TAKE a bow Cheshire basketball fans. You have secured the future of your team.
For having been pushed to the brink of extinction twice in the past four months, the club formerly known as Chester Jets is today reborn as Cheshire Phoenix.
And two of the men who helped pull the club from the abyss have admitted that without the fans they would not have stepped in.
Just 21 days after owner Haydn Cook had the Cheshire franchise taken off him, plunging the club into crisis, an action group comprising businessmen Andrew Donaldson and Terry Hearfield, basketball legend Mike Burton and Cheshire team manager Andy Green has reached their target of £50,000 to keep the club going.
Donaldson, a director of Chester firm BiG Storage, said: “In the middle of a recession to raise this kind of money from local businesses and fans is incredible. It has been a crazy few weeks but I could not have lived with my conscience if I had not tried to do something.”
And for Hearfield, of Frodsham-based Aspect Construction, the devotion of the club’s supporters, who helped attract sponsors and donated their own money, was key to his decision to step in.
“I didn’t know the club much, apart from my dealings as a sponsor with the previous owner,” he said. “Looking at the situation from outside it seemed like madness to get involved. But I quickly realised that the devotion of the fans is immense and they are among the most sincere people I have ever met.
“That is why we have endured the sleepless nights, why we have done the deals and attended the meetings to keep this club going. Now we have to bring stability to the club so its future is secure.”
In a statement BBL chief operating officer Andy Webb said the league had made the right call to step in: “The Cheshire franchise has a long history and is well supported by a dedicated team of professionals, passionate volunteers and fans. We had to support them in their endeavours to raise the necessary funds to secure the club.
“Today proves that we made the right decision.”
Cheshire Phoenix will become a not for profit Community Interest Club and will be run by the community for the benefit of the community.
In that vein they have already agreed a partnership with fan- owned Chester FC and the man who designed their crest – Martin Huxley – has produced a similar crest for the Phoenix.
There has also been a donation of 100 Phoenix T-shirts that will be sold at Sunday’s home game by Farndon Print and Design to raise money for the club.
The amount raised already is just enough to complete the season. Getting fans through the door is now crucial as is more sponsorship
“We still have space for a sponsor on the front of our shirts,” said Donaldson. “If we could sell that and other sponsorship on the kit we could strengthen the squad and who knows, we could turn a nightmare start to the season into a dream ending.”