Stamford Bridge in west London has been Chelsea's home since 1905

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Chelsea lose vote to buy back their Stamford Bridge stadium

A group of the club's fans who own the freehold opt against handing it back

The 'Chelsea Pitch Owners' have owned the freehold since 1997

Club says they are losing $56 million of revenue a year due to limited capacity

CNN  — 

Chelsea have warned a group of supporters they are slowing the progress of the English Premier League outfit after they opted not to return the freehold to the club’s Stamford Bridge stadium.

The ground, in the west of the English capital, was sold to a fans’ organization called the Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) in 1997 to protect it from falling into the hands of developers if the club ran into financial trouble.

But only 61.5% of CPO’s shareholders voted to sell the freehold back to the club – less than the 75% needed to authorize the move.

Explainer: Chelsea’s bid to leave Stamford Bridge

Chelsea, who are currently third in the Premier League, are keen to explore the possibility of building a new ground with a bigger capacity than Stamford Bridge, which currently holds only 42,000 supporters.

In a letter to CPO, Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck said that a new ground could help the club raise an extra $56 million of revenue each season but that the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge was necessary to help pay for it.

But many fans were not happy at the club’s plans to move away from the site and Chelsea fell short of the vote required.

The club are owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich but limited space around their ground means expansion is difficult. Two of the club’s rivals, Manchester United and Arsenal, have stadiums that hold 76,000 and 60,000 respectively.

A statement on the Chelsea’s official website read: “Chelsea FC is naturally disappointed with the result. A large number of fans supported our proposals but it was always going to be difficult when we had to have a 75 per cent majority of voting shareholders accepting them.

“We approached this process with transparency and the will to do what is best for Chelsea Football Club and while we will remain as ambitious as ever, this decision could slow down our progress.”

Buck added: “Obviously we are disappointed but we recognise and we respect totally that the shareholders of Chelsea Pitch Owners have spoken.

“We will meet with Mr Abramovich (Chelsea’s Russian owner) and the rest of the board and we will decide what action, if any, we will take going forward.

‘“I don’t view this as an us and against you, we against they situation. We are all Chelsea fans and I can only hope that on Saturday we can get together and support this club and beat Arsenal.”