The Decline, Fall And Rebirth Of Chester City
Was it really two years ago? I am in the middle of rebuilding this site for a summer relaunch, and some of the new pages that will be available will be covering various running themes that we have gone into over the course of the last five years or so. I thought that I may as well put these up as posts as well, so that you can trace back some of longer running sagas. As some of you may already be aware, one of the most persistent themes of the 2009/10 season was the fall from grace of Chester City. Here’s how we reported their story at the time.
1. Chester City’s Administration & Stephen Vaughan: Very briefly, during a round-up of clubs in crisis at the start of May 2009, we reported that Chester City, who had just been relegated from the Football League, were due to enter into administration. This article, first written on the 18th of May 2009, brought together Stephen Vaughan’s dealings during his time at Barrow AFC and some of the previous goings-on at The Deva Stadium.
2. Chester’s Summer Crisis Continues: By the start of July 2009, it was becoming apparent that the problems at Chester City were more than merely being a matter of the club entering into administration when the FA refused to renew their licence to play until certain issues relating to their off-the-field situation had been resolved.
3. Chester City – The Taxman Bites Back: Perhaps the FA were already aware that Chester’s CVA application had been challenged by HMRC, who had it overturned at court. Detailsof it emerged at the time, including that the creditors included a £143, 750 for services to a company called Hannah Industrial Services, which had only been trading for a matter of weeks.
4. Minus Twenty-Five For Chester: The compromise achieved between the Football Conference, the Football League and the FA after the failure of the CVA application allowed Chester City to start the season with a twenty-five point deduction, when they shouldn’t really have been allowed to start the season in the first place.
5. Vaughan’s Chester & The Authorities – Can You Guess Who Blinked First?: In addition to being a breach of FA rules, the decision to allow Chester City to start the season was also a breach of Football Conference rules. We may never establish what the logic was behind the decision to allow the club to start the season was, but the FA was concerned enough to instruct them to postpone their first two matches of the season.
6. For The Sixteenth Time This Season… Chester City: All went quiet for a while as the season got under way, but this only last until the start of October, when a message on the club’s website (now deceased) detailed the club’s financial situation in more detail and confirmed that it was losing almost as much as its annual turnover every season.
7. An Open Letter To The Owners Of Chester City: By this time, the supporters had organised themselves and mobilised into an organisation called City Fans United. One of their first actions was to send an open letter to the owners of the club, which included a questioning of the wisdom of the club’s decision to close its centre of excellence.
8. Chester City: The Death Rattle, Part One: Chester City’s financial difficulties were beginning to spiral out of control again by the end of October, and a complete player embargo was put in place after the club failed to pay its share of gate receipts to Wrexham and Vauxhall Motors. For the first time, we stated that, “It is surely clear that a new club is the only way forward for the supporters of Chester City”.
9. Chester City: The Death Rattle, Part Two: The Football Conference’s decision to adjourn a decision over the future of the club was the subject of our ire on the 22nd of October, and we also took a moment to question the wooliness of their public statement on the matter.
10. Chester City: The Death Rattle, Part Three: It then became apparent that The Insovency Service had already been investigating Stephen Vaughan over a case of carousel fraud relating to his ownership of the Widnes Vikings RFLC. Vaughan accepted an eleven year disqualification from acting as a company director, which should theoretically have meant that his involvement in the club ceased.
11. Chester City: The Death Rattle, Part Four: As the debate over whether or how Vaughan could still be acting for the club having just accepted his disqualification, a Chester City supporter was reported to have enquired about taking it over. The price that he was quoted for it was £750,000, and when he enquired about the club’s full financial position, he was informed that, “there was no need for us to know this information”.
12. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Five: With the deadline for the club’s football creditors to be paid close, Chester City played Eastbourne Borough at The Deva Stadium, only for a pitch invasion to cause the abandonment of the match. Although not organised by City Fans United, the story made national headlines and pushed their story up the agenda in the mainstream media.
13. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Six: Talks the following Monday led to the club being allowed to continue to play, but it was clear by this time that Chester City were starting to try the patience of even the Football Conference. Meanwhile, the club’s supporters were mobilising for further protests.
14. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Seven: Chester City were twenty-four points from safety in the Blue Square Premier, but they paid up the debts to their football creditors and were allowed to limp on. Meanwhile, we noted the extent to which crowds at The Deva Stadium had already started to plummet.
15. Chester’s Near Miss: There was a chink of light for Chester’s supporters just after Christmas, when it was announced that the serial asset-stripper John Batchelor had joined the list of those banned from acting as company directors. Batchelor died in April 2010. On the other hand, though, another bete noire of this site, Morrell Maison, was now sniffing around.
16. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Eight: The new year started with revolution in the air. By now, Maison was installed as the director of football, with rumours that he had bought a share in the club. And meanwhile, there was talk on the club’s supporters’ forum of a boycott…
17. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Nine: A record low crowd for the club of 425 saw Chester City’s home league match against Salisbury City. With or without an official boycott, the end was obviously in sight. Meanwhile, names as bizarre as Frank Warren’s were being associated with a buy-out of the club.
18. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Ten: Within a couple of days, the boycott was official and the club was incurring the wrath of the Football Conference again after only sending Chief Executive Bob Gray to a critical meeting with them. By this time, a winding up order had been issued and Stephen Vaughan Jr was sending text messages from his dad’s phone to the CFU.
19. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Eleven: To no-one’s surprise, CFU didn’t take up the option. A group of Norwegian students, however, were interested. What was critical by this time, though, was that, “what may be in the best interests of any group or individual seeking control of the club may well not be in the best interests of sustainable, community-focussed football in Chester”.
20. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Twelve: When Chester failed to fulfil their fixture at Forest Green Rovers, the writing was on the wall for the club. There were conflicting rumours of what exactly happened on the day of the match, but it was now only a matter of time before the club closed.
21. Chester City: The Truth Of The Debt Revealed: Perhaps the point of no return was the leaking of a document listing debts acculmulated by the club since the summer of 2009. It confirmed that the club had already run up a debt – or alleged debt – of just over £700,000 in six months. Meanwhile, Mike Harris of the Welsh Premier League side The New Saints already seems to be preparing his move for The Deva Stadium.
22. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part 13: So, it was time to take another look at how Vaughan still seemed to be very much acting as a director of the club even though disqualified, while the Danish consortium looking to buy the club also appeared on the scene for the first time, covering themselves in glory by stating that they had the full support of CFU when they didn’t.
23. Chester City Reportedly Sold To The Danes: The Chester Projekt, as the Danes were calling themselves by this time, were in full flow by now, putting their feet well and truly in it at every single turn. Was there anything in it, though, or was this just a desperate attempt to persuade the Football Conference to allow the clu to stagger on until the end of the season?
24. Chester City, The Death Rattle, Part Fourteen: The Football Conference was due to be meeting to discuss expelling the club from its league. With the Danish group still looking into taking it over, it was time to take a closer look at their behaviour.
25. Chester City, The End Of The Road & The Rebirth: The club was formally expelled from the Football Conference on the 25th of February. It was time, therefore, to collect out thoughts and wish CFU all the best in their attempts to raise football in the city from the dead.
26. Chester City: The Death, The Funeral & The Wake: Two weeks after the club was expelled by the Football Conference, the formality of winding up the club at the High Court could be put through, meaning the end of Chester City FC. It was time for supporters of the club to at least hope and believe again.
27. The Chester City Aftermath: Meanwhile, the Football Conference was getting itself tied up in knots over what to do with its league arrangements once Chester had been expelled.
28. What Chester Did Next: City Fans United, then, pressed on with their plans for a new vision of football in Chester. The Danes were still sniffing around, but plans were already well advanced for a new club to start again.
29. Chester City Gets The Deva Stadium: After the closure of the club, the lease on the council-owned Deva Stadium reverted to the authorities, but the CFU bid for the ground wasn’t the only one on the table. In spite of being roundly told that they weren’t wanted, the Danish consortium that had previously been linked with Vaughan still submitted a bid for the lease themselves. CFU won, however, and it was a time for a new start for football in the city.
30. As Stephen Vaughan Goes To Prison: Chester FC, One Year On: Stephen Vaughan was sentenced to fifteen months in prison at North Liverpool Community Justice Centre for punching a policeman in March. Meanwhile, Chester FC were at the top of Division One North of the Evostik League.
31. It Couldn’t Have Been Any Closer: And on the last day of the season… Chester FC were promoted, by the skin of their teeth, as champions of their league at the end of their first season. Everybody loves a happy ending, don’t they?
Follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter here.