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Chester City fans rally to save club

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Arsenal fanzine writer and blogger Vic Crescit reports on a meeting of the Chester City Exiles in London last night (Thursday 11th February 2010). With their football club in disarray and facing expulsion from the Blue Square Premier League (aka the Football Conference), they’re mad as hell and they’re just not gonna take it anymore. Rant on, Vic.

As an Arsenal supporter it might not seem obvious why I’m interested in the fate of Chester City. Well I have a personal connection. Well, sort of. An old mate of mine, tragically taken from us far too early by cancer, always described himself as of “dual nationality” – Arsenal and Chester City. Born and brought up in London, family was from Chester and City was always his second team. Whenever they were playing in the south and Arsenal didn’t have a game he’d drag me along. He was famous amongst City’s dedicated away fans as “Cockney Mick”.

It wasn’t so long ago that Chester City was playing Arsenal in the League Cup – 1990/91 in fact. Lee Dixon, one of the members of Arsenal’s “No Goal Patrol” defence assembled by George Graham and continued by Arsène Wenger over so many successful seasons made 57 League appearances for Chester City before moving to Bury, Stoke City then Arsenal.

So Chester City is one of those clubs whose results I always look first every weekend. After hearing first hand from the City Fans United representative at the meeting last night I’m depressed. Very depressed. City will never be the biggest club in the world but their fans are as passionate about their club as any.

Under the ownership of Steven Vaughan, the latest in a succession of mad, bad and sad owners of the club at the Deva Stadium, the club has plumbed new lows of administrative and financial incompetence. Having failed to field a side in an away Conference fixture at Forest Green Rovers and having had to cancel their potentially lucrative England/Wales derby match against Wrexham, just over the border in Clwyd the club has been charged by the Blue Square League with failing to fulfil its fixtures. The local council has issued a prohibition notice under the club’s safety certificate which bans fans of both clubs from attending the City v Wrexham game having been notified by Cheshire Constabulary that they wouldn’t be providing police inside the ground due to outstanding bills.

Vaughan was recently disqualified from being a company director for a record eleven years by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills for his part in a Valued Added Tax fraud whilst chairman of Widnes Vikings rugby league club. He also ran Barrow AFC into the ground in a spell in charge there in the 1990s. You’d have thought football would have learnt its lesson about him then, wouldn’t you? Apparently not.

Despite being banned as a company director he still owns Chester City. He’s listed as the single biggest club creditor on a list issued by the solicitor attempting to sell the club with loans of over £400,000. The club must now appear at Football Conference disciplinary committee meeting next Thursday. The chances of a new owner with sufficiently deep pockets appearing on the scene and having sufficient time to check exactly who is currently owed what appear very slim.

The Conference will be desperate for the club to complete its fixtures no matter what. The club dropping out of the League or being booted out at this stage will open up a real can of worms. Other clubs in the League who’ve already picked up six points against them home and away won’t fancy having those points expunged.

The majority opinion of the board of City Fans United is to give up the ghost on the current club and organise a “phoenix” operation similar to that at Scarborough Athletic, set up after the former Scarborough FC was liquidated by the courts for non-payment of debts. This worries some Chester fans. That’s understandable. Any new club would almost certainly have to start life in either the second tier of the Northern Premier (aka Unibond) League, three tiers below their current level, or even the North West Counties League, four steps down from the Conference.

The dilemma is that if the club is put on some form of life support to get through to the end of the current season and no new credible owner or owners emerge then it would almost certainly be too late to join any league at all for next season. A horrible dilemma.

VERY serious questions have to be asked about how the FA, the Football League (from which Chester City was relegated to the Conference last season) and the Football Conference has stood by and allowed this to happen. There needs to be serious, VERY serious reform about who can own a club at any level and what controls are placed on clubs to stop them from running themselves into the ground. Professional football clubs at whatever level exist to serve their supporters and their wider communities. A simple fact which seems to have been forgotten by too many in the game.

They do not exist to enrich the pockets and/or the egos of the likes of the Glazer family at Manchester United, Hicks and Gillette at Liverpool, Portsmouth’s serial owners, the current spoofers at Notts County and Southend United, or those who allowed King’s Lynn, such a rich part of the game in East Anglia for so long, to slip out of existence last season.

The meeting last night heard sage advice from FSF national council member and AFC Wimbledon supporter Tim Hillyer. No stranger he to such issues. Chester City fans are now demanding a real say and real involvement. The very best of British luck to them I say. There’s an open public meeting for all interested in the future of Chester City organised by City Fans United. Details are as follows:

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 18TH 2010 – 7.30PM

CHESTER GUILDHALL
Watergate Street
ChesterCH1 2LA

You can find the City Fans United website at www.cityfansunited.com and for those City fans living in London and the sarf you can contact Chester City Exiles via exiles@chester-city.co.uk.

Let’s all spare a thought for the plight of Chester City fans. I’ll bet even some Wrexham fans, their bitterest local rivals, who’ve also had their own share of problems, wouldn’t wish what’s happening now on the lot from across the border.

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