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In their last league match, Chester FC beat Skelmserdale United by four goals to nil to stay top of the Evostik League Division One North. It was their fifth successive league win and was watched by a crowd of over 2,700 people. By any measure that we choose to use, the work of City Fans United, who rebuilt the club after the death of Chester City earlier this year, has to be regarded as an enormous success. It shouldn’t, be forgotten that there was a period during which the possibility of the trust taking over the running of the club was in considerable doubt, thanks to the unwanted intervention of the Danish group Fodboldselskabet A/S, who first attempted to buy Chester City and then tried to secure the lease for The Deva Stadium ahead of CFU.
Anybody that thought that this Danish group might have learnt some lessons from this will probably get the chance to find out over the coming months after the group bought a fifty-one per cent share in Ryman League Premier Division club Croydon Athletic. Croydon made headlines themselves earlier this year after their owner, Mazhar Majeed, was caught by a hidden camera stating that he had laundered millions of pounds earned from global betting scams through Croydon Athletic’s accounts. Majeed’s assets were frozen by HMRC and the club’s manager, Tim O’Shea, left the club whilst, most tragically of all, the club’s chairman, David Le Cluse, took his own life at the start of October.
The Danes’ behaviour during their attempts to wrest control of senior football in Chester earlier this year was beyond reprehensible. Their attempts to smear the CFU after back-tracking on an agreement made by which they would stand aside in their attempts to take the club over if CFU wished to continue with starting a new club should have told anybody involved in football what their motives were – control, at any cost. Indeed, they persisted with this attempt even after Chester City died, launching a counter-bid to try and secure the least for council-owned Deva Stadium which only ended when Cheshire West & Chester Council awarded the lease to CFU. The crowd of 2,700 for the Skelmersdale match is vindication in itself of this decision.
It should come as no great surprise that Fodboldselskabet A/S are more than happy to work with a character such as Majeed, considering the company that they kept during the Chester take-over. They worked with the Vaughan family after Stephen Vaughan Senior had been disqualified from acting as a company director for eleven years for involvement in a carousel fraud during his time at the Widnes Vikings Rugby Football League club, and they were still dealing with Gary Metcalfe, a long-time associate of Vaughan, after Chester City had collapsed, when they claimed to have bought the fixtures and fittings to The Deva Stadium prior to the reallocation of its lease.
With 49% of the ownership of the club to remain in the hands of Majeed, the discredited current owner of the club will continue to be involved but in the case of Croydon Athletic there will be fewer fans for the Danes to upset. The Rams’ crowds have halved from around the 170 mark to around 85 for their last two matches. Whether this is to do with the foul stench that has emanated from their off the field affairs since the summer or down to their league form since the plug was abruptly pulled upon them is open to question, but what we can say with a degree of confidence is that Fodboldselskabet A/S will have to put on a charm offensive into order to persuade people back, rather than merely being offensive about them. We could be more confident of their ability to do this if it wasn’t for the reappearance of Palle Rasmussen amongst their number – Rasmussen being the original public face of the organisation who caused so much offence in Chester last season.
We would feel more inclined to offer Fodboldselskabet A/S a second chance were it not for several issues that cause concern. Firstly, there is the small matter of the fact that they were involved, first with the Vaughans and now with Majeed. There are dozens – to say the very least – of English football clubs that are living a hand to mouth existence or worse. We are unaware of them having been in discussion with any other clubs. Why do they keep on being associated with people at the absolute nadir of the spectrum of football club owners? Is there a newsletter that they are signed up to? Secondly, are they still claiming, as they were earlier this season, that non-Danes are not allowed to be members of their organisation, which would prevent Croydon Athletic supporters themselves from joining this “projekt”? Finally, has Rasmussen learnt a little civility towards people that don’t agree with his point of view over the last few months?
The supporters of Croydon Athletic may well be glad to see the back of 2010. The promotion that they managed earlier this may must seem like light years ago in comparison with the last few months of embarrassment and tragedy. Fodboldselskabet A/S have, hopefully learnt a few harsh PR lessons from their behaviour over the last few months and it is worth reminding them that they will remain under the spotlight for a while yet, especially considering their readiness to do business with the likes of the Vaughan family and Majeed. It seems absurd that, after everything that the supporters of Croydon Athletic have been through since the beginning of the summer, that we should be having to wish them good luck again, but we are, and with good reason.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
It is a long road back for Chester but even as a Wrexham fan I wish them well and good to see them getting decent sized crowds
Fortunately Croydon Athletic don’t have any supporters to worry about.
I’d feel so sorry for this team if it wasn’t Croydon… I followed the Chester story regarding Fodboldselskabet A/S closely last season as I’m a kettering fan and was highly interested.. I’ll watch this space!
The only positive that I can see in this for Croydon fans is that, when a couple of years down the line you’re forced to start your own phoenix club from scratch, it’s a great ride. Keep the faith – you’re going to need it.
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