Chelsea FC Women are the most successful club in the history of the Women’s Super League, having won a record five WSL titles since the competition’s inaugural season in 2011/12. The Blues have also lifted four Women’s FA Cups and two Women’s League Cups, making them a force to be reckoned with in women’s football. But many people ask the question, where do they play? And, have they ever played at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea’s men’s side?
We will answer both these questions in this article, and we’ll also take a look at some of the previous grounds that Chelsea Women have called home since their formation way back in 1992.
Where Do Chelsea Women Currently Play?
Chelsea Women currently play at Kingsmeadow, a football ground located in Norbiton, Kingston-upon-Thames. The ground holds a maximum of 4,850 fans, or 2,256 seated, a far cry from the 40,343 capacity of Stamford Bridge. Kingsmeadow is also the home of Chelsea U21s, who play their home fixtures in the PL2 at the ground. However, the stadium has only recently become the home of Chelsea Women, as it was previously home to two different lower-league men’s teams: League Two’s AFC Wimbledon, and semi-professional side Kingstonian FC.
History of Kingsmeadow
Kingsmeadow was built by Kingstonian FC in 1989, following the sale of their original ground, Richmond Road. However, after the club were relegated from the National League, the fifth tier of English football, in 2001, they entered administration, forcing them to give up the lease to Kingsmeadow. This lease was then purchased by property developer Rajesh Khosla, who also purchased Kingstonian. Khosla then sold this lease to the newly established AFC Wimbledon, who then began to share the ground with Kingstonian, as well as renaming Kingsmeadow to the “Fan’s Stadium”.
The stadium was shared in this capacity until 2017, when it was purchased by Chelsea as a new home for their women’s team and the U21 side, making Chelsea Women one of the few WSL clubs who don’t have to rent their ground. This move also simultaneously turfed out poor Kingstonian, who had no say in the matter!
Although the Blues purchased the ground in 2015, Chelsea Women only made it their home in 2017 and have played there ever since. Although there has been some recent controversy regarding the quality of the ground.
Frozen Pitch Incident
The suitability of Kingsmeadow as the home of the most successful English women’s team came under fire recently, after a match between the Blues and Liverpool had to be abandoned after just six minutes due to a frozen pitch, which was deemed to be unplayable mid-game by the match officials. WSL grounds generally do not have under-soil heating and given that Chelsea boss Emma Hayes described the pitch as an “ice rink”, it seems crazy that the match wasn’t called off by the FA prior to kick-off, especially considering that fans had travelled to the ground for just six minutes of footy!
This raised an important question of whether more investment should be ploughed into women’s football stadiums, considering the exponential growth in popularity of the women’s side of the sport. A 2022 WSL game between Arsenal and Spurs drew a crowd of 47,367 fans, showing that – if done properly – there is plenty of interest in the women’s game. There isn’t a shortage of money either!
Where Did Chelsea Play Before Kingsmeadow?
Since their formation in 1992, Chelsea Women have played at a number of different grounds, many of which were temporary and small, including grounds, such as Imber Court, the home stadium of the Metropolitan Police! However, since 2011, the club have had three permanent homes: Imperial Fields, Wheatsheaf Park, and Kingsmeadow.
- Location: Mitcham, South London
- Capacity: 3,500 (612 seated)
- Years Played: 2011-2012
- Current Teams: Tooting & Mitcham United, Kingstonian FC
Imperial Fields was the short-lived home of Chelsea Women for a single season back in 2011/12, the inaugural campaign of the WSL. In fact, the south London ground actually hosted the first ever WSL game, played between Chelsea Women (known as Chelsea Ladies at the time) and Arsenal Ladies, with the match finishing 1-0 to the Gunners.
The ground was a stepping stone for Chelsea Women, but both its location and facilities didn’t seem befitting of a top WSL side, and they quickly moved on. The ground has been home to non-league Tooting & Mitcham since it was first built in 2002, and has been shared by former tenants of Kingsmeadow, Kingstonian, since 2022.
- Location: Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex
- Capacity: 3,002
- Years Played: 2012-2017
- Current Teams: None (following the disbandment of Staines Town)
Wheatsheaf Park was home to Chelsea Women between 2012 and 2017, a ground they shared with the recently-disbanded Staines Town. Staines were a semi-professional side who had called Wheatsheaf Park home since 1951 yet dissolved after a legal dispute with their landlord in 2022.
When Chelsea women first moved to the ground, they were only a part-time professional side, but this quickly changed. By 2015, the club had won the league and cup double, and almost all of their players were full-time professionals, as the Blues embarked on a hugely successful run, and the WSL continued to develop and grow in popularity.
Furthermore, after Chelsea Women secured a place in the 2015/16 UEFA Women’s Champions League, Wheatsheaf Park had to be approved as a Category 1 UEFA Stadium, which, given that it was a non-league ground, perhaps started to suggest that the club might have out-grown it. The club therefore moved to Kingsmeadow in 2017, where they at least no longer had to share their ground with a lower-league men’s side, although they do of course share the ground with Chelsea’s U21 team.
Have Chelsea Women Played at Stamford Bridge?
Although women’s football has dramatically grown in popularity and viewership in recent times, especially after the historical success of England’s Lionesses at Euro 2022, most WSL teams are still playing at their own, smaller stadiums, rather than sharing the club’s main grounds. There are currently only two WSL sides that are sharing with their male counterparts: Leicester City and Reading, who play at the 32,000-capacity King Power Stadium and 24,000-capacity Madejski Stadium respectively.
For the majority of WSL teams, they will play just one or two games a year at their men’s ground, and these are usually one-off, high-profile fixtures such as local derbies. Over the years, Chelsea Women have played several games at Stamford Bridge, but these have generally been exhibition fixtures or London derbies. For example, the Blues kicked off their 2022/23 season with a WSL match against West Ham at Stamford Bridge, which they won 3-1 to kick off their pursuit of a fourth consecutive league title. A similar fixture was also played against Tottenham in 2019, where 25,000 fans were in attendance at Stamford Bridge.