not open to Chelsea for the foreseeable future because of the restrictions in expanding our stadium and the issues around finding a new site.

"That means we have to be creative and look at our sponsorship architecture and see if we can create new value and new opportunities that keeps us competitive."

Stamford Bridge's capacity is 41,841 and this season it has been close to sold out for every Premier League game.

Gourlay said this fact, and also the lack of room for further development around the ground, were also factors in the club's thinking.

"Our stadium does very well at the moment in competing with the bigger, and in some cases newer, stadia of our rivals. But they have more possibilities in the long run than we do. We cannot sell anymore tickets to Chelsea fans as we sell out virtually every match within our limited capacity.

"The match day experience at Stamford Bridge and the relationship with our fans has improved greatly through initiatives such as our flexible ticketing policy for all cup matches, the freezing of non-hospitality ticket prices for the last four seasons for Premier League matches and subsidised or free travel to a significant number of away games.

"But we need to keep evolving and move the business forward to support the football side and the club generally. This is a potentially realistic way of doing that."

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see also
Newcastle reveal new stadium name
04 Nov 09 |  Newcastle
Gourlay becomes new Chelsea chief
17 Sep 09 |  Chelsea
Chelsea chief Kenyon leaves role
16 Sep 09 |  Chelsea
Lansdowne to become Aviva Stadium
12 Feb 09 |  Irish
Villa play down stadium renaming
20 Oct 06 |  Aston Villa
What's in a name?
20 Jan 05 |  Fun and Games

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