Chester City: The Death Rattle – Part 14
It almost feels as if we should be apologising for the amount of time that has been given over to Chester City on this site over the last few weeks. However, this story has unravelled into one of the most extraordinary football stories of recent times, and it still is not being reported to the extent that it should be elsewhere. With all of this in mind, we are going to have a final go at bringing this ridiculous story up to speed and will then leave it be until the Football Conference’s extraordinary meeting on Friday morning. The cast list of rogues continues to grow, and the chances of the supporters getting what they want and need continues to ebb and flow.
It is difficult to remember a football club whose supporters have been batted from pillar to post quite as much as those of Chester City over the last few years. If we go back far enough, there were the three years that they spent being forced to travel across Cheshire to Macclesfield Town’s Moss Rose for home matches while the protracted construction of The Deva Stadium took place. Then there were the twin disasters of Mark Guterman and Terry Smith, which almost killed the club at the start of this decade. Even those guys, though, couldn’t quite manage to wreak the havoc upon the club that has been managed over the last year or so and, by the looks of it, will continue to be wreaked upon it for as long as those in a position to be able to do something about it allow it to happen.
As mentioned on here last night, the apparent sale of the club to a Danish website called Chester Projekt has been agreed by the Vaughan family, though it is pretty clear from this photograph on the Chester Chronicle’s website that Stephen Vaughan Senior (who, let us not forget, is now serving an eleven year ban fom acting as a company director) is very closely involved in this take-over, in direct contravention of the law and the FA’s Fit & Proper rules. His smile is a laugh, and it is aimed at everyone. It’s directed at the long-suffering supporters of Chester City, whom he finally articulated his true feelings about in an interview with Sky Sports News today. Again, unusual that he should be representing the club in the media. It’s not just the supporters of the club that he is laughing at, though. He’s laughing at the Danes that have bailed him out, and he’s laughing at the Football Conference and the Football Association, who parrot their fine words about financial propriety at football clubs but, when push came to shove, allowed him to walk over them time and time again.
The final time will come on Friday. At eleven o’clock on Friday morning at Rushden & Diamonds’ Nene Park, the Football Conference will meet to discuss expelling them from the league. Twenty-three BSP clubs and the eight divisional representatives from the Blue Square North and the Blue Square South will vote, and three-quarters will need to vote in favour of the recommendation to expel the club. It is not known whether abstentions will be completely null and void, or whether they will count as votes against the proposal. If eight votes go against the proposal, Chester City will stagger on for the time being. The Chester Projekt farce gives the Football Conference the perfect opportunity to cop out and vote against it. The selfish concerns of clubs that will vote against because they are too cowed to vote in favour of it or merely because they are utterly selfish and would find themselves a couple of points worse off if they did expel them will not be mentioned publicly. It may seem scarcely credible that they could act in such a way, but anyone that believes that they won’t should probably consider this comment, made by the chairman of Histon in this evening’s Cambridge Evening Post:
Clubs have been asked to vote on the future of another football club and we’ll have the blood on our hands if we vote Chester out. I don’t necessarily agree with it at all. Teams above us could lose up to 6 points (if Chester are expelled) and that could give us an outside chance of reaching the play-offs, so there could be a benefit there to us.
Standing accused alongside the Vaughan family is Palle Rasmussen of the Chester Projekt itself. This is an organisation that Chester Fans United were prepared to speak to over the future of the club, but their behaviour over the last couple of weeks has done nothing but anger and alienate the supporters of Chester City. To clarify, this is a brief timeline of what they have been up to:
- They launched a major media campaign in Denmark without contacting anyone from the Chester supporters group.
- They claimed, on their website, to have the 100% backing of CFU when they hadn’t (a complaint from CFU meant that this statement was removed from the site, but no retraction was published).
- They met with CFU in Chester last week and stated that they would not proceed with a bid to purchase the club if CFU did not wish them to.
- When they were requested not to proceed with a bid, went ahead with one anyway.
- Having submitted their bid and having had it accepted, they made various insulting and derogatory comments about CFU on a website. This is something that they have not apologised for.
The Vaughans may well cut and run, but Chester City’s total debt is £703,000, of which £218,000 isn’t owed to the family. Chester City are facing almost certain relegation from the Blue Square Premier at the end of this season, and it would be far from surprising if they were demoted considerably further as a result of their shenanigans since last summer. Chester Projekt would still be left with these debts and would also have to cover the ongoing running costs of the club. How long would it be before another winding up petition landed from HMRC for non-payment of tax? With no supporters – their comments about CFU and Chester supporters don’t seem likely to attract many of the 800 members of CFU back to the club any time soon – how are the running costs of the club going to be met? Palle Rasmussen has been described as suffering from “stress” this evening. This isn’t particularly surprising, and he will will receive scant sympathy in Chester over it.
Of course, the presence of Mark Wright in the photograph above provides us with some clues. Wright, a former manager of Chester City and a man whose depature from two clubs contained allegations of racism, is said to be a friend of Vaughan and it was his PR company that put the Danes in contact with Vaughan. This is somewhat confusing, as there had been no prior mention anywhere of Mark Wright owning a PR company or, indeed, any reference anywhere on the internet to such a company existing. One might expect a public relations company to seek to advertise itself, but Wright’s doesn’t even seem to have a website. Perhaps he should clarify the name of this company, so that its existence can be confirmed with Companies House.
So, the rules of the game have been smashed to pieces. The feelings of the supporters of the club concerned – the only people, it would seem, that actually want to do things properly – have been ignored, and they are openly now being laughed at by those that are seeking to divide and rule. Someone that is banned from being involved the management of a football club – indeed, is being from being or acting as any sort of company director – is involved in the running of a football club. The opportunity to lance this boil has been missed, dropped, thrown away and laughed out of court on occasions too numerous to mention. Small wonder that so many people think that there is something is rotten at the heart of English football. Indeed, the only question worth asking at this stage is whether it actually has a heart in the first place.