We have been asked by Supporters Direct to publish the following statement from the Chesterfield Football Supporters Society. We know people have mixed (and strong) feelings about the situation, but I'm sure we agree it must be prevented from happening again. Our position is that we support all supporters against those that would harm our clubs, because we know how they feel. Next time it could easily be your club.
Please also take a look at the Supporters Direct web-site (see right), for important information on how some clubs are being helped.
3rd Floor, Victoria House,
Tel: 0870 1600 123
Fax: 020 7273 1605
Dear football supporters,
You may be aware that there is a proposal from some league clubs to expel Chesterfield Football Club from the League at the forthcoming League AGM in June. This issue is a complicated one and we aim to set the facts out for fans to come to their own decisions.
Chesterfield Football Club was bought last year by a local businessman who like most people in such circumstances, made promises of soon to be enjoyed success, stadium development and a happy prosperous future for the club. We were in no position to assess the truth of this one way or the other, and instead waited for the start of the season. At this point the club had a substantial positive bank balance.
It soon became clear that we had a good team which would be challenging for honours in the third division but at the same time, rumours began circulating about the behind the scenes situation at the club. Again, we were in no position to do anything about this, save conduct ever more worried conversations at the game about the direction the club was heading.
Those rumours prompted an investigation by the FA which in turn led to charges being laid against the club.
That investigation led to a hearing that recommended a £20,000 fine, legal fees for the League of £35,000 and a nine-point deduction. However, many in the football world were seemingly unhappy with this outcome and asked the hearing to be reconvened to review the points deduction. That panel - the only people who had seen all the evidence - stuck with their recommendation.
However, that has not been the end of the matter, and some clubs have moved to expel the club. One of the movers of the motion, Torquay United's Mike Bateson, has said that he won't vote until he's seen all the evidence, so we want you to be clear that this motion isn't being put forward by people who know the full facts and think the League has somehow 'chickened out' but from people who freely admit that they don't know the full story.
In the meantime, the club was sold on, and at this point, the supporters decided to act. We formed a Supporters Trust, assisted by Supporters Direct and held a public meeting in the town centre, attended by over 1000 people concerned at the future of the club. Previous public meetings had been called to discuss the situation and had been disrupted by hired hands, and there had been threats made against individuals who had given evidence to the FA about the situation at the club. Such was the climate of fear that the meeting was attended by 10 Police Officers from the Derbyshire Constabulary to preserve order should the need arise.
Thankfully, the meeting went well, and a collection raised £6240 for the Chesterfield Football Supporters Society. Amazingly, 5 days later, with trepidation and heavy hearts, the officers of the Trust accepted an invitation to purchase the club, and we paid a symbolic £6240 for the UK Sports group (which owns Chesterfield Football Club), so those fans who had contributed on the night through membership payments, donations, auction fees and raffle income saw their money used to purchase their club.
Little by little the horrific inherited mess started to unfold.. The cash surplus had been turned into a £1.6million debt - the creditors ranged from the tax man to the guy at the local sandwich shop - including £650k of football related debt!. Loans had been made to the club with the ground as security, but the money had never arrived at the club. Even so, we have had to raise money to pay back those loans, despite the money never arriving into the club's bank account. We were advised that the debenture - whilst morally reprehensible - would probably stand up in a court of law so the committee raised £201,000 to pay it off otherwise the club would have been wound up!
Our previous good name in football was now worth nothing and the previous administration had alienated every possible stakeholder in the club - the supporters, the Council, local business, the League and other football clubs.
The club is now owned by a democratic Supporters Trust and we want to restore the good name of the club and to ensure that never, ever again can one man have such a disastrous effect on the club's future and have the destiny of a much-loved institution in their hands. This club is now a community club belonging to the supporters and the wider community of Chesterfield.
We still have a long way to go. We have since placed the club in administration and we are absolutely committed to paying off all our debts, especially those owed to fellow football clubs and the players. In a few weeks, we must convince the Courts that we have the ability to turn the club round, and we are confident we have that ability - we might be ordinary supporters, but ordinary supporters have jobs too, and like you at your clubs, the pool of talent amongst fans is always impressive.
But before then, we must fight this motion to expel us, and fight it we will, because it will spell the end for this football club if it is voted through.
Some fans have already made their minds about our guilt - without seeking out any of the REAL facts.. We are appealing to all fans to recognise that the current mess is not the fault of Chesterfield Football Supporters Society - fans at Northampton, Bournemouth, Doncaster and Brighton, Chester and Carlisle all know what it is like to be powerless as your club is taken over by a individual whose actions almost finish off the club.
And, there, but for the grace of God, go all of us. The type of people who have nearly ruined Chesterfield could easily buy your club tomorrow - they are merely one bid away from it in all cases. And they don't need the money upfront in cash - they didn't at Chesterfield. Just good PR, fancy talking and big promises.
Instead of uniting to criticise us for 'getting away with it', fans should recognise that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. As the 'Clubs in Crisis' website set up by the Brighton Supporters Club says, 'nobody wins unless we all win'. We all support clubs that are prey to these people. Nobody acquired firm evidence that the person who took over at Chesterfield had the money to back up his claims, nobody checked out his background in other businesses and nobody seemed to be too bothered. We know no-one wants to see this happen at any clubs, but it is happening, and will go on happening until there is some way to 'vet' the people who buy our clubs, and this is a campaign that clubs can work together to bring about.
There is an idea that we have 'got away with it' and that therefore, we deserve to be expelled. Lets remember that the procedure of the disciplinary hearings and the members of it were agreed by the League Chairman, who voted to make this the policy and be bound by it. It's like finding someone guilty of shoplifting, getting a sentence you don't like and asking for the court to hear it again. And then when they don't change it, recommend the death penalty.
Whatever was done was not done by us - the people who allowed the previous owner to take over bear some measure of responsibility. And who might they be? The League itself has failed to implement a vetting procedure that - if it had been in place - just may have saved this whole sorry mess.
The truth is, we haven't got away with anything. We're on our knees and will have to plead with a judge for a stay of execution in June. We've got over 2000 members in our Supporters Society and without their donations and the hard work of our committee, we would already be dead. We're appealing to decent football fans across the country to support our bid to save the club and make it a club the country can be proud of - the very first 100% mass membership fans owned club in the country.
The FSA (Football Supporters Association) gave us one glimmer of relief from a seemingly incessant assault earlier this week when they recognised CFSS' efforts by awarding their annual award for "Services to Supporters" to our organisation. Whilst thrilled with the award recognition will not win the battles we are having to fight but just maybe some national exposure from the award may help publicise our plight and the effect that this motion could have - make no mistake if successful, the club will die !
We're not asking for your money or your time - just a recognition that in our position, you'd want support, not to have to fight to preserve your very existence against these motions.
We want the truth to be known and for the world to know that Chesterfield has changed and changed for good. Please help by forwarding this message to any football related message boards or lists you are on.
Many thanks for your time,
Committee member of the Chesterfield Football Supporters Society