COULD THE ROMAN REVOLUTION COME
A quiet revolution has gone on at
Bath City FC of the Dr Martens Premier League. The
club is now run by its supporters. Could this be a
way forward for League clubs like Chester?
Chester’s pre season friendly with Bath gave us the opportunity to re-visit
Twerton Park, host to several encounters with the exiled Bristol Rovers.
The latter are now back in their home city but Bath had come to rely
on their lodgers so much that their removal provoked a financial crisis.
This has acted as a catalyst for a remarkable and inspiring take over
of the club by its own supporters.
After City’s unremarkable friendly
match in August, a group of us grabbed the chance to
speak to Steve Hall, former chairman of the supporters’ club
and now chairman and chief executive of the football
club itself. We cornered him in the supporters’ lounge
afterwards and he was really happy to talk to us.
The main concern had been, once the supporters took over, to promote
the football club in its home City. A re-launch week took place in
March, preceded by an imaginative poster and leaflet campaign. The
football club was advertised as Bath’s best kept secret. Events included:
• A photographic exhibition;
• A nostalgic evening with Malcolm Allison, Tony Book and other ex-players;
• A business lunch with Nick Hornby in attendance;
• A Football Any Questions Evening with Kenneth Wolstenholme, Tony Robinson (Baldrick)
• A schools penalty shoot out at the Saturday match;
• A live band and special celebrity appearances.
• A Football Special bus service was laid on
• The local newspaper published a special supplement
• A promotional video was made of the week.
Another aim during the re-launch
week was to start a new weekly lottery which would
help provide income but also a system of contact within
the city. It all sounded exciting but achievable. The
most important thing is that supporters were asked
to get involved and do something.
I, for one will be watching Bath’s
progress with interest. They are aiming to build slowly,
to reach the second division of The Conference next
From one Roman City to another
Could a similar thing happen with Chester? I think it could but it would
probably mean players going part-time. The cloth would very much have
to be cut to fit the club’s income. Clubs like Chester have over-stretched
themselves financially, often gambling by offering lucrative contracts
to players who will help win promotion. This way of operating may become
a thing of the past if clubs are run by their supporters. Tony Banks,
Minister of Sport, implied as much recently. Indeed there is a proposal
by the Third Division Association that clubs must cap their players’ salaries
to no more than 51% of their annual turnover. This proposal is said
to have been a big success in Rugby’s Super League (Peter Rowe, the
Nationwide’s new director of communications was appointed from a similar
position in Rugby ). As yet, there is no proposal to cap transfer fees
or signing on fees.
It may be the end of any realistic
ambition of promotion to the higher echelons of the
League – perhaps the price we would have to pay for
survival. It might mean also that Chester would have
to find their level below League status – unthinkable
perhaps but would it make you support them any less?
I’d be interested to know your thoughts.