Chelsea have appointed a developer to explore the feasibility of building a new stadium at Battersea power station.
The club, which still needs to buy back the freehold of Stamford Bridge before any move can take place, is acting in order to avoid missing out should the location emerge as the most viable relocation option.
Chelsea have appointed Mike Hussey, the chief executive of Almacantar, as development partner and have hired the architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox to draw up plans for the construction of a 55,000-60,000-seat stadium to the south-east of the Grade II-listed power station site.
A Chelsea spokesman said: “In the past, we’ve talked to various people with interests in Battersea power station, but we haven’t had any substantive discussions with anyone regarding that site for several months.
“However, in light of current developments, we now think it prudent to look again at the feasibility and potential for the BPS site to be developed for a football stadium. We have made no decision to leave Stamford Bridge, and we continue to discuss with the local council any economically viable options to expand the Bridge, but we will continue to investigate various options close to Stamford Bridge.”
Chelsea have still not given up hope of persuading the owners of Earls Court to give them permission to build there but the prospects of doing so are fading by the day.
There would also be complications involved in moving to Battersea power station, which has been empty for nearly two decades. Its owner Real Estate Opportunities, largely owned in turn by Treasury Holdings of Ireland, has been trying for a year to find an equity investor to fund a proposed £5.5bn redevelopment.
The site reportedly owes Lloyds Banking Group and the Irish National Asset Management Agency around £300m, a debt which can be called in at any time. A Malaysian investor, SP Setia, has offered to buy the senior debt for £255m at 85p in the pound, according to reports.