Chelsea FC must have one of the most unusual formations of any club in the world. Formed in the early months of 1904 the story of Chelsea has been inextricably linked with the fate of the club’s real estate. Their Stamford Bridge ground originated from 1877 as a home for the London Athletics Club and might not have been transformed into today’s glamorous state of the art complex had a certain Gus Mears not entered the London football scene. Mears bought the freehold to Stamford Bridge and soon afterwards purchsed a large market garden adjoining the property as foundations for a football arena. The already established Fulham FC were invited to move in but the offer was declined, as the fee was too high. This of course was a devastating blow to Mears.
When The Great Western Railway made an attractive offer to purchase the ground in 1904 for coal and goods sidings Mears considered the sale of the premises. However, F.W.Parker, a well known financier and friend of Mears, still suggested starting their own team. Events snowballed and within days a meeting was held and a ground was planned. The seeds of Chelsea were formed. Application to join the Southern League was made and with other clubs like Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur objecting the application was turned down. After canvassing other teams of the Football League in April and May an application was made to join the Football League and players were signed. On the strength of these signings, the new ground and a very convincing speech at the AGM of the League by F.W. Parker, Chelsea were elected to the Football League Division Two, the only team to be admitted to the League without having kicked a ball.
From the classic to the downright awful, Chelsea have had a wide variety of kits down the years from the heavy, simple cotton shirts to the ‘scientific’, sponsored variety of the current batch. Chelsea adopted the Lord Chelsea’s official colours of pale ‘Eton” blue, white and black to play in, allegedly ranning out with with the embroidered Chelsea Borough crest from the period.
By the turn of the Sixties the black was dropped in favour of the occasional red trimming. Over the years blue varied from the favourite plain Fifties’ version to truly horrid designs comprising of criss cross lines and lozenges. Had this book also payed tribute to away shirts, than the hideous graphite and tangerine version from the mid-Nineties would have qualified for the most hated strip of all time. The disgusted Chelsea faithful still speak of orange and puke. The most favoured, and perhaps most classically lined kit is however the blue shirts and shorts with white socks – a kit stylish enough to match the Chelsea chic of the late Sixties and early Seventies.
Chelsea were called The Pensioners until the mid 50s because of their association with the famous Chelsea Hospital, home to British war veterans – the Chelsea Pensioners. Thankfully, this association continues to this day with loyal pensioners being given eight seats for every home game at Stamford Bridge. There is so much competition among the pensioners that they have to do a lottery every fortnight!
The nickname of ‘The Pensioners’ was dropped under the instructions of Ted Drake, a former star player who became Chelsea’s coach in the 50s. Drake felt that the ‘Pensioners’ tag was an embarassment, and there is even TV footage of him reading a statement to that effect. Chelsea FC were mostly known as ‘The Blues’ from then on. It wasn’t Drake’s only innovative move. With the nickname went the simple intertwined ‘cfc’ logo and old Pensioners symbol, never worn on shirts, to make way for a heraldic lion ‘rampant reguardant’, looking aggressive, determined and ready for anything.
The blue lion rampant holds a golden crozier, set against a white background, the scene being encircled by the club’s name. The lion, also displayed in the Borough Council’s arms, is derived from the Arms of Lord Cadogan, Lord of the Manor, who was once President of the club and who also held the subsidiary title Viscount Chelsea. The crozier alludes to the Abbott of Westminster whose jurisdiction extended over Chelsea in the reign of Edward the Confessor.
Today the lion leaps through a circus hoop over the letters CFC.