Stamford Bridge is a football stadium located in Fulham, London. It is the homeground of Chelsea F.C.. The stadium is located within the Moore Park Estate also known as Walham Green and is often referred to as simply The Bridge. The capacity is 41,663, making it the eighth largest ground in the Premier League. The club has plans to expand the capacity to 60,000 by the 2021–2022 season. Opened in 1877, the stadium was used by the London Athletic Club until 1905, when new owner Gus Mears founded Chelsea Football Club to occupy the ground; Chelsea have played their home games there ever since. It has undergone numerous major changes over the years, most recently in the 1990s when it was renovated into a modern, all-seater stadium.
Stamford Bridge has been used as a venue for England international matches, FA Cup Finals, FA Cup semi-finals and Charity Shield games. It has also hosted numerous other sports, such as cricket, rugby union, speedway, greyhound racing, baseball and American football. The stadium’s highest official attendance is 82,905, for a league match between Chelsea and Arsenal on 12 October 1935.
On the evening of 10 March 1905 in an upstairs room at the Rising Sun pub, Chelsea FC was formed. Among the founding directors were millionaire owner Henry Augustus ‘Gus’ Mears, his brother Joseph, their brother-in-law Henry Boyer, publican Alfred Janes and his nephew Edwin, who ran the Rising Sun.
The club, the brainchild of another founder, Frederick Parker, would be started from scratch to fill Gus Mears’s ambitious stadium, being built across the road at Stamford Bridge by the famous architect Archibald Leitch. Scotland international Jacky Robertson was engaged as the fledgling club’s player-manager. In collaboration with Parker, who also engineered Chelsea’s admission to Football League Division Two, Robertson constructed a squad including larger-than-life Willie Foulke: the club hired football’s first ball-boys to emphasise the 23-stone goalkeeper’s presence.
The huge new arena debuted with a 4-0 friendly win against Liverpool in September 1905, supported by London’s first 4-page matchday football programme, which cleverly fed the metropolis’s growing hunger for the professional game. Success came spectacularly fast: the table-top clash with Manchester United on Good Friday 1906 attracted a staggering attendance of 67,000. Promotion to the First Division was achieved in 1907 and over the ensuing campaign the newly nicknamed ‘Pensioners’ attracted the biggest crowds ever known in Britain. The most popular entertainer of the day, George Robey, even signed up as a player.
For the first few seasons the players wore Eton Blue, the horse racing colours of club President Lord Cadogan, a much lighter hue than the shirts of today. Other aspects are more enduring: the first top-flight London derby, a 2-1 Chelsea win against Arsenal, was contested on 9 November 1907. A similar outcome settled the first ever encounter with Tottenham Hotspur on 18 December 1909.
And, of course, Chelsea have never moved away from the famous stadium on Fulham Road. New star names started to establish themselves at the Bridge, including centre-forward George Hilsdon, the first Pensioner to hit a century of goals (immortalised in a weathervane likeness on top of the current East Stand).
In just a few short years the personality of Chelsea FC was being established: wealthy, ambitious, fashionable and with immense drawing power.