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Chelsea fail to win over fans in pitch vote

Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) was set up in 1993 when the now megarich club was in financial difficulties and the fan group acquired the freehold of the pitch to protect Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home for 106 years, from developers.

"At today's general meeting of Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO), 61.6 percent of votes cast on Chelsea Football Club's proposals to buy the freehold land on which the Stamford Bridge stadium sits were for the proposal," a club statement said.

"However as 75 percent of votes were needed, the proposals fail to pass. Chelsea FC is naturally disappointed with the result."

The club, who have not ruled out trying to extend Stamford Bridge, feel the stadium's capacity of 42,000 puts Chelsea at a financial disadvantage compared with rivals such as Manchester United (76,000) and Arsenal (60,000).

Chelsea said matchday revenue at Arsenal more than doubled when the club moved to the 60,000-capacity Emirates Stadium in North London from nearby Highbury (38,000).

Some Chelsea fans are concerned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who bought the club in 2003, wants to build a new stadium well away from south west London, and fear selling back the freehold would remove an important safety net for the club.

The club have said they have no wish to break the link with "Chelsea's ancestral home" and any new 60,000 arena would not be further than three miles (five kms) from Stamford Bridge.

"While we will remain as ambitious as ever, this decision could slow down our progress. Despite the vote, the facts remain that the current structure could hinder the club," the statement added.

Ken Bates, the man who sold Chelsea to Abramovich, said before the vote that the attempt to buy the ground's freehold was a "land grab" of prime real estate.

"If he [Abramovich] wants to build a new stadium it will cost between 500 and 600 million pounds. He could do it out of his own back pocket. He does not need the freehold," Bates, now the chairman of Leeds United, told the Daily Mail newspaper.

Chelsea have won the Premier League three times and the FA Cup three times since Abramovich took over, as well as reaching the 2008 Champions League final.