Chester City FC: Transcript from Gary Metcalf's
first press conference
By Paul Wheelock, Chester Chronicle
THE new owner of Chester
City Football Club, Gary Metcalf (GM),
was unveiled at the Deva Stadium on Friday alongside
board members Bob Gray (BG),
Ian Anderson (IA)
and Steve Halliwell (SH).
The Chronicle brings you an extended transcript
from the press conference.
everybody. We’re here today to announce
the new owner of Chester City Football Club, Mr
Gary Metcalf. Steve Halliwell is our director
on the commercial side; Ian Anderson is our new
chief executive who is going to help the club
along with the players and their contractual agreements;
and obviously me as the managing director. That’s
how it will stay in place. Mr Vaughan has stepped
down and the club has got to move on and that’s
what this press conference is about.
It’s a confidential disclosure agreed by
Mr Vaughan and Mr Metcalf, so any questions on
that will be limited as there are a few things
that need to be ironed out to make the deal 100%,
which should be done by Monday or Tuesday or sometime
next week. However, the loans are still outstanding
and Mr Vaughan remains the major creditor of the
I’d just like to welcome Gary on board,
I’m sure he’s going to do a fantastic
job. He’s very ambitious. We’ve talked
quite a lot over the last few weeks and the investment
side is really progressing and that’s why
Gary is here. He’s going to play a major
part in the investment side for the football club,
which is excellent, and I think it’s through
investment that we’re going to move the
to give you some background, I’ve been negotiating
with Bob for six months. We’ve negotiated
an option over the development of the football
stadium. The number one objective is to keep the
football club in the Football League and the number
two objective is to secure new investment for
the club. We’ve created a new vehicle, called
Spirit Football Ltd, and the objective is to attract
new investment into the club. But the most important
thing from now until the end of the season is
that Chester remains a Football League club. That’s
the number one focus and any other initiative
and plans for the club will be secondary to that.
I won’t be dealing with the day-to-day football
matters, that will be a matter for the board.
I will focus 100% on bringing new investment into
the football club. The reasons why I’ve
been attracted to Chester City Football Club is
that it is one of the very few Football League
clubs to have nil bank debt and that it has potential
to develop the stadium in terms of new offices,
café bars, bistros and retail. I can tell
you, without formally announcing who those parties
are, that we do have potential interest from major
property companies to take a further option on
the development of the stadium and we’ll
be working hard over the next six to 12 months
to make sure that happens.
There are other plans we’d like to initiate.
We would like to develop an Under 21s youth team.
We’ve held brief discussions with the board
about developing that for the new season. But
the main objective is to provide a solid platform
so that the club can continue in the League and
then build from that.
a transfer embargo on the club which has precluded
the current manager from signing any players.
The deadline is next Thursday, so are there plans
to have that lifted by putting investment in?
are three working days effectively left. It’s
the first time I’ve met the board today
and I’ve not yet met Mark Wright the manager.
I wouldn’t rule it out completely but the
likelihood is that the manager will have to make
best use of the squad that he has got. There’s
a good crop of young players here and the likelihood
is the current squad will be the one that will
be with us until the end of the season. It’s
important that everybody believes the club can
stay in the Football League.
It’s important for the manager, it’s
important for the players and it’s important
for the fans to believe that this squad of players
can get them where they need to be.
In summary, I wouldn’t rule it out but the
likelihood is that it will be extremely difficult
to bring somebody in before Thursday. We’ve
got a meeting with the PFA on Monday at 12 o’clock,
we need to find out what the balance is. And on
Monday afternoon and Tuesday we will be meeting
with the all creditors of the club. The most important
thing is that we try and create a platform so
that everyone can understand what our intentions
are and move the club forward.
Q: Are you a Chester
I was based in Chester for a number of years when
I was in the Army and I’ve got no doubt
that myself and my family will be coming to most
of the games. I’m a Liverpool fan, but I’ll
be putting a commercial hat on and my objective
is to build the football club and make it a viable
business. I would tell you that Stephen Vaughan
became a Chester fan and will remain a Chester
Q: How are you going
to get more people through the gates?
GM: It’s a
tough one. People have to believe and people will
come through the gates if the performances are
out there on the pitch. My objective is making
sure that we have a solid platform to create new
investment because the club needs new investment.
We’re in a precarious position in the Football
League, we’re embargoed by the PFA and there
are the outstanding creditors. But having said
that, we’re one of the very few football
clubs without any bank debt and I don’t
envisage taking on new bank debt. I envisage bringing
in new investors, negotiating terms with the existing
creditors to give us a platform for further growth
Getting new people through the door is going to
be our toughest challenge.
Gates at the moment are around 1,200. They need
to be 3,000. I’ve gone through the accounts
with Bob and the board. They need to be 3,000.
That should be the bare minimum for any football
club to stay in the Football League. If the fans
want to stay away, the likelihood is that this
football club will become not Football League.
It’s absolutely crucial the fans come and
show their support when results are not going
the team’s way.
So we’ll be doing whatever we can to get
them back and supporting the football club. It’s
vital between now and the end of the season we
try and get the gate up to the maximum that we
Q: Is the PFA debt
the only football-related debt the club has?
BG: Yes, but there
might be one or two small levies to pay and things
like that, which are ongoing. It’s not a
PFA debt at the end of the day, it’s people
need paying for their wages and things like that.
Q: The reason for
the question was that if that is the only debt
and that is lifted, then the embargo is lifted?
BG: It’s not
as simple and straight forward. This is why Gary
has hinted that it might not be a possibility
of bringing players in. I can’t see us getting
any players in all honesty and I’m not going
over what Gary said in any way, shape or form.
The Football League are aware of our situation.
They’re asking can they bring players in
or can’t they bring players in? Or can they
afford to bring players in? And based on the fact
that we’ve got an embargo, it would be difficult
for them to say, ‘yes we’ll agree
for Chester City Football Club to bring players
It’s all based on what you bring through
the gates and things like that. The fans play
a massive part in the salary cap management structure
that we’ve got in place with the Football
League and our League Two counterparts. So if
the fans aren’t coming through the gates,
our income then reduces dramatically and the salary
cap management kicks in and says, ‘well,
I’m sorry, because you’ve downturned
your projections, it is unaffordable to bring
players in and you’ve got to go with what
you’ve got’. So although we want to
bring players in and lift the embargo, at the
end of the day it’s down to the Football
League to say we can do that.
to a Football League spokesman last night, there
are only three League Two clubs over the salary
cap management and Chester isn’t one of
BG: Right, good, fine.
Q: What are your plans
for the football club per se as opposed to plans
for the development of the club or do you see
them linking and going hand in hand?
GM: I don’t think the local authority
will grant planning consent unless the football
club is an integral part of the whole stadium
redevelopment. They’re both hand in hand.
My background is property investment and development
and I’m not making any secrets of that.
We see an opportunity here at the Deva Stadium
to develop the facility. We’re not being
over-ambitious at all. I know that Bob wants to
increase the capacity up to 8,000 and that’s
something we’re looking at. There’s
certainly an opportunity here for office premises
at the front of the stadium, a business centre
and conference facilities that the local authority
can use and that the local community can use and
that can create revenue for the club. The first
objective is to keep the football club in the
Football League and the second objective is to
create a balanced platform to attract new investment.
Where the football club is at the moment, with
the creditors and the embargo and everything else,
that’s an impossible task. So my role is
to create a solid platform to attract new investment.
But for all the talk of the business centre use
and the office development, the most integral
part of that is that the football club is a successful
football club and one that the city of Chester
can be proud of. I don’t believe a city
such as Chester should have such a poorly-supported
club. You’ve seen small football towns like
Shrewsbury that have got successful football clubs
that their towns can be proud of. And if I can
play some part in getting this football club to
a better level then that would be a step forward.
I’ve been an underdog all of my life and
this represents the biggest challenge for me.
But I remain confident if we can set the right
tone and create the right platform, we can attract
people and I’ll be working with the current
board to make sure we do that.
Q: If the club is relegated,
the Coca-Cola money is halved next season and
then totally goes out of the window if you don’t
get promotion straight away. Would that have an
effect on your business plan for the future?
GM: I don’t think so. I’m probably
three or four weeks away from submitting a formal
planning application. We’ve concluded a
pre-application exercise with Chester City Council
and Flintshire. They have given the football club
full support to develop this stadium. It’s
important that it’s not over-developed and
that we don’t create the biggest white elephant
Chester has ever seen. So what we’re likely
to do is create an office facility at the main
stand first of all. If we can get planning within
12 to 16 weeks ready for the new season, we’ve
created an asset for the football club and for
the city of Chester. Even in probably the worst
property market for 100 years, to have an asset
on your balance sheet for the football club is
a major step forward.
One of the restrictions that Stephen Vaughan has
had and the board have had is that this football
stadium isn’t owned by the football club,
so there’s no asset to attract any further
Q: Would the profit from
the development go the football club or would
it go to an individual or a development company?
GM: We’re talking about one and the
same thing. My negotiations with Stephen Vaughan
are to bring all things under one roof so that
the football club will own the development rights
as well. But that will mean further discussions
with the local authorities that they are comfortable
and everybody is comfortable that the rights things
are being done.
BG: It’s took
us two years to get us this far and that’s
why we’re trying to blossom it out and say
it’s looking good. Submitting all the plans
and paperwork to the council is a positive move
forward and it has to be. Everybody in this room
knows how much money Stephen Vaughan put in and
he’s had to because there’s insufficient
amount of attendances coming through the gates,
so we have to look at another avenue. We’re
not being disrespectful to the fans that aren’t
We’ve got 1,600 hardcore Chester City supporters
that come week-in, week-out, but that isn’t
enough and, again, that’s not being disrespectful
to them. It’s not enough to compensate for
the shortfall, but the way we’ve compensated
for the shortfall over the last seven or eight
years has been through Stephen Vaughan. So what
we’ve got to do now is find other investment.
But it takes time. This isn’t going to happen
overnight as we’ve still got the embargo
and things like that. But Gary’s on board
now and if there’s outside investment that’s
going to come in and put into the development,
a proportion of that investment will go the club
and that will pay for the shortfall and that’s
a good move for Chester City.
Q: You say there’s
a confidentiality agreement in place, but when
do you expect to have total control of Stephen
GM: There’s one or two what I would
regard as minor legal details to be clarified
and I am hopeful they will be sorted out by the
end of next week. I don’t see any issues
at all and I’m sure Stephen will agree to
what we’re discussing.
You’ve asked some very good questions and
the overriding one is how much control will the
football club have over the development of the
stadium. Well, the answer is as much as it can
have. The football club needs a solid future and
the only way it can have a solid future is to
get new faces in and new investment. I think it’s
absolutely key that a city like Chester has a
football club that it can be proud of and it also
needs a stadium facility that it can be proud
of. This is a good location for offices and businesses
to use on a day-to-day basis and all that creates
value for the football club. And as soon as you’ve
got a football club that’s got an asset
and as soon as you’ve cleaned things up
internally, you will be able to attract new investment.
My job over the next six to eight weeks is that,
from a business point of view, we can create a
platform that new money can come in. That’s
not been able to happen in the past. And to be
fair to Stephen he’s put his money where
his mouth is.
I’m not the type of guy who will promise
the world, but what I would say is that I’ll
be working with the board to make sure there is
a future for the football club because it deserves
And let’s not kid each other. I’m
here with a commercial hat on. I’m not a
Chester guy, I’m based in Liverpool, so
I see an opportunity and the opportunity is to
develop the football stadium and create an asset
that can be worth a considerable amount of money.
Q: There are very few philanthropists
around at the moment, which obviously you’re
not, so you obviously you see it as an investment
for your company as well as the football club?
let’s not kid each other. I am a sports
fan; I am a football and boxing fan. It’s
part of my make-up. But my business head will
overrule everything else and there is an opportunity
here to create an asset that has a value, but
that will be shared between the football club
and our company, on terms to be agreed, between
the local authorities in the main, because they
own the stadium, and any other party. But there’s
no point in creating an asset that can’t
be built, so whatever terms are agreed between
the local authorities and a developer will have
to be commercially viable. And I think that’s
the platform to move this club on.
The plans for the U21s youth policy is really
there to capture the failings of Liverpool, Manchester
City, Manchester United and Everton. I don’t
know of any other industry worldwide that says
your career is over at 18. The objective is to
try and capture some of them and develop them.
I don’t want to make any promises on that
score because at the moment, the most important
thing is keeping this football club in Football
League. The second thing is to create a platform
for new investment and then we can go to work
on the youth policy.
I see no reason why, if we’re cute, we can’t
work with local football clubs like Liverpool,
Manchester United and Manchester City and nurture
some of their talent. Liverpool Football Club
have 67 players at Melwood, their reserve team
plays 20 league fixtures a year, so 40 odd players
don’t get to play most weeks. They need
an outlet and exposure to the rough and tumble
of League One and League Two, so I see an opportunity
there to engage with those people and bring three
or four players in.
Q: Do you plan any changes
on the playing side at all in the immediate future?
GM: I’ve not even had a conversation
with Mark Wright yet as today is the first time
I’ve met the board. I’ve got no doubt
there will be new faces, but the football club
needs to focus now on the remaining games from
now until the end of the season and give 110%
to make sure we get the right results. But the
football side of things will be taken care of
by the board. I’ll be taking council from
Bob and the rest of the team as I’ll have
enough on my plate to try and get investment in.
IA: One of my jobs
for the remaining part of the season and during
the summer months is to look at the staffing levels
of the playing staff and the way we do things
generally on a contractual basis. Bob reiterated
it, without people coming through the door, it’s
a vicious circle. Without people putting bums
on seats, it’s very difficult to get investment.
GM: I see no reason
why we can’t get to 3,000 if people are
confident we’re doing the right things and
we’re open and transparent about what we’re
trying to do.
BG: We looked at
it last year and if we could get 3,800 paying
customers through the gates it could move the
club forward naturally. But obviously that’s
not happening and that hasn’t happened since
we were in the Conference and we were winning
games. So we have to look at other avenues to
compensate for the shortfall and so this is what
we’re doing. We’re looking at the
investment side of it to prop up the shortfall
and not just leaving it up to one man to get the
Gary’s got ambitious ideas about investment
into the club and part of those investments is
the development of the ground and that would be
fantastic because we would get a proportion of
that investment to move the club forward.
GM: I haven’t
come here today to make any promises as that’s
not what I’m all about. I’ve come
here today to explain to everybody that I’ve
seen an opportunity to develop a football club
and a football stadium and the commercial benefits
are clearly there for everybody to see.
I’m not here to make any false promises.
I know the history of the football club. I know
about when the Americans were here and the disarray
they caused, but that’s not what I’m