Chester City - Gone After 125 Years

Not a lot of sympathy seems to have been shown for the demise of Chester City. They were never the most successful club, or the most influential, but for their fans and their community, they still meant something. Past players have included Ian Rush, Lee Dixon and Michael Owen’s father, Terry.

125 years of serving their community, never in a division higher than the third tier of the English league system. Geographically challenged, their ground straddled the border with Wales, and their local derby was with the north Wales side, Wrexham. But how come a club like this no longer exists ?

Well, the company that owned Chester City faced a winding up order from HMRC over an unpaid tax bill. Bearing in mind that Portsmouth owes the same department over £15m, Cardiff City nearly £2m and the total across the top four divisions is around £25m, the bill of just £26,125 which saw to the demise of Chester seems somewhat harsh.

Chester have had financial difficulties in the past, of course, and the council who own the Deva Stadium have often been left chasing late, or non-payment of rent. The club were thrown out of the Conference though, and with no match day money coming in, there was very little chance of it paying off even the smallest of bills.

All this raises some issues though. With the crazy amounts of money washing around the top divisions, how has some of this not filtered down to sides like Chester ? £26k is weekly wage of some extremely average Premiership players, and situations like this highlight the gulf between the 'haves and the have nots' of the sport.

It also raises the question of what the Football Association, or the Football Conference, could have done, if anything, to offer assistance to Chester. Two games were cancelled because both the players and the police hadn't been paid. But, if the game against Wrexham had gone ahead, a sell out crowd of nearly 6,000 would have provided a financial boost and maybe tied them over. The Conference, after the second postponement, recommended expulsion from the league, and this sounded the death knell for the club.

So, now Chester have to create a new company, regroup, and enter the league again from the bottom. The club will use AFC Telford and AFC Wimbledon as templates, and have already started canvassing the fans to come up with a name for the new club that will be reborn from the ashes. The fact that 1,000 or so supporters have signalled their support should be applauded.

How often, though, is this situation likely to be replicated across the country, as the economic crisis takes its toll on the smaller and more vulnerable clubs ? Will the footballing authorities continue to close a blind eye to what is going on, and will the tax man continue to show no mercy ? If so, we'll see many more club close their doors in the next couple of years.

Reader Comment

'The expulsion of the club from the Conference and the subsequent winding up order was supported by many of the fans, on the basis that liquidation was the only way to remove the owner. The last thing we needed was another lifeline being granted by the Wrexham game going ahead - also bear in mind that the safety certificate had been withdrawn by then anyway, and the 6,000 capacity reduced to 2,300. It's also important to realise that £26,000 was just one debt the company had outstanding.

As for a lack of sympathy, the fans of other clubs have been brilliant with their positive comments and offers of support. I can't wait for the new club to kick off next year, in whatever league we're in, and I'll be able to support a team I can be proud of again'.

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