THIRTY seconds – that’s all it took to wipe out 125 years of proud Chester City history and tradition.
At 11.05am yesterday the final nail was hammered into Chester’s coffin as the company that has presided over its disastrous decline was wound up in the High Court in London over unpaid tax debts.
But rather than sadness that their beloved Blues are no more, supporters greeted Registrar Derrett’s swift decision with a mixture of relief and hope – hope that a reformed club can now rise from the ashes.
Supporters group City Fans United (CFU) are confident they have what it takes to restore football to the city.
CFU board member David Evans, who was in court as Chester received their last rites, said: “One hundred and twenty-five years of history have been extinguished today but that’s just the body of the club – its soul lives on.
“Today is the day to say to everybody that our club will be run in a professional way and be a credit to our city and to football.
“We want to atone for the way the club has been run – we see this as our responsibility even though it wasn’t our fault.
“There’s tremendous support for our efforts. We have over 1,000 members in our group, we’re growing all the time and we’re taking calls all the time from people who want to help us reform the club, and that’s exactly what we want to do.”
Chester City Exiles member Sue Choularton was also present in court.
She said: “In a way it is very sad, but we are planning on starting up a ‘phoenix club’ to start again.”
Chester City FC 2004 Ltd, the Vaughan family-owned company behind the Blues, was yesterday wound up at a brief hearing in which it was not represented.
The debt-ridden company had been given six weeks to settle its debts. But Matthew Smith, counsel for HM Revenue and Customs, told the Registrar that there had been no meeting of creditors, as promised at the previous hearing in January, and as a result he was seeking the “usual compulsory order” winding up of the club.
The Registrar’s ruling means Chester’s affairs will effectively be handed over to an official receiver. Their job is then to do their best to ensure that debts are paid off by selling any assets available and then bringing business to a close.
As of February 1, it is understood Chester City FC 2004 Ltd were £217,225 in debt with a further £485,911 being owed to the controlling Vaughan family.
It came to light earlier this week that Chester’s powers-that-be were looking to enter the club into the Welsh Premier League following their expulsion from the Football Conference.
But Welsh Premier League secretary John Deakin told The Chronicle there is no chance a team representing Chester would be allowed into next season’s competition.