Tuesday, 28 July 2009


Ok all you guys eagerly looking forward to the new season with multi-million pound Premier League teams. This is the other side of that very fat coin. Today Chester have had their CVA thrown out by the courts - this basically is the so-called agreement which allowed the financially-embarrassed club to be bought by new owners and prepare for the new season. Except that the new owners were actually the same as the old owners and the agreement wasn't actually an agreement at all because the tax and vat people hadn't signed up to it. Today the court agreed that the tax and vat people were fully justified in giving the plan short shrift, so the 'new' company can't go ahead and the prospects of us kicking off the campaign as scheduled on August 8th are looking more remote by the hour.
If all this results in the man who has steered the club to such a crisis, Stephen Vaughan, walking away then it won't have been in vain. It's time for a new start under (genuinely) new owners.

Friday, 24 July 2009


The latest development in the Chester City story is that HM Revenue and Customs are due to meet the club's administrators on Monday. This clearly means that the administrator failed to secure an agreed settlement with HMRC when the club was in admin. Without such agreement, the new club cannot proceed. No wonder the FA is refusing to let us play any matches. But what made the club's owners think they could put a team on the park when the set-up hasn't been approved by the governing body? Sadly typical of the blundering which has characterised the Deva for too long.

Thursday, 23 July 2009


This year's graduates from the Sports Journalism course are heading out into the world seeking jobs. It is not an easy task at the moment. Many of them are working for nothing, looking to improve their cvs and hoping to be in the right place should a vacancy crop up. But this is nothing new, and by way of example and encouragement I offer this tale which starts more than 25 years ago.
As sports editor of BBC Radio Merseyside I was delighted to have the services of an enthusiastic volunteer who turned up every weekend to work on the station's Sunday football show. This involved reading results from the various local amateur leagues on Merseyside, and compiling match reports from details sent in by the clubs. Soon my man began to head out to matches and report himself, using the reel-to-reel tape recorders we used in those days to interview the players and managers. He was good at it, so he began to pick up paid work filling in when staffers were on holiday. His agenda included off-beat reports like going up in a hot-air balloon and commentating on homing pigeons. Then a full-time contract became available and he was the obvious choice. He was in.
His agenda was now Liverpool and Everton, and his destinations were Wembley and various big venues across Europe including the 1985 European Cup Winners Cup Final. Then came a move to BBC TV, initially as an assistant producer with A Question of Sport in Manchester. From there he moved to TV Sport in London, climbed a few more rungs on the ladder, became established as a presenter and a personality in his own right and this week made headlines by becoming the new face of football on ESPN.
His name is Ray Stubbs.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


It is impossible to tell where tragedy divides from farce if you are a Chester City supporter. The latest development is that all our (I still say 'our' despite the club's efforts to alienate everyone who cares about them) pre-season friendlies have been cancelled because the club is being investigated by the FA's Compliance Unit. The FA are not satisfied with the way Chester emerged from administration last month, when the owner Stephen Vaughan did a deal which left the club's creditors out of pocket to the tune of 85% of money owed. The outcome is that Chester are not currently affiliated to the FA which means we can't play any organised football.
I'm delighted that the FA are looking into the situation. They have left small clubs to their own, often unsatisfactory, devices for too long. Clubs like Chester, sad to say, have conducted themselves poorly in almost every respect, with appalling performances on the pitch allied to equally dismal direction from the boardroom. The current issue of When Saturday Comes carries an interesting feature on Darlington who seem to have run out of friends much the same as we have.
In the wake of our relegation in May Mr Vaughan promised a searching review of the way the club is run. I doubt if a single supporter had any confidence that this review, if it ever happened, would produce any serious improvement, and here we are, building up to the new season with even more public humiliation. Marine, Telford, Liverpool and other clubs we were due to play must think Chester is a complete shambles.
And it gets no better. Today we've seen two players who were with us last season, Jay Harris and David Mannix, suspended by the FA after being found guilty of betting malpractice. It doesn't exactly make the heart sing.
The only positive signs - and believe me, I look hard every day to find any - have been the appointment of a sound football man in Mick Wadsworth as manager and the appointment of Eric Whalley to the board. Eric is well known as the man who inspired the revival of Accrington Stanley. I'm not quite sure what either of them will make of the challenge of working at the Deva Stadium but I can only hope that they have the courage and determination to make good decisions for the benefit of the club, team, fans and wider community, none of whom has much reason to anticipate the new season with pleasure.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


TV technology has seldom been used to better effect than in the BBC's current coverage of the Open Championship.
Replays in the new hi motion system, which provides a very slow replay while retaining the finest detail, of Tom Watson's swing demonstrate the key to successful golf in a way that mere words have never been able to emulate. Seeing the rock-steady positioning of the head while the rest of the body appears to rotate is to understand exactly what a succession of golf pro's have tried, and in this writer's case, failed to explain over a long period of time.
TV technology is brilliant when used appropriately. Sky's coverage of the Test is using the hotspot device which demonstrates precisely where the ball strikes - bat, pad, body. Again, this adds a lot to the viewer's appreciation.
Golf and cricket are ideal for this approach. There is time for the analysts to do their work while nothing is happening on the field. It doesn't work so well in fast-paced sports like football and rugby league where over-indulgence in video analysis occasionally means live action is missed.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


There's no doubt that the real winner in the ESPN takeover of Setanta's UK rights is Sky. Where will viewers access ESPN's matches next season? Via the Sky platform. Who will produce the match coverage for ESPN? Sky Sports. This is surely not the outcome that the European Commission was looking for when it tried to enforce elements of competition in the sports rights market.
But maybe Sky should not brag too loud or too long. ESPN plans to use its new foothold in the UK market to introduce a load of American TV sport which we don't have. It will not stop with football. And as part of the Disney organisation, ESPN has resources that Setanta could only dream about. When the next round of bidding for Premier League bundles comes along, Sky will face a much tougher opponent.

Monday, 13 July 2009


I've been away for a couple of weeks. Since my last update Setanta UK has folded. I received a document from the receivers inviting me to submit details of the money I am still owed. I haven't bothered to fill it in. As an unsecured creditor I will receive nothing and the amount I'm owed by Setanta UK is fortunately not that much. The following day, bizarrely, I received two cheques from Setanta. The cheques were both from Setanta Ireland which is still in business. Setanta Ireland has always been my main client - it's their producer in Dublin who assigns me matches and it's they who pay the majority of my fee and all my expenses. Because I've been abroad in Greece and Canada I couldn't pay the cheques into my account until today so I wait to see if they are of the rubber variety!