Posted: Wed 12th Jan 2022

Chester FC: Flintshire council involved in “open and constructive discussions” over regulatory responsibilities

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jan 12th, 2022

Council’s on both sides of the border are working with Chester FC to find a “long-term solution” to the ongoing Welsh Covid rules dispute.

Chester FC has postponed Saturday’s home fixture with Brackley Town as it would be in breach of the current Welsh Covid restrictions as the row rumbles on.

Flintshire County Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, and Chester Football Club have confirmed they are in “open and constructive discussions” over the roles and responsibilities of the “respective regulatory and administrative organisations.”

A joint statement released by the two councils and club today said the aim of the discussions are “to protect the interest of the club, whilst providing greater certainty and clarity for all parties in the future.”

The National League North outfit was warned about playing any further home matches with spectators at its Bumpers Lane ground because it would be breaching the current Welsh Covid restrictions.

The Deva Stadium, built 30 years ago, lies within Wales, apart from the club offices and front car park which sit within England.

The club has said yesterday that following a meeting with the Welsh government, Flintshire and Cheshire council’s a “definitive resolution” wasn’t reached and while enforcement action remains a possibility, “it is not prepared to risk the security of the Club or our supporters.”

Sport in Wales has been limited to 50 spectators since Boxing day as the Welsh government continues its fight against Covid-19’s Omicron variant.

Since the Welsh Covid rules came into play, Chester FC has played two games at the Deva Stadium, on 28 December, 2,075 fans watched their team draw 2-2 with AFC Fylde and 2 January, 2,116 fans watched Chester draw 1-1 with AFC Telford.

Councillor Ian Roberts, Leader of Flintshire County Council, said: “As a Council we are committed to working with the football club and our partners to provide clarity on the long-term management of the ground and facilities.”

This morning’s joint statement goes onto to say: “Building on long-standing partnership working and a shared commitment to finding long-term solutions that recognise the unique circumstances of the club’s ground, the councils have met representatives of Chester FC, the Welsh Government and North Wales Police.”

“All parties are committed to continue working together to clarify which legislation will be applicable to the club in the future.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “It is in everybody’s interests to find positive solutions and clarify things for the future. Chester Football Club is a fan-owned club and a key organisation for our borough. It makes a vital contribution to our community.”

“We have worked closely and effectively together, including most recently throughout the pandemic. We are having positive discussions with the club and colleagues in Wales.”

“Chester FC are an English football club and member of the English football league system and will continue to be as we will work together towards a positive future.”

Andy Morris, Chair of Chester Football Club said: “This club has a proud history and is looking to a bright future. The discussions we are having with our partners will make things clearer, building on our shared commitment to the future.”

Flintshire based Senedd Member Carolyn Thomas has written to the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport “in relation to the Welsh Government’s position on the continuation of spectator match at Chester Football Club.”

The North Wales Senedd Member wrote: “Chester Football Club is a fan-owned, community club with many supporters across North Wales.”

“They do not have a benefactor or a rich owner: they are funded entirely by their own fans.”

“Gate receipts, therefore. are the club’s main source of income.”

“Without those gate receipts, the very existence of the football club will be under threat.”

The letter states: “Chester fans have already experienced this trauma when the current club’s predecessor Chester City Football Club, was liquidated in 2010 because of years of gross mismanagement under private ownership.”

“I would urge you to work with Chester Football Club, Flintshire County Council, Chester and Cheshire West Council, North Wales Police and Cheshire Police to ensure that Chester FC does not become an unlucky victim of a geographical anomaly.”

“If Chester FC are required to play their games behind closed doors please could you reassure me that they will receive adequate funding will be made available to continue to operate?” She wrote.

In response to the Senedd Members post on social media, a Flintshire Council cabinet member called the situation “embarrassing.”

Cllr Glyn Banks, the cabinet member for Streetscene said: “Embarrassing situation here. Be interested to know if Chester FC through furlough/ lockdown received monetary help from Wales or England?”

“If Wales it’s Welsh rules if England then English rules. surely this anomaly must have arisen sooner than now.”

In response, Carolyn Thomas, who is also a Flintshire councillor, said: “I am told that all of the funding received was from the UK government, apart from a hospitality grant from Wales as the licence for the Blues Bar is provided by Flintshire County Council”

A lot of focus has been put on a £25,000 Coronavirus business support grant the club received from Flintshire Council.

Andy Morris said: “That was a UK national support for the hospitality sector, that was nothing to do from the footballing side of things.”

“Our bar areas are in Wales, and they’re licenced by Flintshire Council and it was Flintshire who administrated that funding support.”

“That’s why we went to Flintshire (council) for that because we couldn’t go via Cheshire (Cheshire West and Chester Council) because of the alcohol licence.”

Matchday information published on Chester FC’s website for the fixture against AFC Telford on January 2, shows that the club adjusted bar operations to reflect Welsh Covid restrictions introduced six days earlier.

From 26 December, licenced premises in Wales have had to implement table service and ensure there is physical distancing between individual households or groups of up to 6 people.

Chester FC’s website states: ‘Blues Bar, The bar will be open before the match. Table service only will be in operation with a maximum of six people per table. Please note that due to the need for social distancing, the capacity of the Blues Bar will be significantly reduced.”

No rules in relation to licenced premises were changed in England at this time.




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