London - Chelsea are considering leaving Stamford Bridge to move to a new stadium at nearby Earls Court, according to a report in Tuesday's Guardian.
It has been well-known for some time that Chelsea feel they need to have a stadium of at least 60 000 capacity so as not to have a commercial disadvantage against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, whose stadiums have capacities of 76 000 and 60 000 respectively.
Stamford Bridge holds only 41 000 and with a graveyard on one side and a railway line on the other, there is little room for expansion.
Various sites have been mooted for a possible move, but it now appears the favourite is Earls Court exhibition centre, around half a mile to the north and east.
According to the Guardian, discussions have been kept secret because the move could torpedo a plan by the leading architect Sir Terry Farrell to transform Earls Court into a new residential enclave with more than 8 000 new homes.
The scheme enters the latest phase of public consultation this week and is being undertaken with fellow landowners, Transport for London and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
"The discussion is now on again," said a source close to the deal.
"It is largely because the owners are progressing alternative uses for the site and there's lots more urgency for Chelsea to make a decision. From Chelsea's point of view this is their last opportunity to get a new ground and stay in the same area they have been in for over a century."
Representatives of Chelsea have met the site's owner, Capital and Counties, and are deciding whether to pursue a bid.
Earls Court will be demolished after hosting the volleyball competition at the 2012 Olympic Games.
It has hosted concerts by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Oasis and Madonna, as well as events such as the Ideal Homes Exhibition and the Boat Show, but its viability has been compromised by the growth of other venues, most notably the O2 Arena at the Millennium Dome.
Chairman Bruce Buck said it was "very difficult for us to make the philosophical decision that we are going to move on," but conceded that the lack of capacity at Stamford Bridge left it out of pocket compared with other clubs.
"Certainly we wouldn't leave west London or thereabouts and there are very few sites available," he said.
"We have to do things with our other commercial activities to make up the deficit that is created by the fact we don't have a 60 000 seat stadium. We can't say that we will never move or have a new stadium but at the moment, it's not at the front of our agenda."