Chelsea Football Club is an English professional football club based in Fulham, London, that competes in the Premier League, of which they are reigning champions. Founded in 1905, the club’s home ground since then has been Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea had their first major success in 1955, when they won the league championship. They then won various cup competitions between 1965 and 1971. The club’s greatest period of success has come during the last two decades; winning 18 major trophies since 1997. Chelsea have won six national league titles, seven FA Cups, five League Cups and four FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, one UEFA Europa League and one UEFA Super Cup. Chelsea are the only London club to win the UEFA Champions League, and one of five clubs and the first British club, to have won all three of UEFA’s major club competitions.
Chelsea’s regular kit colours are royal blue shirts and shorts with white socks. The club’s crest has been changed several times in attempts to re-brand the club and modernise its image. The current crest, featuring a ceremonial lion rampant regardant holding a staff, is a modification of the one introduced in the early 1950s. The club have the sixth-highest average all-time attendance in English football. Their average home gate for the 2016–17 season was 41,507, the sixth highest in the Premier League. Since 2003, Chelsea have been owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. In 2016, they were ranked by Forbes magazine as the seventh most valuable football club in the world, at £1.15 billion ($1.66 billion).
In 1904, Gus Mears acquired the Stamford Bridge athletics stadium with the aim of turning it into a football ground. An offer to lease it to nearby Fulham was turned down, so Mears opted to found his own club to use the stadium. As there was already a team named Fulham in the borough, the name of the adjacent borough of Chelsea was chosen for the new club; names like Kensington FC, Stamford Bridge FC and London FC were also considered. Chelsea were founded on 10 March 1905 at The Rising Sun pub (now The Butcher’s Hook), opposite the present-day main entrance to the ground on Fulham Road, and were elected to the Football League shortly afterwards.
The club won promotion to the First Division in their second season, and yo-yoed between the First and Second Divisions in their early years. They reached the 1915 FA Cup Final, where they lost to Sheffield United at Old Trafford, and finished third in the First Division in 1920, the club’s best league campaign to that point. Chelsea attracted large crowds and had a reputation for signing big-name players, but success continued to elude the club in the inter-war years.
Former Arsenal and England centre-forward Ted Drake became manager in 1952 and proceeded to modernise the club. He removed the club’s Chelsea pensioner crest, improved the youth set-up and training regime, rebuilt the side with shrewd signings from the lower divisions and amateur leagues, and led Chelsea to their first major trophy success – the League championship – in 1954–55. The following season saw UEFA create the European Champions’ Cup, but after objections from The Football League and the FA Chelsea were persuaded to withdraw from the competition before it started. Chelsea failed to build on this success, and spent the remainder of the 1950s in mid-table. Drake was dismissed in 1961 and replaced by player-coach Tommy Docherty.
Docherty built a new team around the group of talented young players emerging from the club’s youth set-up and Chelsea challenged for honours throughout the 1960s, enduring several near-misses. They were on course for a treble of League, FA Cup and League Cup going into the final stages of the 1964–65 season, winning the League Cup but faltering late on in the other two. In three seasons the side were beaten in three major semi-finals and were FA Cup runners-up. Under Docherty’s successor, Dave Sexton, Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1970, beating Leeds United 2–1 in a final replay. Chelsea took their first European honour, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup triumph, the following year, with another replayed win, this time over Real Madrid in Athens.
The late 1970s through to the ’80s was a turbulent period for Chelsea. An ambitious redevelopment of Stamford Bridge threatened the financial stability of the club, star players were sold and the team were relegated. Further problems were caused by a notorious hooligan element among the support, which was to plague the club throughout the decade. In 1982, Chelsea were, at the nadir of their fortunes, acquired by Ken Bates for the nominal sum of £1, although by now the Stamford Bridge freehold had been sold to property developers, meaning the club faced losing their home. On the pitch, the team had fared little better, coming close to relegation to the Third Division for the first time, but in 1983 manager John Neal put together an impressive new team for minimal outlay. Chelsea won the Second Division title in 1983–84 and established themselves in the top division, before being relegated again in 1988. The club bounced back immediately by winning the Second Division championship in 1988–89.
After a long-running legal battle, Bates reunited the stadium freehold with the club in 1992 by doing a deal with the banks of the property developers, who had been bankrupted by a market crash. Chelsea’s form in the new Premier League was unconvincing, although they did reach the 1994 FA Cup Final with Glenn Hoddle. It was not until the appointment of Ruud Gullit as player-manager in 1996 that their fortunes changed. He added several top international players to the side, as the club won the FA Cup in 1997 and established themselves as one of England’s top sides again. Gullit was replaced by Gianluca Vialli, who led the team to victory in the League Cup Final, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final and the UEFA Super Cup in 1998, the FA Cup in 2000 and their first appearance in the UEFA Champions League. Vialli was sacked in favour of Claudio Ranieri, who guided Chelsea to the 2002 FA Cup Final and Champions League qualification in 2002–03.
In June 2003, Bates sold Chelsea to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for £140 million. Over £100 million was spent on new players, but Ranieri was unable to deliver any trophies, and was replaced by José Mourinho. Under Mourinho, Chelsea became the fifth English team to win back-to-back league championships since the Second World War (2004–05 and 2005–06), in addition to winning an FA Cup (2007) and two League Cups (2005 and 2007). Mourinho was replaced by Avram Grant, who led the club to their first UEFA Champions League final, which they lost on penalties to Manchester United.
In 2009, Guus Hiddink guided Chelsea to another FA Cup success. In 2009–10, his successor Carlo Ancelotti led them to their first Premier League and FA Cup “Double”, and becoming the first English top-flight club to score 100 league goals in a season since 1963. In 2012, caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo led Chelsea to their seventh FA Cup, and their first UEFA Champions League title, beating Bayern Munich 4–3 on penalties, the first London club to win the trophy. In 2013, interim manager Rafael Benítez guided Chelsea to win the UEFA Europa League against Benfica, becoming the first club to hold two major European titles simultaneously and one of four clubs, and the only British club, to have won all three of UEFA’s major club competitions. In the summer of 2013, Mourinho returned as manager, leading Chelsea to League Cup success in March 2015, and their fifth league title two months later. In 2015–16, Chelsea recorded their lowest Premier League finish in twenty years, placing 10th in the table. The following year(2016-2017), under new coach Antonio Conte, Chelsea won its sixth English title.