But is the CFU really ready to step in now? Paul Wheelock investigates
AS Chester City stand on the brink of being kicked out of the Blue Square Premier, City Fans United (CFU) has promised to do everything in its power to ensure the club celebrates its 125th anniversary next year.
One hundred and twenty-four years of history could today be wiped out if the Football Conference kick out the Blues for their failure to settle their footballing debts with the PFA, Wrexham and Vauxhall Motors.
And, on the eve of this afternoon’s emergency Conference board meeting in Birmingham, the signs do not look good, because as of last night, Chester had still not paid off approximately £12,500 they owe to Wrexham and Vauxhall Motors.
Many City supporters have now come to the heartbreaking conclusion that they would rather see the club, in its present form, cease to exist than watch it stumble from one crisis to the next. But what happens if the Blues are left without a league to play in?
This is where the CFU comes in. The unified supporters group, formed after the club nearly went out of business in the summer, already has more than 300 members and has aligned itself with the influential, government- backed Supporters Direct.
Although still very much in its infancy, the CFU is beginning to build a ‘war chest’ through fundraising events such as tonight’s Legends Night at the Divas Showbar. They are also keen to win the support of local businessmen, although their aim is to run the club as a supporter-owned, community-led venture like AFC Wimbledon.
So how ready would the CFU be if Chester fold today and they are charged with the task of forming a ‘phoenix’ club?
Lifelong fan Jeff Banks, one of nine members nominated to the CFU board, said: “It’s not going to be straight forward. We have spoken to Supporters Direct and also looked at the other supporter-owned clubs that operate successfully, for example AFC Telford United, AFC Wimbledon and Exeter City. There are successful examples out there.
“You must appreciate we’ve only just formed. We’re doing all that we can and we are currently working on a business plan. We’re receiving pledges on a daily basis and the membership is increasing every week. We know that Chester fans will rally to the cause when the time comes and when the money is really needed to save football in Chester. At this stage, money isn’t as a big an issue as time.
“We’d love local businesses to get behind the CFU. But anything the CFU does will be done by its membership. In the past, we’ve placed ourselves at the whim of one or a handful of individuals and we don’t plan to go down that road again.”
Central to the CFU’s plans is that Cheshire West and Chester Council allow a new club to continue playing at the Deva.
Banks, who said the CFU has had “informal” meetings with the council and has won the support of Chester MP Christine Russell, added: “The Deva Stadium is our home. The crucial thing is that Chester, whatever league it is playing in next season, celebrates its 125th anniversary.”
Cheshire West and Chester Council leader Mike Jones said: “Successive councils have done everything in their power to help keep Chester City FC in business. This authority remains committed to maintaining professional football in the city and, should it be necessary, will be more than willing to discuss the issue with anyone with the same aim in mind.
“However, the council also has an overriding responsibility to its tax payers and any decision on this issue must of course be taken with this factor in mind.”
The Chester Chronicle urges anyone who has Chester City in their heart to sign up to the CFU today. Membership costs £5. Visit the City Fans United page at www.chestercitytv.co.uk