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Chester MP takes Blues plight to the very highest level of the FA

Labour's Chris Matheson met with FA chief executive Martin Glenn last week to discuss Chester FC and fan ownership

Labour's Chris Matheson(Image: Stuart Bogg Imaging)

Chester MP Chris Matheson has been highlighting the plight of Chester FC at the very highest level of English football.

Labour MP Matheson met with FA chief executive Martin Glenn last week where he made light of Chester’s financial struggles and the battle fan-owned clubs face in a football landscape awash with billions at the very top.

The Blues revealed five weeks ago that they needed £50,000 in the short term in order to stay in business after their financial struggles were revealed at a meeting of City Fans United members, the supporters group that owns the National League side.

And Matheson, speaking on Chester’s Dee 106.3, said that the case had been made at the top of the FA for more funding for fan-owned clubs to ensure that they have a future in the game, with funding through the Football Foundation, a mechanism which distributes money from the top through to the grassroots, one option being discussed.

Said Matheson: “Apart from highlighting the plight of the club to those in authority and to those who might be able to do something about it, my job is to take the situation of the club to the highest levels of the football administration.

“I saw Martin Glenn, the chief executive of the FA, for breakfast earlier this week and talked to him about some of the problems that Chester are facing. He told me about possible solutions, possibly getting funding through the Football Foundation and other mechanisms, and we will be looking at those in detail in the near future. I also want to look at the position of fan-owned clubs so that the FA understand how important they are not just for the communities that they represent but also to the future of football.

“I have invited Martin, I have invited Greg Clarke - the chairman of the FA - to come down and watch a game, not just to watch a game and not just to meet the club but also to show a vote of confidence in clubs at the bottom end of the pyramid and those that are fan owned. The model doesn’t simply have to be the billionaire oligarch coming in to buy the club, the fan-owned clubs surely have a future too and if Martin or Greg want to come along that would show a real vote of confidence.”

Following the revelations of Chester’s financial plight, four board members resigned.

Since those resignations former CFU board members Simon Olorenshaw, Jeff Banks and Mark Howell have returned along with Calvin Hughes to help lead the club in a new direction, with Olorenshaw named as chairman.

And the boardroom shake up and return to the chairmanship for Olorenshaw, who held the role for 11 months until November 2016, is something that has pleased Matheson.

“I am really pleased that Simon is back on board and that there are some new directors coming on board who have served in the past and really know the club and understand what it takes to get the club up and running again,” he said.

“It’s essential in this age of big money players and agents taking home telephone number salaries that we keep the football close to the heart of the communities that these clubs serve. Chester is not only Chester’s club but a club belonging to the people of Chester and there is a real sense that we rise and fall with its successes and setbacks, and people appreciate that. But it does put a big responsibility on all of us to make sure that this club is supported.

“I have only been to two or three matches this season and in a sense I am part of the problem. I am trying to encourage everyone to go along to the game, I work on a Saturday as do a lot of people and I think we have got to make time in our busy lives to go along and support the club because if we’re not supporting the club then there is no reason why anybody else should. I am one of those who needs to improve there attendance and get along and support the club.

“I think a lot of people were surprised at the urgency with which the club found itself within financial difficulty and there were quite a few people who hadn’t realised we were in as quite as deep as we were, but I am pleased we managed to get to the top of the FA fairly quickly and hopefully the following processes won’t be that long.”

Chester fans and the wider football community have raised almost £100,000 through various fundraising initiatives, a sum that allows the club to see out the remainder of the campaign.

But in order for the club to enjoy a brighter long-term future Matheson has urged fans to turn out on matchdays to back the club further.

He added: “The response has been fantastic, it has been phenomenal and the fans who own the club and really have that sense of ownership have responded really well. But the rest of us who haven’t been to the game enough this season have got to start finding time to support the club on a Saturday, week in, week out.

“I point the finger of blame firstly at myself and to other fans, I am not lecturing others without realising I need to have gone more myself. That is my message, get down to the stadium, get behind the team and get some money in the coffers.

“Chester has faced crisis before and we came through it by standing together. I still think we can do that, things aren’t going too well for us on the pitch and we have had some unlucky results and some bad results. But the team are trying and the supporters have got to try as well. We have been here before and we have come through it and we can do it again.”

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