19 February ~ Chester City's 2-1 home defeat against Ebbsfleet United on February 6 looks set to be remembered as the last fixture that the club ever played. The following Tuesday's Conference match at Forest Green Rovers was called off less than three hours before kick-off after their players refused to board the team bus in protest at not being paid. Charged with five counts of breaking league rules, a Conference meeting on Thursday evening made the recommendation that the club should be expelled. This will be voted on at a future General Meeting of Member Clubs.
Chester's financial difficulties are nothing new – administration which followed the club's relegation from the Football League last summer was the second time in 11 years that the administrators were called in. It was only after the other Conference clubs voted in their favour that Chester were even allowed to start the season, albeit with a 25 point deduction. It now looks as if they will be unable to complete the season. After three months without pay the players were finally given a solitary week's wages to allow the Ebbsfleet game to go ahead, before finally refusing to travel to the Forest Green game. Having voted to allow them to play, it seems likely that the same member clubs will vote that their results should be expunged from the league table.
It isn't just the players who have shown their frustration, as the Blues' fanbase let their opinions known with an official boycott of home matches organised by their supporters' trust, City Fans United (CFU). After averaging almost 2,000 in League Two last season the last three games averaged less than 470, poor even by Conference standards but especially for a former League side. November's home fixture with Eastbourne was postponed after 75 minutes following an on-pitch protest. The CFU survey showed that only 5 per cent of fans were opposed to a boycott, while "99.5 per cent of respondents believed a change of ownership was essential. The CFU committee have made no recommendations, or tried to influence its members into making this decision."
The boycott is a result of the continued mismanagement of the club by its owners, the Vaughan family. The Vaughans set up Chester City FC (2004) Ltd to take control of the club last summer. Recent accounts showed that their debt stood at over £700,000, with over £485,000 of this being from loans to the club. Not only does this seem a considerable amount to put in to Chester, fans have also been left wondering where all of the money has gone in such a short space of time. Chester also owe over £50,000 to HMRC and £20,000 to fellow member clubs. The club's derby clash with Wrexham, the game after the Forest Green postponement, was also called off after the police refused to oversee the fixture due to the fact that they were also awaiting payment.
Fans have had enough and are more concerned with setting up a new club to continue the Chester City name than they are about keeping the current club going with all its problems. Predicting their club's downfall, a CFU statement announced: "It is because of this threatening scenario that City Fans United continue to plan for both the continuation of the club, but also the idea of a Phoenix club." With clubs such as FC United of Manchester and AFC Telford already visited for inspiration and help, the fans of look set to have a team to support in the future. It won't be in the club's current incarnation, with the Forest Green postponement dubbed by CFU as "The day Chester City Football Club died". Matt Ramsay