Chester FC fans are weighing up whether to support a takeover by entrepreneur Stuart Murphy tonight and end their supporter ownership.
The National League North club announced the businessman’s approach to take over the running and control of the Blues on Thursday evening.
According to a statement released by officials at the 1885 Arena, the news “marks a sudden and radical change to the previously negotiated relationship between Mr Murphy and the club”.
The 66-year-old founder of city-based Exacta Plc has sponsored Chester’s stadium since the club’s reformation in 2010 and previously as the owner of former Blues shirt sponsor Truetone in the mid-2000s.
— Chester FC (@ChesterFC) May 7, 2020
He’s been more closely involved since May 2018 when he held a press conference to announce a significant donation to give Chester a new lease of life.
In November 2019 he unveiled ambitious plans for a state-of-the-art multi-million pound sports village on land around the club’s home in order to help the Blues reach League One.
Any change of ownership or control would require an Extraordinary General Meeting, currently unlikely but a possibility in the coming weeks and months as the government eases social distancing measures and the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.
The statement read: “The Board of City Fans United wishes to advise the members that it has received an approach from Stuart Murphy (Exacta Plc) to take over the running and control of Chester Football Club.
“This marks a sudden and radical change to the previously negotiated relationship between Stuart Murphy (Exacta Plc) and the club. If agreed, the approach would mark the end of supporter ownership at Chester FC.
“As a democratic supporter-owned football club, any decision to change the ownership model can only be taken by the membership at an Extraordinary General Meeting attended by at least 50% of members and with at least 75% voting in favour.
“Before this can take place, the board has a duty to assess such approaches and if there is a serious and credible offer, members will decide the outcome as set out in the constitution. As the custodians of Chester Football Club, acting on behalf of CFU members and supporters, the board has therefore asked Mr Murphy to provide:
“A detailed three-year business plan which can be shared with members.
“Full settlement of outstanding financial commitments which remain outstanding for the 2019/20 season by Monday 11th May and an undertaking that future commitments for 2020/21 will be maintained as per agreements already in place.”
The statement added: “This approach has been received during a time of unprecedented uncertainty for the game and the economy.
“We believe the absolute priority for the Board and everyone involved in the Club should be to focus on ensuring that we can navigate through these immediate challenges together, alongside developing a longer-term sustainable strategy for the Club suited to the post-Covid-19 world. We have asked Stuart to respect the wishes of the board on this matter and work with us as we plan our forward strategy.”
The club’s board also confirmed they are taking legal advice as well as consulting with a range of stakeholders including the Football Supporters’ Association and Chester FC Community Trust. However, the current public health crisis would not help the takeover with the obvious obstacles it presents.
The statement added: “The board has again thanked Stuart for the support that he has given the club but note that the timing of the takeover approach presents us with real challenges.
“Given the current lockdown restriction it is impossible to engage meaningfully with our membership in face-to-face discussion and deliberation about a potential change in ownership and the implications, positive and negative, that any change in the model would bring to the club while social distancing measures remain in place.
“The board commits to update all members once the business plan and settlement of outstanding invoices has been received, and wishes to thank you for your continued support of the club during this difficult period.”
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