City banking firm MBNA has extended its sponsorship of fan-owned Chester FC until 2019.
The credit card giant has backed the phoenix club since it was reborn under supporter ownership in 2010 after the demise of Chester City.
Long-standing commercial relationships are rare in the game so MBNA’s decision to continue supporting Chester for at least three more years represents a huge boost to the Vanarama National League outfit.
And the Chester Business Park-based operation will now sponsor the club’s new women’s team in addition to the first-team and the club’s community trust (CFCCT).
Ian O’Doherty, chief executive of MBNA, said: “We are incredibly proud to support Chester FC as it continues to build on its recent successes.
“The club is the beating heart of the community and we want to continue our sponsorship and increase our support by investing in the development of the women’s team.
“MBNA is a major employer in Chester and many of our staff are regulars at the Lookers Vauxhall Stadium. It gives us all a sense of pride when we see the work the club does in schools and with members of the community – young and old – to provide coaching and community activities.
“To know that we have helped make that possible is really special.”
The partnership with MBNA involves the first-team squad training at the firm’s Field of Dreams facility and its support for CFCCT has seen club launch walking football sessions for over-55s and run more than 30 soccer schools coaching over 750 children during school holidays.
In addition, the trust works with two youth disability groups to support more than 40 young people, provides work placements for up to 23 students from schools, colleges and universities and engages with the public through community days.
Chester manager Steve Burr said: “I am delighted that MBNA has renewed its contract as principal sponsor.
“Its support of the first-team extends beyond the name on the shirt. MBNA is an excellent host for our training sessions and always approachable regarding matters that can help us be successful on the pitch.”
“MBNA has been a friend and supporter of the CFCCT from the beginning,” said trust chief executive Jon McCarthy, who doubles as assistant manager.
“The company’s advice and significant financial support has allowed CFCCT to develop a strong community programme and improve the lives of over 4,000 individuals.
“MBNA’s decision to support CFCCT for a further three years will allow us to grow and deliver more opportunities for people living in Chester and the surrounding areas. CFCCT would like to thank MBNA for this amazing gesture of support.”
The decision to include the women’s side in the new deal is seen as significan. Women’s football is on a high following England’s heroics at last summer’s Fifa Women’s World Cup in Canada and CFCCT holds regular sessions for girls, attracting more than 150 players, and women, with 90 players taking part.
“I am delighted that MBNA has committed to supporting the women’s team for the next three years,” said manager Richard Smith.
“That funding will secure this team’s future and allow us to develop further.
“We can now look at starting an under-18 team, meaning even more girls in Chester and surrounding areas can get involved. On behalf of myself and everyone in the women’s team I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone at MBNA for their support and belief in our team.”