Monday, 16 May 2011

Time for it all to quieten down? No, not really!

It's been a couple of weeks since that amazing finale to our season, and the superb promotion party - part 1 at Chester Racecourse last Saturday night - what a do that was.

It was always promising to be a great do, the moment Colin Murray gave his thumbs up to hosting it, and what a job he did, and to be fair to him he was feeling worse for ware before the event, suffering from illness, and on the Friday afternoon I got the "bad news" call - I thought 'oh no, this is it, we're going to see our host pull out' - and to make matters worse we kept on missing each other's calls as I was down at Chester Races celebrating with the lads, when at the end of the afternoon I'd noticed the missed call!

Anyway, the voicemail was classic, "Jeff, I've got some bad news I'm afraid, but not as bad news as bad news could be, but it's still bad news" - I was already confused with that!

Anyway, I phoned him back and he told me that he'd been drafted in to do the Sunday afternoon show that he thought he'd got out of, and that meant that he had to be in work at 9am on the Sunday, add to that he was feeling rough, but he said he was still intent on coming up to host the event, and so he did driving up after his saturday show finished, and he would head straight back down to London from our event at 11pm - what commitment to the cause that was!!!

He did a great job, and some of the gags were classic, at one point I thought we'd hired a comedian for the night! The best thing though was that he was so down to earth and bring Perry with him was great too, who was well up for slamming those drinks down his throat!

Perry was sat on the same table as our Chairman, and it wasn't long before he came over to our table to speak to Colin telling him that the Chairman had said that there may be room for 3 people on the board so you know what Perry was thinking....I was busy thinking "oh no, what have I started here, Colin, Perry & Pat on the board???" - that would make board meetings interesting!!!

The night itself saw the awards dished out to the players, and Wildey & George definitely deserved their accolades, and now the battle is on to become the CFU Player of the Year, which takes place this coming Friday night, another event to be hosted by a top BBC sports person, this time in the form of Chester fan Jonathan Legard.

The best award of the night had to be the Clubman of the Year Award, which saw Richard Wightman voted as the winner of the award, and it was great to see Richard's mum Lesley come up and collect the award, I think it was fair to say that moment was so full of emotion for everyone concerned, but well deserved too.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that things wind down now that the season is over, well I wish that was the case, there is still so much going on, what with the CFU Promotion Party to be organised (and at this point I'll say that Pat Cluskey has done a great job with both Parties), and also the Open Top Bus Tour for the Saturday morning before the Races, it's still a busy time.

For me personally, it's been a nightmare last couple of weeks, with serious family illnesses dominating my life, and maybe I've put football ahead of that which at times is inexcusable I will admit, but people who know me will know that I'll always try and do my best to balance things up.

Looking at the forums in the last week has seen a huge debate on the pricing of season tickets and matchday admission, and a hell of a lot has been said, some healthy debate, others totally off the mark - and the fact of the matter is we discussed this in great depth to ensure we arrived at the right decision. It must be remembered that each one of us on the board is a big Chester fan, and we go through what everyone else goes through, we all have season tickets ourselves, and do what we do for the love of our club.

The decision arrived at therefore was to increase the prices slightly - and I do believe it's slightly, given the fact that it's a solitary pound on the Harry Mac - which is mainly where the younger people go, and £2 in the stands - mainly where a lot more of adults go, not that that's the reason for the increase - nothing like it at all, we're just looking at the future, and if we want to be challenging for promotion from the Conference in a few years time, then we have to be looking at full time football - that is going to be a key life-changing moment as far as the football club is concerned, and we have to be ready for it, we have to be ambitious.

If prices were kept as they were last seaosn, then we'll go into next season with the same budget for the manager to use, when we all know that wages will be higher as you climb the leagues, and in the conference you're looking at annual wage bills of £500k-£1m, so to prepare for that kind of money, we have to look at the long term strategy, I really don't believe the price increases are unfair, in fact I've spoken to lots of people and they really do believe that the prices are fair, and as all money is going back in to the club then they are happy to pay it.

We also asked in the survey last year if people would be prepared to pay more in order to keep the youth prices down, and a huge percentage backed this idea, this prior to this year's Census which saw another massive vote for raising the prices if it meant we could move forward again - the questions is over the word 'modest' increase - which I believe the increase is.

Another point was made that the prices should have been kept as they were 'as a thank you' to everyone, and again i refer to the point that we are all fans, who want the best for our club, and there are indeed other ways we can offer thanks to fans for the journey we are embarking on, like for instance the Club threw a party for the fans who have committed countless hours to the club, volunteering their time to clean up after games, working the turnstiles, selling programmes, running the shop, helping behind the bar, and many many more vital jobs that need doing, all because they love their club, and I know they appreciated it.

That's the way the Club should look after it's army of volunteers, and they will be represented at next week's Civic Reception at the Town Hall, not everyone will be due to the numbers allowed, but they'll be represented nonetheless.

We're also looking at the kids, as they have formed 30% of the support that the club has now got, I somehow think that if prices had been raised by £1 for them, and only £1 for the adults in the seated stands, then there wouldn't have been half the kick off that there has been, but we wanted to keep the kids prices as they are given that they are the future, and any rise for their prices would be unhealthy at this point.

The board will always be open to criticism, we have to make decisions, and so far most of them have proved to be the right decisions, the club is looking professional from top to bottom right now, and will continue to do so, but we must look to progress - looking at the Conference, many teams have got into it but not prepared for the step up, and hopefully when it happens, it will be a massive step up, but we have to be ready for it.

On the player front, it's been an exciting few days with the arrival of Jamie Rainford, I know Steve Ashton has done a tremendous amount of work with Neil on Jamie's signing, and it's resulted in Chester getting an excellent deal on the transfer, given that Marine wanted a lot more money for him last season.

I obviously won't go into the figures agreed, but to see £60k quoted was completely laughable, and should in no way be taken seriously, a bit like the fact that people believe some of our players are on £500 a week, two words..."Get Real!!!" - that really is complete nonsense - let's not forget Chester City FC were paying that for full time wages, well they should have been paying them I should have said, but our lads are on wages nowhere near that amount, and I'm sure they'd love to be on that kind of money, but they're not!

The transfers kept coming too, with Liam Brownhill's addition on Saturday, and another one in the pipeline at the moment, but as ever we'll stay tightlipped - we put a press release out the other day about Jamie Rainford, as the two clubs agreed the other day that rumours about the player were unhelpful, so we moved quickly to put that to bed.

Anyway, another week has passed at Chester FC, as the dust begins to settle on the promotion campaign, but as said, one more party to come, followed by the bus tour, and I think we better get that trophy in bubble wrap, and hope that we don't have a Real Madrid moment on the bus!

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