Chelsea Nicknames: Where Does the Name Pensioners Come From?

Chelsea Football Club, to use its full and proper name, was founded in 1905 and many younger fans know the side as the Blues. However, a more historic, and less prosaic, nickname for the club is the Pensioners, but where does that name originate?

Why Are Chelsea Known as the Pensioners?

Royal Hospital Chelsea
Royal Hospital Chelsea (Camster2 | – CC BY-SA 3.0)

Chelsea’s nickname of “Pensioners”, stems from the club’s association with the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, which has housed British war veterans since 1692. These veterans became known as the “Chelsea Pensioners”, and this name then became attached to the football club, which would often be frequented by the Pensioners themselves, and still is to this day. These fans are rather easy to spot because they traditionally don the famous scarlet uniform that is actually mandatory for them in certain circumstances.

The hospital provides care and companionship for war veterans, and with many of Chelsea’s players joining the efforts in both World Wars, a number of ex-players have ended up joining the Chelsea Pensioners, maintaining this association between military service and the football club even stronger. For the first 50 years or so of Chelsea’s history, the nickname Pensioners was at the very heart of the club’s values and identity, with the club’s badge consisting of the figure of a Chelsea Pensioner from 1905 until 1952.

How Important Is Chelsea’s Association with the Pensioners to This Day?

Old logo with Chelsea Pensioner
Chelsea’s old logo with a Chelsea Pensioner

Despite the nickname itself no longer being in common use, and the removal of the pensioner from Chelsea’s badge, the Chelsea Pensioners remain an important part of the club, with a section of seats reserved for the veterans at every home game, maintaining their century-long connection to the club and to Stamford Bridge.

Not only this, but when the Blues clinched the Premier League title in both the 2005/06 and 2009/10 seasons, the Chelsea Pensioners were used to form a guard of honour for the players, before the trophy was then presented to the team.

Why Was the Pensioner Removed from the Chelsea Badge?

Chelsea FC logo
Chelsea’s current logo

Despite being a key part of their early history, under legendary boss, Ted Drake, it was decided that the Pensioner needed to be removed from the club’s badge. This decision was made as Drake believed that, in order for the club to achieve greater success, Chelsea needed to be more ruthless and aggressive, and having a more professional-looking badge and appearance would be key to this.

Whether such logic really holds up is debatable but one might well say that it worked, considering that Drake guided the Blues to their first ever league title in 1955. The Pensioner was therefore replaced by the famous “Lion Rampant Regardant” holding a staff, which remains a key part of Chelsea’s current badge, with the design inspired by the coat of arms of the borough of Chelsea, alongside three roses to represent England.

In fact, the Pensioner insignia actually never appeared on a shirt, with the first ever Chelsea kits to feature a club badge sporting the Chelsea lion. The lion embodied Drake’s aggressive and no-nonsense approach to football, encouraging bravery and determination, perhaps more than an old military man did. It did, however, lose some of what had made Chelsea FC unique in the process.

Why Are Chelsea Known as the Blues?

The Blues
The Blues (Ben Sutherland | – CC BY 2.0)

Any guesses? This might not be too much of a tough trivia question! The “Blues” nickname of course stems from the colour of Chelsea’s kit. The nickname itself rose in popularity after Chelsea changed their kit to an all-blue strip with white socks, which was fairly unique for the time, as almost every other team had different colour shirts and shorts.

The “Blues” is a far more business-like nickname than the Pensioners, some might even say it is a little bland. The Pensioners moniker was far more unique, but unfortunately, is no longer widely used. Although the association between the Royal Hospital’s veterans and the club remains, the removal of the Pensioner from the club’s identity has effectively killed off the nickname over time.

Do Chelsea Have Any Other Nicknames?

Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich (John Dobson | – CC BY-SA 2.0)

A name that rival fans have often used in a derogatory way, especially in recent years, is “Chelski”, a reference, of course, to Roman Abramovich’s ownership of the club, with the Russian billionaire buying Chelsea back in 2003 and remaining in charge until 2022, when he resigned following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This mildly derogatory name is typically associated with the fact that, prior to the billionaire’s almost endless investment into the club, Chelsea had only managed to win a singular league title and a handful of other trophies. In clear contrast, under Abramovich, they won everything, including six Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues.

Another nickname for the Blues, which is very rarely used, is “Bentley’s Boys”, which referred to club legend Roy Bentley, who captained Chelsea to their first ever league title in 1955. A success which was, of course, achieved under anti-pensioner, Ted Drake!