FANS FORUM #1
Here are some edited highlights
of the Fans Forum convened by Radio Merseyside and
held at the Deva Stadium on St Patricks Day
Q. Id like to
ask Mr Guterman what his official position is on nursery
MG This has been on the agenda for
quite a long time. There was talk in the late seventies that Chester
might become a feeder club for Liverpool even then. The FA at a confidential
hearing turned them down. Nursery clubs as a whole isnt something
thats at the top of everyones agenda. Its believed
at the moment its the only way forward for certain clubs. Clubs
like ourselves were losing three or four hundred thousand pounds
a year. If nursery clubs help with the long term survival it might
be the only way forward. Im not saying it is the only way forward
but it does have to be debated and discussed for a way forward and
a view to be thought out. Youve also got a situation whereby
other clubs, Premiership clubs are in a position where they have
reserve players who are playing in reserve leagues but not getting
proper match experience. They feel that their players would benefit,
would get experience, by playing proper competitive football maybe
at the lower levels. This will, at the same time, help us it
will bring on our players. Our young players, theyll develop
over a period of time. And the two can work together.
HM My experience has been over a long
time in the game that the big clubs have always looked after themselves.
KR I think the main problem that everybody
thinks about is that youre going to lose the identity of
the football club. I think its between the two clubs that
youve got to make sure that you dont because you still
want to be known as a Crewe or a Chester City or a Wigan Athletic.
You dont want to be called Everton Reserves, Man Utd Reserves,
you want to keep the identity of the football club and thats
the most important thing. I think that weve hit on that you
dont want to be dictated to by the bigger clubs what to do even
though they may be ploughing some money in. You dont want
to be dictated which players they want you to take and so forth.
Its so important that you do keep your identity. I certainly
wouldnt want to go into a situation with a big club where
theyre dictating to me how they want me to play the game.
They should have looked at that situation before they joined ranks.
NT Do you think there is an argument that
the big clubs should produce youngsters through their schools of
excellence, that seem to be cropping up now, and possibly those
that arent just going to make the grade could be ferried
down to the Crewes, the Chesters of this world?
KR Well the good thing about it is that
you can see that if they can cope with lower league football and
also can the players of the lower league play with those type of
players. Theres fors and against and, like Harry says, its
a little bit of a hot potato at the moment. If the right scenario
can come about then I think it wouldnt be a bad idea but
its all about dictatorship at the end of the day isnt
BW My view is probably quite simple.
Whether it becomes necessary or a necessary evil to have feeder clubs
or the system weve talked about remains to be seen. But clubs
like Chester, and there are many of them, may need to look at another
way of surviving. And if that is a means to an end then so be it.
Market forces will take its place but perhaps were a long way
off it yet.
SAM BIGGINS Does the panel support
the idea of fulltime referees?
BW In a word yes, I think its
a specialised position. We attend games here and we see a varied
amount of skill. I feel that if it was a fulltime professional
position then it may be the case that the standards improve.
NT Kevin Ratcliffe, in the view of certain
events on Saturday?
KR Well you can tell theyre only
part time at the moment cant you? They only play half the
match. I think its important that they do become professional.
I think theyre on to a good thing at the moment, the referees.
Theyve got a good job, most of them, they get well paid for
what they do, so unless the fees go up I dont think theyre
going to give up having two jobs or the one job.
SB I think they should be full time. I
think they should train with professional clubs to get the amount
of fitness required because the games so fast these days.
And very often here at the Stadium you see referees that cant
keep up with the game. And I genuinely think that theyd get
to know the players better if they were training with fulltime
professional players. They would get to know the players better.
NT The argument against I suppose would
be that if at the end of twelve months or two years you dont
reach the required standard, youre out of a job? What do
you do with the person who is a fulltime referee who at the
end of two years is going to be thrown on to the scrap heap?
HM Well that applies to the managers doesnt
it? There are plenty of managers thrown on the scrap heap because
Im not in any doubt at all. Ive
thought for many many years that we should have fulltime referees.
Were missing on a wonderful opportunity now really because
we have the YTS scheme coming in. When YTS lads come into the club,
if they knew that at the end of their career they could become, as
they do in cricket, a fulltime official, there would certainly
be boys throughout their career that could take to refereeing. They
could referee on a Sunday. They could referee in the week when theyre
not playing and by the time they got to 32 theyd be ready for
refereeing. As some would go into coaching, come into management,
some are becoming qualified physiotherapists. The biggest problem
in professional football is that 99% of the referees have never played
the game. So they dont know the difference in intent; whats
a fraction late; what is absolutely ruthless. They dont know
because youve only got to see them kick the ball.
ANGELA LEACH I want to ask a question
of Mr Guterman. There were rumours about him getting a consortium
together to buy Manchester City. With Chester City losing so much
money has he not thought of getting a consortium together to bale
this club out?
MG The rumours relating to Manchester
City werent rumours they happen to be facts. The deal that
was effectively put together by myself and a consortium, which was
effectively London banks, was to raise money to buy Manchester City
as a business and buy this club as a feeder club to the Manchester
City situation. The reason behind it was purely business. The bottom
line is that ... Man. City in the Premiership would have been bringing
in an extra nine or ten million pounds a year from Sky. With that
extra money as a public company Manchester City would have been worth
a hundred or a hundred and fifty million pounds. The banks came with
the idea, and they were prepared to raise money. And you will see
every Premiership club and half the First Division clubs going public
because of that. Theyre not interested in Chester City. They
wouldnt lend £50,000 to Chester City, never mind £50m.
The problem is Chester City has to be funded we have no overdraft
its money thats put in every week to support this club.
And from my point of view Id be delighted if the banks or consortiums
were prepared to invest in Chester City and that has been tried and
attempted. Its not that I havent attempted to do so because
Im putting the money in. Obviously Id be delighted if
others were prepared to put money in as well. The banks are not prepared
to do that because theyre looking at it as a pure business
deal. My way forward on that particular deal was to help Chester
survive in the long run and keep its autonomy.
The feeder club system, as Kevin explained
earlier, has many different facets. But the main thing is for
a club to keep its own independence, for it to be a cooperation,
an alliance between clubs in the way that Crewe are doing with
Liverpool at the moment. Its nothing against the rules it
is an alliance. The word, feeder, nursery, they all mean nothing
because one can mean that club owns the other club one can mean
one helps the other out with the loan of players and this that
and the other. Youve seen this year, for example, with
the loan player that weve brought (Sam Aiston from Sunderland)
the extra quality of a player and how he can electrify and excite
and help us win games. Im only talking about bringing extra
players of that quality at this level to help us pay the bills
at the end of the day. Thats all were actually talking
about. Referring back to the original question, no it isnt
possible for any consortium to be prepared to put money into
Chester City. If there was one then Id be delighted to
TONY A consortium were in for the
club before you came in. You must have out bid him. What are your
motives for getting into this club? What do you see as the future?
MG My view of the future of this club
is to make it successful, to make it go through the leagues, to
make it develop players and to make us break even, first and foremost.
Then the future is to get promotion, and for us to move up and
were trying our hardest. My understanding is that (And Ive
only been told this) the other consortium were considering parttime
football. We believe in a full 72 club Football League of fulltime
football and our aim is to get into the Second Division and then
to move into the First Division. And to strengthen as we go along
and I think the best example is to follow a club like Crewe. Thats
what were aiming for. Why else would we have put so much
money recently into a youth policy, got Dave Fogg, whos very
highly qualified, in to sort out the situation and look to the
future. Thats the only way forward.
Q. On the subject of consortiums, weve
got Mark in control at the moment. Mark did have a partner whos
now departed. Is Mark actively trying to take on a Board of Directors
to help generate income for the club? Because at the moment hes
doing it all on his own, and were very grateful for what
hes doing, but obviously if we want success we need more
money and wed like to see more people brought in a
proper board of directors who are prepared to put money, time and
MG Let me explain to you. The situation
is no different now than it was prior to Ian, who had a heavy work
load. The money is the same and its been put in by the same
person all the way through. Nothings changed there. From the
point of view of bring other people on board yes Id be delighted
to bring other people on board. But at the moment were losing
probably £350,000 a year. For someone who wants to come on
board and put two or three thousand pounds a year in, which is the
sort of offers weve had recently, to control the club its
meaningless. At the end of the day if people are prepared to stand
up and help with a sizeable contribution then theyre welcome
to come on board. But my view is that you go round to many other
clubs and too many people are on the board just for the sake of being
on the board. My viewpoint is that theyve got to be on the
board because theyve got a contribution to make. An thats
the only way you can work in football other wise it becomes like
an old boys club and thats not the way to move forward.
CHRIS PEARCEY How confident are
you of making the playoffs final and winning?
KR Were very confident at the moment.
Weve gone on a run of ten games undefeated so at the moment
were very confident. But the more time goes on the more pressure
gets put on the players theyre thinking different
things it all plays a part in the game of football. Were
quietly confident at the moment I still think it will go
all the way to the wire like it did last year. And things can change
over the matter of one game. Therell be maybe one team coming
up from nowhere. I would say other than the top three for theyre
more or less certain to go up, I think out of the next therell
be seven or eight teams that can make those four places. So its
important to us that we get as many points as we can as early as
NT Harry McNally how realistic
are Chesters chances?
HM I think theyre very realistic.
I saw the game against Mansfield when it was a tight game one
of those that youre delighted to win. Its a question,
as Kevin has said, of the players keeping the spirit going, playing
for each other. Because you see the perfect example at the club Im
at at the moment. If anyone blew a golden opportunity last season
it was Blackpool because they were virtually there and hit a hiccup
at the wrong time. You cant afford that now, you got to keep
the machine rolling.
SARAH EVANS Will money be made
available if and when we get promotion?
MG The situation
is that, we talk about money being made available., this season
the main thing people have got to understand is when we talk about
money is that weve not been selling. Weve had offers
for players and weve literally not been selling, were
holding on to them. Every other club in our division bar Wigan,
even Carlisle, theyve been selling players, theyve
been raising funds. Were losing money and we havent
been selling. Obviously, if we get promotion, and were keeping
all our fingers crossed and Im a born optimist so I believe
we are going to get promotion, were going to have to look
at the situation and deal with it as and when we go up. Obviously
were going to try and bring in more players, were going
to have to see what the situation is as and when. Weve got
a situation like every other club at the end of the season with
the Bosman ruling it means that certain of our players will
technically be free and open to the market. Hence youve seen,
this week, clubs like Tranmere having to let players go because
they know that at the end of the season they can walk away for
nothing. So in general its a matter of, sometimes, keeping
what youve got rather than looking anew. But Im not
saying that. We will look for new players next season. But we wont
be in a situation like Chester were the last time they got promoted
when they ended up with a skeleton staff. What were aiming
to do, as I said earlier, is to be like Crewe. If you look at the
tables, Crewe came up behind us third behind us last time they
got promoted. But what theyve done is theyve looked
to consolidate. Their viewpoint is that they had the players to
bring in through their own system. Were building our own
system. I think the first player to come through is young Jonathon
Jones and were looking to bring others through. Weve
actually brought on our own young players and thats got to
be the way that you go forward.
NT Harry McNally, clubs at this level
really do have to produce their own players dont they?
HM Absolutely. The key word is stability.
You can seebearing fruit at Wrexham now, Brian Flynns been
there eight years. Irrespective of what you say theyre producing
their own good young players. This week theyve sold the boy
for £700,000 thatll buy one or two good players.
Theres no other way forward but its a question of everyone
thinking along the lines of stability. Its worked at Crewe
and its now working at Wrexham, and theres no reason
at all why it shouldnt work at Chester. I was over there
the other Sunday morning watching our youngsters and I was very
very impressed. I told Kevin, when I was down here that the quality
of youngsters that Chester have got is very very high.