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Chest infection

There are some things in life that a mere mortal is destined never to understand. The meaning of life, natural phenomenoms and the occult are aspects that philosophers and theologists and scientists have, throughout the millenia, attempted to grasp and never quite do so.

Right now, you can add the Conference decision making panel to that list.

As I type this, it turns out that they’ve suspended Chester for seven days. As we all know by now, their Sunday game at home to Wrexham is off and there is precious little hope for them. Rumours abound that they’ll try and hold on until August, when they’ll drop down to the Unibond, do feel a bit like Conference chairmen trying to keep the corpse of Setanta alive.

The ins and outs of Chester’s plight are for other places. But once again, it just shows what an absolute farce this level of football has made itself again.

For the past couple of days, the Conference bigwigs have sat in their nice little meeting rooms, scoffed an entire McVities factory worth of digestives, probably made decisions on what brand of fax to buy and have managed to come to a bizzare conclusion with regards Chester City.

This bit from the BBC report above is really odd :

But, throughout Chester’s escalating problems this season, league officials have been keen to do all they can to keep the club going to avoid major issues affecting the other 23 Blue Square Premier clubs.

If, for example, Chester’s results were expunged from the records that would affect the promotion race most clearly in Luton Town’s favour.

They have twice failed to beat Chester this season, and would thereby enjoy a point four-point swing over neighbours and promotion rivals Stevenage, who have already beaten beleaguered City twice.

Right, so they give Chester City a week. They finally get kicked out in seven days time, and it won’t change the league table in the radical way that expulsion today would have brought? Please, run that one past me again, and try not to pass it off as an excuse not to do anything this time.

Seriously, what is the point of a week’s suspension? If they told them to keep going, to attempt to fulfill fixtures in the meantime, whilst trying to get a benefactor involved, that’s one thing. Yes, it’s a farce, but no worse than not turning up to FGR this week, or calling off your game on Sunday because even the police are pissed off with you.

If you know that’s not possible, kick them out. No point in delaying the inevitable. This, however, feels like being told you have a terminal illness but they’re withdrawing the morphine for seven days just in case you get better. Even though you’re in absolute, almost inhumane agony.

Just imagine being a Chester fan right now. At least in our case, our throat was slit quickly and we started to rebuild after two days of outright shock (the decision was made on the 28/5 and the WISA meeting to announce the formation of AFCW was announced on 30/5). For them, they have another week of being completely powerless. Their club is going down the plughole, they can’t play any games yet they can’t even put together an AFC Chester type venture. They are effectively in a limbo that even we thankfully weren’t.

You could argue that by giving them a week to respond, it puts the legal rammifications into place so there’s no legal comeback. Thing is, this hasn’t exactly come out of the blue. We all knew that Chester were effectively fucked by about September. According to my Wrexham sources, as far back as October they were having real difficulty paying the requisite opposition monies, which wasn’t a good sign. Just witness the way that they’ve gone into playing the kids to wages withdrawn, then eventually to the farce of FGR this week.

When their derby this Sunday was called off, you knew full well there was no turning back for them. I remember similar stories involving Aldershot and Newport County when they finally bit the dust. There’s a line that a dying club crosses, and Chester finally leaped over it this week. It’s a dead club in all but name.

I’ve heard stories that the Conference are still trying to keep Chester alive. Why? Because they’re desperate to keep the two-up-two-down arrangement with the League (which isn’t set in stone and is a gentlemen’s agreement, effectively). Yes, apparently the FL didn’t want to be lumbered with them should the Conference refused to take them on in August, so made this rather serious threat. Whether it would have happened is unclear, though doubtlessly Luton and Oxford’s lawyers would have been on the case PDQ.

(Actually, this could be a good future “What If?” article. What if the big clubs of the Conf – ie, AFCW, Luton, Oxford, Stevenage, York, Mansfield, Wrexham and Cambridge United, and that’s a conservative estimate – were to suddenly find that one route to League football was blocked? That’s one powerful not-so-little bloc of clubs, and would be very interesting if they all withdrew from the BSP. Remember that Oxford especially don’t think much of the people who run the Conf as it is…)

I really can’t see why they couldn’t have been finally kicked out today. What comeback could have realistically been issued? Chester aren’t the Football League’s problem any more, and it’s not like they can even fulfill fixtures now. If the league wants legal protection in kicking them out, then simply cross the “i”s and dot the “t”s before you make the decision. Don’t make a big play of the future of a club and a league, then not make a firm decision. Don’t sit around for two days then give a week extra to sort it out. Pompey were given a week because the HMRC called their bluff. Chester have gone beyond that.

Anyway, I digress. What does this mean for AFCW? Well, it would mean the league table would look more in our favour for starters. At least that would explain why we were apparently crap at the Deva in October. Secondly, it would mean that we have the 17th April free. Certainly TB himself seems as resigned and confused as we all are.

But what this does prove is the price of eternal vigilance. Seeing as though every AFCW related article these days has to have a mention of structure and ownership, here goes : I think it proves how lucky we’ve been to have Erik Samuelson and Trevor Williams heavily involved since 2002 – two people who do seem to know the financial and footballing pitfalls of running a club. It does prove that no matter your ownership model, if the people in charge are complete fuckwits there’s not much you can do if you’re clueless yourself.

Perhaps more reason to insist that if the DT is to have a relevant future, it needs to tighten up its board member knowledge. Less “enthusiastic” fans and more professionals involved, maybe? Would make the  – cue big yawn – external investment argument less of a divisive one if the DT had people who could spot a Vaughan type figure a mile off (as in, wise to their alleged financial tricks). Planners, solicitors etc, people who know what the little loopholes are. The person who will replace Erik will have a tough act to follow, but so will the people who believe they have the right to scrutinise what they do.

It’s funny that as all this is going on, Notts County have been taken over again today. Their problem wasn’t their fans-owned body selling up, it was seemingly not being clued up enough about who they sold it to. Brentford on the other hand seemed to be a bit more “with-it”, insisting that the ground is still under fan control. I won’t suggest that’s a cockney thing. One would imagine Chester wished they had people who could have spotted disaster on the horizon a mile off.

Who knows, if the general DT membership starts thinking a bit more seriously about its actual future makeup, and perhaps has less of the “I’m a club owner” mentality, I may rejoin for the first time since 2005. Which if nothing else will shock the DT’s membership secretary ;)  (sorry John…)

Back to the topic in hand. I feel wary about this news because I’ve heard it all before. Looks like nothing has been learnt in close to three years, has it? Margate didn’t go under, although they only escaped relegation to Turdeyland Division 1 (South) because of other clubs in worse situations. And be honest, who wouldn’t be surprised if Chester were to somehow hang on despite everything?

The Conference had a good opportunity to do something for the long-term benefit of the division today, and not for the first time they dithered. They’ve basically said that it doesn’t matter how badly you run your affairs, we won’t expel you from the division. Chester might be finally kicked out this time next week, but to the outside world, it looks rather muddled and pretty much half-arsed a decision.

And perhaps if people in the Conference, and indeed non-league, want to draw people’s attention away from Ryan Giggs getting injured for a month, it might try starting to act a bit more professionally. And not putting the amateur back into the semi-professional game…