THE crunch deadline for Chester City to pay their football debts is now just four days away with worried fans no nearer to knowing the club’s fate. Worse than that, they are being kept in the dark.
Despite repeated efforts, The Chronicle was unable yesterday to contact anyone at the club to confirm whether or not the outstanding money will be paid. And as D-day approaches, there are real fears the Blues will now be thrown out of the Football Conference.
Fans’ groups, other clubs, officials from the Football League and Conference plus the PFA were all willing to discuss the club’s crisis. But City officials wouldn’t answer the phone – or even come to the door when our reporter called at the Deva Stadium.
The wall of silence has even extended to not officially informing loyal regulars who stand behind the goal in the Harry McNally Terrace that they won’t be allowed to take up their usual spot for Saturday’s game with Eastbourne because of a shortage of stewards.
“I’ve watched this club since 1946 and I’m finding it harder to swallow than it was in the Terry Smith days,” said official supporters club stalwart Barrie Hipkiss. “And until we get some stability, I think it’s going to be very, very difficult to alter our situation.”
Jeff Banks, of City Fans United (CFU), admits the newly-unified supporters group will be forced to “step in” if the club is kicked out of the league.
He said: “We have no idea what Monday will bring. But if the worst happens the CFU will step in. The group is still in its early days, but it has around 300 members now, and some of our members are contributing their entrance fees to our fighting fund instead of attending games to fund the current owners.”
Sue Choularton, of Chester City Exiles, added: “There are those of us who attend fewer home games than we did because of the state we see the club in. But still there is no communication. None of us want Saturday’s game to be the last – but it might be.”
Chester have been warned they face being expelled from the Conference if they do not pay their football debts by Monday. Wrexham and Vauxhall Motors were last night still waiting for the monies owed to them while The Chronicle understands Blues officials held talks with their main creditor, the PFA, in Manchester yesterday.
Gordon Taylor, chairman of the PFA, said: “We’ve lent a fair amount of money to the club in recent years. We are not directly involved in the discussions which are taking place at the moment, however, between the club, the Football Conference and the FA.
“It is not a model of how to run a club but we hope, for the players and supporters, that the situation can be settled. There is a great history surrounding Chester and no-one wants to see that disappear.”
City want to settle their debts by using the discretionary parachute payment due to them from the Football League. Football League and Conference spokesmen confirmed yesterday that their discussions are ongoing.
Meanwhile, Chester’s safety officer Martin Bradley confirmed to The Chronicle that the Harry McNally Terrace will be closed on Saturday.
He said: “Macclesfield are at home, Wrexham are at home, Tranmere are at home and Northwich are at home in the FA Cup, with Crewe stewards going to help Northwich, so that leaves me with only 26 stewards and that’s not enough to comply with the safety certificate I’ve got for the ground.
“It’s a one-off and I can only apologise but it’s the only thing I can do to make sure the game goes ahead.”
Chester directors Bob Gray and Ian Anderson were unable to return our calls yesterday.
Shock of City stalwarts – p78 & 79.