On this day in 1905, Chelsea FC was founded when businessman Gus Mears decided to create a football team for a stadium he was building at Stamford Bridge.
Determined to develop the sport in London – up to that point slow to embrace football with no team from the capital in the First Division – Mears sought to construct a stadium on an old athletics ground in the west of the city.
The project ran into trouble and Mears was prepared to give up on his dream until a famous incident during a Sunday stroll. Walking his dog with colleague Frederick Parker, Mears was about to shelve the entire thing unftil his dog took a bite at Parker’s leg.
The reaction from Mears set the Stamford Bridge project back in motion. Chelseafc.com recounts: “‘You took that bite damn well,” Mears announced before telling his accomplice he would now trust his judgement over others. “Meet me here at nine tomorrow and we’ll get busy,” he said. Stamford Bridge was alive once more.”
Fulham rejected an invitation to become tenants and so on the morning of March 10 1905, in a pub across the road from the stadium, a football club was formed. Stamford Bridge FC, Kensington FC and London FC were all proposed before the name Chelsea FC was chosen.
Having received a frosty welcome in attempts to enter the Southern League, on May 29th 1905, the Football League AGM dramatically elected Chelsea to the Second Division.
The first competitive game was on September 2nd 1905, a 1-0 defeat away at Stockport but Chelsea soon became a major attraction in the wealthy suburbs of west London.
“The crowds flocked to Stamford Bridge with 67,000 recorded against Manchester United on Good Friday of that first season. At the end of the second season, (Chelsea) were promoted to Division One.”
A first league title wouldn’t arrive until 1955. In 1970, Chelsea won the FA Cup after some near misses, and secured the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup a year later, defeating Real Madrid.
The club’s fortunes took a turn in the 1970s and 80s with relegation and the threatened loss of Stamford Bridge to property developers who subsequently went bankrupt. Acquired by owner Ken Bates in 1982, he reached agreement with the banks and the club took ownership of the grounds once more.
Under manager Rudd Gullit Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1997. Gianluca Vialli led the team to victory in the League Cup final, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final and the UEFA Super Cup but it was the arrival of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2003 who turned the Pensioners into one of England’s biggest football clubs of modern times.
Under manager Jose Mourinho, Chelsea won back-to-back league titles as well as the FA Cup and two league cups. In 2012, caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo led Chelsea to their first UEFA Champions League title, beating Bayern Munich 4–3 on penalties. The following season Rafa Benitez secured the Europa League for the club and now under the returned Mourinho, the Blues are again hunting the Premier League title.
Stamford Bridge stadium now has a capacity of 41, 837 and the complex includes two hotels, apartments, bars, restaurants, and club megastore.