Stuart Murphy fears Chester FC face an “uncertain future” after the businessman and Blues benefactor ended his association with the National League North club.
But the entrepreneur and founder of Exacta Plc, pictured, left the door open to reconciliation in a statement on Tuesday, released within hours of the Blues confirming he’d withdrawn an offer to take control of the supporter-owned club.
After pumping £1m into the Blues in 2018 to help them prosper on the pitch, the 66-year-old unveiled ambitious plans in November 2019 for a state-of-the-art multi-million pound sports village on land around the club’s home to help them reach League One.
The 66-year-old has sponsored the Blues since Chester City’s reformation in 2010 and previously as the owner of former Blues shirt sponsor Truetone in the mid-2000s.
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His statement read: “Following developments over the weekend, I have reluctantly taken the decision to withdraw my offer to take over Chester F.C. It is almost two years since I agreed to support the club with a commitment to provide the Board with a cash injection of £1m, to assist with infrastructure projects to ensure medium-term financial stability of the club.
“My donation has gone mainly towards buying new players for the first team to help the club to remain competitive and get us closer to a Football League return, where I believe we rightfully belong. It has become clear to me since I became involved with the club that the current model is unsustainable, which is why I have invested a great deal of time and money devising the 1885 Sporting Village.
“This ambitious project, which includes redevelopment of the stadium and a host of attractions and leisure facilities, will benefit the wider community of Chester and will provide a steady and vital stream of revenue for the club beyond matchdays. Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape for football clubs large and small and it is a fair assumption that we are operating on the sharpest of knife edges.
“With that in mind, I opened confidential talks with the board just over a month ago to discuss the possibility of taking over Chester FC, and I fear that without my continued involvement, the club faces an uncertain future. I was surprised to see that some of the details of our discussions have been shared with the media without prior warning and while talks are ongoing.
“I was also surprised to have read comments from Chris Matheson MP this week suggesting that I have his support for a takeover. Our previous meetings regarding the 1885 proposal have been positive and supportive but at no time have I ever suggested that he backs my proposed takeover, which has only arisen over recent weeks.
“In these unprecedented times, it is impossible to devise a cast-iron business plan for the club but I have an experienced team supporting me and I believe we can overcome the challenges that the virus has caused. However, I am not prepared to invest the significant sums required without having control to ensure that the funds are used wisely.
“My priority is to ensure the future prosperity and competitiveness of the club and I believe I have the wherewithal to ensure this. I would be delighted to hear the board’s plans for ensuring the funding is in place to sustain and grow our playing budget for next season and beyond. I have shown my passion for our great club over the years and have additionally commemorated fine players such as Gary Talbot by additionally donating to name a stand after him.
“In relation to the terms of the small outstanding invoice and contributions for some players, I am seeking clarification that the government’s CJRS (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) has already paid the players since March 24. I want Chester FC to prosper, to remain competitive and to establish the club as a permanent fixture in the Football League. I am not interested in short-term quick fixes that will in any way endanger the club’s future.
“Without my backing, I am not confident that the club can remain competitive and ensure no repeat of the calamitous problems it has encountered in the recent past. If the board expresses its willingness to revisit discussions about my proposals, I would be happy to discuss them in an open forum. I believe that our supporters should have the right to decide for themselves whether my long-term commitment is right for the club.”
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