CHESTER City’s highly-successful Centre of Excellence is under threat after the club’s relegation led to a massive cut in funding.
Youth scheme bosses will have no choice but to run a “scaled down” operation next season if major financial backing cannot be found by the end of the month.
Chester’s drop into the Conference has had serious implications for the club’s youth set-up as they are now entitled to just 50% of the funding they received while members of the Football League.
Mark Newman, City’s youth development manager, said: “We get about £80,000 in the Conference, whereas we got £160,000 in the Football League.
“To keep every age group running, you still have to have everything you had in place on £160,000 – so it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that the figures don’t add up.”
Newman is appealing to supporters’ groups and businesses to help out – and he knows it is unlikely anyone will be able to stump up the full £80,000 required. But all donations, no matter how small, will make a difference.
“The club isn’t in a position to pick up the shortfall,” added Newman. “The club does put in a contribution, but they can’t afford to put in their own contribution plus another £80,000.”
There are about 150 players in City’s Centre of Excellence, playing at every age group level from under nines through to the youth team itself. There are more than 20 coaches involved, mostly working on a part-time or voluntary basis.
The entire operation was rebuilt in 2004 after Chester won promotion from the Conference to League Two.
It has proved a big success, serving up a production line of players for the first team.
But D-day is looming and Newman says a decision over how the Centre of Excellence will work for the 2009-10 campaign will have to be taken in the next fortnight.
He added: “The football world isn’t what it used to be and funding isn’t what it used to be, so I think we’re at the crossroads where we’re trying to be totally responsible and realistic about what we can achieve.
“There are a lot of ideas on the table. You can reduce the number of teams you run, you can mix squads up.
“Everybody needs to pull together now, but we really need someone to come in to continue it in its present format.
“Otherwise, we will have to scale down.”
If you would like to help Chester’s Centre of Excellence, call the club on 01244 371376 or write to: Mark Newman, Chester City FC, Deva Stadium, Bumpers Lane, Chester, Cheshire CH1 4LT.