Lessons Learned from Portsmouth and Chester City


When two clubs’ long, drawn-out crises both reach their denouements the same day — with Portsmouth FC entering administration, and Chester City FC expelled from the Football Conference — it’s worth paying attention to what the supporters have to say in response as they are left picking up the pieces, and consider the lessons we might learn from them.

First, Portsmouth’s Supporters’ Trust was careful to recognise the broader impact of the club’s collapse — not just on the fans, but on the staff and on local businesses still owed money by a club whose revenue was in the tens of millions last year. They made the point that the lack of transparency in the club’s dealings had been a serious problem. In their press release, they said:

Portsmouth City Football Club Limited has today confirmed that it has entered into administration. Although this brings an initial nine point deduction it does give the club the opportunity to rebuild.

Sadly administration will have a negative impact on local businesses that are now unlikely to receive the money they’re owed. We also feel for the staff who have devotedly served the Company and whose jobs are now at risk.

We now urge all Pompey fans to unite together and show to the World what this club means to its fans and its community.

We do understand the difficult job that Andrew Andronikou has ahead of him as Administrator, and as an organisation the Supporters’ Trust is willing to provide support to him in working towards a more stable future for the football club.

The next owner of our historic club needs to understand the passion of the Pompey fans and communicate and co-operate with them with greater transparency.

This club belongs to its fans and its community, it’s this reason that Portsmouth Football Club will never die.

Meanwhile, when a club that has existed for 125 years reaches the sorry state that Chester City have, it’s no wonder their supporters, organised in the City Fans United (CFU) Supporters’ Trust, ask how the football authorities could have allowed such poor and shady business practices to destroy their club.The Football Conference, after expunging Chester’s record from the Blue Square Premier records this season, said that “Friday’s events are unparalleled in the history of our national sport and it is with much regret these circumstances have evolved” (as if the Conference themselves had not played their own cretinous part in that “evolution”).

In their press release about the news, the CFU said:

Today the member clubs of the Football Conference have voted to expel Chester City FC from the competition.  City Fans United are dismayed and saddened that this situation has been allowed to occur, however we have previously stated our belief that years of financial mismanagement meant that this decision was inevitable. We are angry that Chester  City FC was allowed to fall into such a sorry state and we call upon the  football authorities to review their rules on the ownership and financial  control of football clubs, before the supporters of another football club are  forced to endure the pain felt by fans of Chester City FC.

Both sets of supporters are right to emphasise that their clubs will go on — in whatever hopefully reformed or possibly entirely new forms — but also to suggest that lessons can be learned in both how clubs communicate with fans and that the football authorities, starting at the top with the governing body in the Football Association, need to look at how this has happened at two clubs so different yet united in the almost comedic level of mismanagement that has seen both sent crashing down, while all those in charge of the game who should have taken action stood around paralysed.

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