It is better to die standing than to live on your knees. The revolution came to a small corner of Cheshire this afternoon as what may end up being Chester City’s final match was abandoned with fifteen minutes to play after supporters invaded the pitch in protest at the continued involvement of the Vaughan family at their club. There had already been one pitch invasion during the first half and, with Chester having taken a 3-2 lead against struggling Eastbourne Borough, a second invasion led to the Eastbourne players leaving the pitch and refusing to re-enter the field of play.
The protests came at the end of another week during which the situation at The Deva Stadium continued to deteriorate. Rumours started to circle that the team was planning to go on strike and that manager Jim Harvey, who has done a little towards turning the teams fortunes around on the pitch, was set to also leave the club. This information found its way into the betting community (being mentioned in the same as the Weymouth youth team that lost 9-0 at home to Rushden & Diamondss after they were forced to field a youth team for a match between the two sides last season), leading to a run on the match that led to some bookmakers suspending betting on it.
The deadline for the club to have paid back its football creditors is Monday, and this has already been extended once. They needed a bumper crowd for their match this afternoon, but only reported a gate of only 862 people, a number that seemed to surprise the commentator on BBC Radio Merseyside, who was at the match. The story has made Sky Sports, the BBC and will give enormous amounts of publicity to their cause. Moreover, the overwhelming reaction to the protest has been one of support, even though Chester were actually winning the match at the time.
What alternative, one might ask, did they have? It is entirely possible that the club will be either expelled from the Blue Square Premier or bankrupt by the end of next week. It is a little bit late to worry about three points now. Reasond protests, stying away and highlighting the issue to the media haven’t made any difference. The football authorities, when given the opportunity to expel the club from football and get rid of the Vaughans once and for all in August, bottled the decision and allowed them to effectively laugh at them to their faces, weren’t any help. In the course of one afternoon, however, the clubs supporters have done more to publicise the imminent death of their club that any number of other protests might have done.
It is certainly worth pausing for a moment to reflect on how it all came to this. The humiliating relegation from the Football League, the attempt to enter into a CVA in circumstances so dubious that the court upheld a HMRC appeal against it. The questionable behaviour of Vaughan Senior at recent matches. The carousel fraud. The trail of unpaid bills and half-baked schemes to wriggle out of paying them by transferring a to b and hoping that either no-one would notice or that they would be unable to stop him jumping through legal loopholes. Finally, through an act of utter depseration, a final throw of the dice, Chester’s supporters have redeemed themselves, managed to get their message out to the football world and spoken for all of us with their revulsion at what has been done to their club.
Further Reading: Part Four, Part Three, Part Two, Part One, An Open Letter To Those Running Chester City Football Club, For The Sixteenth Time This Season… Chester City, Vaughan’s Chester & The Football Authorities – Can You Guess Who Blinked First?, Minus Twenty-Five For Chester, Chester City – The Tax Man Strikes Back, Chester’s Summer Crisis Continues, Chester City’s Administration And Stephen Vaughan