Chelsea Football Club is a professional football club in Fulham, London, England, that competes in the Premier League, the highest tier of English football. The club has won six top division titles, eight FA Cups, five League Cups, four FA Community Shields, two UEFA Europa Leagues, two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, one UEFA Champions League, and one UEFA Super Cup.
Founded in 1905, the club’s home ground since then has been Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won its only First Division title in 1955, but saw limited success in various cup competitions until 2003, when the club was purchased by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Chelsea then saw heavy investment, and have since won 18 honours under Abramovich.
José Mourinho is the club’s most successful manager in terms of the number of major honours won, and his title-winning team set an English record for points between 2004 and 2005.[note 1]Chelsea have traditionally worn a royal blue kit with white socks, and the club’s crest features a ceremonial lion rampant regardant holding a staff. The club have rivalries with neighbouring teams Fulham, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur.
In terms of club value, Chelsea are the seventh most valuable football club in the world, worth £1.54 billion ($2.06 billion), and are the eighth highest-earning football club in the world, with earnings of over €428 million in the 2017–18 season. Based on attendance figures, the club have the sixth-largest fanbase in England.
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.