The news that the Phoenix Chester Football Club have been given a licence to play at the Deva Stadium is great news in a season where the footballing climate has had many fans reaching for hard liquor and their old Smiths EP’s.
The meeting at Cheshire West and Chester Council saw two bids considered, with the City Fans United bid clearly preferred to that of Fodbold Selskabet, the Danish venture that started online in Denmark and later morphed into a consortium of individuals looking to take over the club. The verdict of the Council appears a sensible and unsurprising one. CFU has 1500 members who will turn up to games at the Deva, their bid had the support of the wider community and they have a pleasant yet realistic vision for what the club can achieve. There was also the unfortunate connection between Fodbold Selskabet and the Vaughan family. Look online and you will find the photographs of Stephen Vaughan stood at the back of the room with members of the Danish group with the expression of a recent EuroMillions winner. It cannot have gone down well with Council and it is to their credit that they saw sense.
Chris Pilsbury, Chairman of CFU, was quick to extend this feeling to the council, “We would like to express our gratitude to all involved for their assistance in bringing the fans the news they so desired. We look forward to living up to the faith the Council have shown in the CFU business plan, and working in partnership to give our City a Football Club that we can all be proud of”. He also urges any supporters of the club not currently involved to come on board, “The really hard work begins now. We are all one step closer to bringing football home to Chester but your Club needs you! If you have yet to join CFU please consider doing so, and if you are already a member please encourage others to join. Football in Chester will belong to the community – be part of it!”. Any out-of work football managers who want to get back into the game may also be interested in part of the press release issued by Jeff Banks, “We will now be looking to recruit a first team manager, interested applicants should contact CFU via [email protected]”
There is a real sense that with the most awkward hurdle on the track safely negotiated, the next part of the course may be somewhat more enjoyable for supporters who can see something good come out of a desperate situation. Building a club up from scratch is a lot of hard work, but it sounds like an awful lot of fun at the same time. With a vibrant, excited and united support base, their likely place in the Evostik (formerly Unibond) League next season could merely be a springboard for higher things. A return to the Football League is of course the ultimate aim.There is of course another piece of work that need to be done, namely the raising of some serious capital. CFU also took the opportunity to address anybody who wishes to invest in the club at the start of a potentially exciting period: “City Fans United are also interested in hearing from members of the business community who would be interested in discussing sponsorship opportunities with Chester Football Club. A number of flexible packages are available, please email [email protected] with your interest and you will be contacted by a member of the board.”
With so much negativity surrounding football at the moment, one of those few who are fortunate enough to have spare cash could make much less fulfilling investments than the phoenix that has risen from some rather toxic flames. Momentum in the city has turned right around behind the football club, and there could be a feel good story about to take place. Let us hope that there are some serious players out there who buy into the CFU vision of a brighter future. Earlier in the week, Jeff Banks and this writer spoke on the telephone and among topics of conversation was Chester’s local rivals Wrexham and their torturous spell under Alex Hamilton, which had followed the reign of ex-Chester chief Mark Guterman (who acquired the nickname ‘Gutter-rat’ among Deva regulars.)
As Hamilton ruthlessly moved to leave the club homeless for personal gain, the overwhelming feeling was one of powerlessness and that somebody else controlled the fate of the supporters. Two things we agreed on were, firstly, many clubs have chairman that for whatever reason are not popular, but compared to the Gutermans, Hamiltons and Vaughans of this world they are like some benign love-child of Ghandi and Nelson Mandella. More to the point, there is something a supporters’ group can do, as long as they have the collective will and a common cause. No matter how awful it looks, there is always hope beyond the imperial age of a vampire owner. If people learn the right lessons from the story of City Fans United, then it could really be the catalyst for positive change.