Saturday, 27 February 2010


I was at Burnley v Portsmouth today and normally I'd be listening out for the latest score from wherever Chester were playing. But not today and not for some time into the future. Yesterday my club was expelled from the Football Conference and that is pretty much that.

Bad news is still bad news even when it is expected. I doubt if I am the only Chester fan who will remember for the rest of our lives where we were when we heard the news. Of course if you're not a Chester fan this may sound like so much hyperbole, but think for a moment: what if this was YOUR club? I was in one of the broadcast rooms at the University of Central Lancashire when the news flashed up on the screen. It was a horrible feeling.

Of course we all knew it was coming. It was obvious for months that the club could not complete the season. Appalling business practices, an atmosphere of violence and intimidation, and alienation of the supporters, had been going on for years. But it was still a hammer blow.

I suspect the football authorities will want to wash their hands of the Chester saga as soon as possible. I doubt if the national media will bat an eyelid. That would be a mistake. There are many lessons which can be learned for the benefit of other clubs. One is the over-indulgence of the football authorities who should have clamped down on the Vaughan regime much sooner. And even more deserving of penetrating questioning is the administrator who took over the club last summer and unbelievably sold it straight back to Vaughan, the very man who had created Chester's crisis in the first place. This was akin to giving a convicted arsonist a can of petrol, a box of matches and a pat on the head. Who regulates these financial wizards? The administrator - Refresh Recovery of Skelmersdale - should be forced to answer for its actions. They were supposed to make decisions that would keep the company going. They made decisions that guaranteed its demise.

Among other lessons is that it always worth listening to the supporters. The fans are the only ones who have come out of this debacle with credibility. Their reading of events, as expressed on messageboards and by the City Fans United group, has been spot on.

So we have been kicked out of the league, and rightly so. What next? Unbelievably, things could get even worse. In less than two weeks the Chester City 2004 company faces a winding up order. If the Vaughan family contest this, or manage to hoodwink the court into allowing them to continue, we will be left with the ultimate lose-lose situation - the club with nowhere to play but the Vaughans still owning the company. The best solution is for the company to be wound up, leaving the way clear for the supporters to launch a phoenix club and start the long trek back to respectability.

And even here the waters are muddy. A group of football enthusiasts from Denmark have arrived on the scene, banding together through Facebook to come up with the spiffing wheeze of buying a football club. You guessed it, Chester. The Vaughans claimed to have sold it to them a week ago. Clearly they haven't. But the presence of the Danes is an unwelcome distraction. There is no evidence that they have the money or the knowledge to carry this scheme through and it is hard to avoid the fear that they will bite off far more than they can chew if they proceed.

So our season is over, our reputation is trashed, and we have no idea if we can launch a new club or not. Football Association, Football Conference, the Vaughan family, and Refresh Recovery: you have a lot to answer for.

No comments: