For many people across the country, football is everything. It’s infectious, it makes you fall in love with a group of individuals who kick a ball about on grass for 90 minutes a week. In fact it’s more than that. It isn’t just a ball being kicked about, it’s passion, it’s excitement, it’s intensity. It allows you to be involved in a whole new circle of people who love what you love. Football is special and several groups of fans have unfortunately lost the football clubs they fell in love with, myself included.
In May 2010, Chester FC were born. They are the city’s phoenix club, born out of the ashes of the collapsed Chester City. City went bankrupt in the same year, meaning that the people of Chester didn’t have a football team in the city they call home.
The two months between the folding of City and the birth of FC consisted of many hours of work from City Fans United, the organisation that owns Chester FC. Since the club was reborn, it has been 100% owned by fans of the club, in fact fans can become a CFU member for just £12 a year.
The fan ownership of the club provides a unique way in which the club is run, which is an incredibly good thing. It means the fans have more of a place and can provide their opinion more freely, which you wouldn’t see as frequently at, say, Arsenal or Chelsea. This is exactly the case for Cestrians 1885, the group of loyal and diehard Chester fans that have changed our terraces for the better.
The reborn club were placed into the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division 1 North. The 8th tier of English football, for short. The tough place that the club found themselves in was met with passion from the incredible set of fans that watch the club through thick and thin, week in week out. This, alongside a fantastic set of players and staff, helped Chester to win three consecutive promotions.
Since Chester were promoted to the National League in 2013, the dream of being promoted back into the Football League has become less realistic than expected. Performances have gotten worse and the fans have become frustrated. Chester started the 2016/17 season very positively and were in 12th when the crowdfunder began, but the atmosphere was never as good as it could have been and the fans had the option to change this, one of the many pro’s of owning your football club. The club has been fan-owned since Chester City folded, so the fans should be creating an incredible atmosphere for the team, but it wasn’t as present. The solution for this; the crowdfunder that would transform the Harry Mac, Chester’s main terrace.
It all started in February when Danny McNally, the mastermind behind the crowdfunder, set the original goal of £150 in order to buy flags and banners for the Harry Mac. 56 days later, the crowdfunder had raised £535, thanks to the generosity of many Chester supporters.
“I was quite amazed at the response, to be honest”, Danny told me, “In my head I saw this as me and a few mates throwing a bit of money into a pot, but the reception we received from Chester fans and the club was quite phenomenal.”
Since the crowdfunder was closed in April, a drum and banners have been purchased for the Harry Mac. A banner spelling out “WE ARE CHESTER” is displayed at every single home and away match whilst three banners, each three metres tall, that spell out ‘CFC’ are displayed at certain matches, the first of which being Chester’s opening day fixture at home to AFC Fylde.
“The Fylde match was the busiest the middle of the Harry Mac has been in a few years, excluding the derbies. It was superb the amount of people, many young, had come out and got behind their team.”, Danny said.
As well as being helped by the fans, the efforts to improve the atmosphere have been appreciated by the board at the club. Chester FC Chief Executive Mark Maguire spoke to me, to discuss how successful the help from the fans has been.
“There were times last season where the traditional sound from the Harry Mac was not as loud as it was previously, but certainly the fact that a group of fans have made the effort to improve the atmosphere has made a huge difference.”
“I’m humbled by it”, said Mr. Maguire, “It’s been a tough time, especially at home, so for a group of fans to take up that responsibility says everything about the football club and the fans we’ve got.”
Mr. Maguire also spoke about how the Chester fans stood together and sang, in rememberance of Garry Allen, who sadly lost his life during last season’s home match against Tranmere.
“The first time I noticed [the fans’ efforts] was when we honoured Garry Allen. One of the most touching moments I’ve had in football was when the Harry Mac responded to the celebration of Garry”.
The crowdfunder and the efforts of Chester’s fans has had a positive impact and is appreciated by the players and backroom staff, as well as Mr. Maguire.
“As part of my job, I’m in communication with players and I can tell you for a fact that it elevates players.”, Mr. Maguire told me. “It’s of a Football League standard and the history of the club demands Football League status”.
“In terms of our fans we’re in the top two or three in the league”.
The crowdfunder has ultimately been a success, with fans helping out in their numbers. This has impacted the atmosphere in a positive fashion, with the noise from Chester’s faithful clear to hear, home and away.
Chester fans lost their club in 2010, but through the power that the fans have been given from the board and the ownership scheme, we have our club back. The attention that the crowdfunder has received shows just how much the fans want an atmosphere back and shows just how much they care.
Owning our club is a privilege, it gives the fans a relationship with our board that isn’t visible in the vast majority of professional clubs across the country and thanks to the responsibility that the fans have undertaken, we are more passionate than ever.
What do you make of these comments Chester fans? Are you pleased with the clubs off field progress? Let us know in the comments below!