Stephen Vaughan quit as Chester City chairman a disillusioned man, according to club colleagues. After six years in the club hotseat, reportedly pouring in millions of pounds, he was left frustrated that his commitment wasn’t matched by the city’s football fans. We report on the shocks at the Deva
ALMOST a week on from his shock decision to quit as chairman and director of Chester City, Stephen Vaughan finds himself at a crossroads.
Does he stay with the club he saved from oblivion six years ago before bankrolling their return to the Football League, or walk away and sell his shares to one of three interested parties?
It is a dilemma Vaughan has been wrestling with since long before last Saturday, when he went public with news of his resignation just 15 minutes before Chester’s match against Peterborough kicked-off. The timing of the announcement may have come as a shock, but he has probably been weighing up this move for some time.
Although Vaughan is refusing to make any public comment on the reasons for his decision to stand down, those closest to him will tell you he has become increasingly disillusioned with life at the Deva in recent months.
Home attendances have been disappointingly low, despite the fact Blues boss Bobby Williamson has assembled a promotion-chasing team that plays attractive, attacking football, while also drawing on the best local talent.
Vaughan, who remains Chester’s owner and majority shareholder, has also been left deeply upset by criticism he has received from fans on internet message boards – something he has had to contend with through much of his reign.
The Liverpool businessman, it seems, does not feel appreciated.
Blues general manager Bob Gray explained: “He’s given five to six years of his life into the club and injected something like £6m.
“For this time, he’s been standing alone running the place and we’re still not getting the fans through.
“If we had got 4,000 fans at every home game, maybe we could break even but he can’t keep putting money in the club.”
Gray’s assessment of the situation is backed up by Williamson, who added: “I can understand where the chairman’s coming from. I just don’t think he’s been appreciated at this club over the years.
“The Chester fans have got to realise that there’s not many people who want to invest in football clubs. Stephen Vaughan does.”
Vaughan now has a key decision to make. He could stick with the Blues – maybe even return as chairman – or sell his shares to one of the three groups interested in buying them.
The outsiders in the hunt to take over at the Deva are overseas management company ISM, who have been in negotiations over a possible investment for months.
Having failed to come up with the cash despite repeated promises, they are living on borrowed time.
City this week confirmed that Liverpool-based sports marketing company Sport-6 had also held “negotiations regarding the sale of Stephen Vaughan’s shares”. The firm’s CEO is former Bath, Bristol and Gloucester rugby union player Alastair Saverimutto, who is a former head of commercial operations at Everton.
Sport-6, however, are refusing to make any comment on their link to the Blues.
The third interested party, former Chester director Paul Baker, is the leading contender.
He has had two face-to-face meetings with Vaughan this week and yesterday lodged an interest to buy the former chairman’s majority shareholding.
So the ball is now firmly in Vaughan’s court.
Does he stick with the club he has developed a genuine passion for having steered them from the brink of extinction, or let somebody else take the reins?
Or can he find an ambitious investor willing to team up with him in a bid to lead the Blues into League One?
The choice is Stephen Vaughan’s.