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JOHN Batchelor insists he will not give up in his quest to buy the Blues – despite Stephen Vaughan’s public rejection of his bid yesterday.

 

The former York City owner spelled out his vision for the future of Chester City in a interview with The Chronicle on Wednesday – and openly admitted he did not care what the fans thought of his plan to change the club’s name.

 

The straight-talking Batchelor was happy to answer our questions.

 

Q. HOW did Tuesday’s meeting with Stephen Vaughan go and where are you at in terms of your proposed takeover of Chester City?

 

It wasn’t our first meeting and, as far as things go, there is no problem on the price. There’s no problem on the proof of our funds, we’ve shown him that. I wasn’t just with Stephen, his lawyer was present as well. The only thing is that I have some fairly contentious plans for the club. We still need to get over that.

 

Q. Can you expand on what those plans are? Would they involve renaming the club?

 

Yes, there would be a complete change of identity for the club in all respects.

 

Q. What would you change the name to?

 

We probably have three options, all of which relate to sponsorship deals.

 

Q. What would you say to supporters who feel you are interfering with the history and tradition of the club?

 

I don’t care, basically, is the answer. If I’m going to invest £2m into a business venture, it’s being done on the basis that the amount of commercial income we bring in is greater than what the fans contribute.

 

At the moment they don’t contribute enough to keep that club going, so if both of them want to ring me I’ll speak to both fans... It’s as brutal as that.

 

You’ve only got to look at the high street and look at Woolworths for example. It’s been there 99 years. It won’t be there next year because it’s had its day. Chester City is the same thing. Not enough people turn up at that club every other Saturday to maintain that particular brand.

 

I can create something for professional football in Chester that would maintain it if nobody turned up. So they (the fans) don’t get a vote. And they don’t get a vote because they don’t get a vote when they go to Tesco’s on how the store is run. Why should it be any different with football?

 

Q. So you don’t think the fans play an important part in a football club?

 

Not interested. If they want to come and watch successful professional football in Chester – under whatever guise – if it belongs to me they will do it on my terms. If they don’t want to come, fine.

 

Q. How can you make this work? How can you make Chester City successful?

 

If I sound frustrated about this, or if I sound abrupt, it’s because people have a mental block when you say you want to run a football club and you don’t care about the fans. There are three routes of income for this club which will generate probably three times as much as it generates now. None of those involve people coming through the turnstiles. So if people do come through the turnstile, it’s a bonus.

 

Q. Naming Chester after the fictional team Harchester United (from Sky TV’s Dream Team) has been mentioned. Is that something you would be interested in doing?

 

It’s possible that we could do that. I would use the Harchester alternative if it works for the various sponsors we have. One of those sponsors has a very extreme brand and the more extreme we can be, with positive or negative publicity, it doesn’t matter, the more we would get.

 

The Harchester thing is quite interesting. I investigated it about 18 months ago. I spoke to the owner of the rights and did some background on the fan base that fictional club has. It has just over 27,000 registered fans on the Harchester website. From a marketing perspective, it would be a lot easier to talk to them than the couple of thousand people who turn up at Chester.

 

Q. But just because people register themselves as fans on a website, it doesn’t mean they will travel to Chester to watch the team.

 

We don’t need them to travel. We don’t care whether they turn up or not. But we do like to sell to them.

 

I’ve got to be open with everybody because, if I’m not and I try to be everybody’s best friend like when I was at York City, then 12 months in it just gets nasty. I’d rather everybody knew where I’m coming from – which is to keep professional football in Chester, making a profit and having a successful team based there whatever it’s called – than pretend that I’m going to look at 120 years of heritage, which I don’t give a monkey’s about.

 

Q. You admitted in an interview with The Guardian earlier this year that you lied to York City fans. Have you changed since your time at York?

 

I’m seven years older now, seven years wiser, and I think it’s because everything I enter into now I enter into for one reason – and that’s me and my family, and for no other reason. I’ve had the ego thing, and I’m really not interested in the ego thing any more.

 

Q. You have described yourself as an “asset stripper” in the past. Are you looking to do that at Chester?

 

No.

 

Q. Where have the funds to buy the club come from?

 

I’m not sure I mentioned £2m but it’s been mentioned and that’s not too far off the number. Secondly, all of the proof of funding was produced on Tuesday for Stephen and his lawyer. Thirdly, investment will come from sponsorship deals.

 

Q. Would the current management team of Mark Wright and Steve Bleasdale be safe if you took over?

 

I might want to add to it but I have no problems with Mark or any of the management team that exists at the moment.

 

Q. What is the next step in your proposed takeover?

 

We’re ready to go as and when he (Vaughan) is. He is proving somewhat difficult in relation to some of the more radical ideas that we have for the club. Stephen is a very difficult man, as I’m sure you’re aware.

 

Q. So there are certain points that you still need to thrash out?

 

I don’t, but apparently he does.

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Franchise footy rears its head again! I know his attitude rubs salt into the wounds of lower league football, then kicks it in the head - and he is not one for the sweet souvenir or tradition, but I can't help thinking that there are very few options left for cash strapped, clubs marooned in the lower levels. Yes, Ebbsfleet, I'll say it before somebody else does - but I even think that myfootballclub.com project is strangely Big Brother-esque and ultimately wrong, where for a small annual subscription anyone would be able to choose to own a club that they know absolutely nothing about. Sure, some will take on board the products name and make it their own - but from a consumers point of view, isn't that similar to the MK Dons situation? They had a club they knew nothing about, and they bought into the product too. I don't know how the Gravesend and Northfleet fans felt about their club being snapped up by faceless buyers from across the world, but I wonder if fans from other clubs at that level were either disappointed that they didn't get "bought", or collectively let out a sigh of relief that it wasn't them.

 

Interesting thoughts.

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Sure, some will take on board the products name and make it their own - but from a consumers point of view, isn't that similar to the MK Dons situation? They had a club they knew nothing about, and they bought into the product too. I don't know how the Gravesend and Northfleet fans felt about their club being snapped up by faceless buyers from across the world, but I wonder if fans from other clubs at that level were either disappointed that they didn't get "bought", or collectively let out a sigh of relief that it wasn't them.

 

Interesting thoughts.

 

Mate, Bachelor is nothing like the Bastard Franchise Scum, Ebbsfleet and any of the other ones. He's simply an asset stripper who buys companies (In this case, football clubs) for a song, and asset strips them, before walking away after making himself a small fortune. The stuff he did at York just makes your teeth itch, which involved tearing up the long lease on Bootham Crescent and replacing it with a 1 year one, taking the sponsorship money and buying himself a house in Wilmslow with it, completely savaging the playing budget and then when he'd milked the club for all he could, put it into administration and walked away. York City was just about saved by the supporters by minutes.

 

The whole Harchester United renaming bollocks is nothing but a sham, and attracts him some, albeit bad, cheap publicity. It's unlikely to happen in any case as Chester council own the ground, and the land that its on is fairly worthless in sell-on value as houses can't be built on there.

 

As much as I dislike the whole franchise football concept, and I really do, it pales somewhat when you compare it to an unsavoury worm like this 'un is.

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Mate, Bachelor is nothing like the Bastard Franchise Scum, Ebbsfleet and any of the other ones.....

 

Yeah I know J, it was late and the words just tumbled out. I'm not sticking up for the bloke or anything, don't get me wrong - his responses to the questions raised speak volumes - but I was thinking, what are the options for success (a level of which being different for each club I suppose) with clubs like (and I've chosen these completely at random) Oxford, Halifax, York, Rotherham, Luton etc. What's left for them? This guy wants make Chester a business and sell it to the public just like MKD and Ebbsfleet. He's made it perfectly clear what his intentions are this time, like LL quite rightly pointed out - it doesn't make it right - but he's not arsed! "I'll have that club - I'll change their name - there's already a fanbase for the new name - Sky are involved" - it's a winner, isn't it? The losers are the fans, the history, the tradition - I'm not saying it's right - but what's left? .

 

Batchelor at York was a disaster - and very nearly cost the city their team, and no doubt the FA are on to him, they got on to Shinawatra eventually. He's a businessman - maybe not an ethical one (is there such a thing), and he's looking for opportunity, and if it's not him there's always somebody else. Maybe it's the clubs' fault, wooed with tales of success and ambition - little models of new stadiums and development....

 

Batchelor won't get into football, he can't surely....

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This guy wants make Chester a business and sell it to the public just like MKD and Ebbsfleet.

 

That's the thing though Matt, he doesn't want to make it into a business. That's the difference between him and *shudder* McFranchise FC, he just wants what he can get his hands on, convert it to cash quickly and get out of dodge. The franchises are recognised business ventures, you can see they want to make it profitable, and sell it on for more profit. Bachelor just isn't in it for that, he'll leave them with nothing just so he can get his grubby hands on them and pocket a bit of cash before liquidating it. Have a little Google for his name, and it'll return some very tasteless bedtime reading, I can assure of that.

 

And the name change thing too... Nah, that ain't gonna happen and he knows it. He spouts guff like that to... well, he can hardly say "I'm liquidating you in 6 months, after I've secured lots of money for myself of course before putting it into a CVA and buggering off". It's his sole intention. I get the feeling their current owner just doesn't want to deal with him so that'll probably see him off until he resurfaces again, somewhere else. If he does get in there, I just hope the fans do what Mansfield's did, and simply hound him out.

 

but I was thinking, what are the options for success (a level of which being different for each club I suppose) with clubs like (and I've chosen these completely at random) Oxford, Halifax, York, Rotherham, Luton etc. What's left for them?

 

I honestly don't know really mate. Yes, the franchise notion is creeping in, but it's still a rarity thankfully. We'll possibly see more things like that in the future at the chagrin of old romantics like meself. I just think eventually football will really split and most, if not all the teams in the 4th Division (League 2), will start to go part time or even amateur and same with the Conference. Unless something miraculous happens, and the FA initiate some sort of deal whereupon money is spread out equally and focus is put upon teams with smaller fanbases and lower incomes.

 

Sadly it'll take something ludicrous like England failing to qualify for regular tournaments to make people at the FA open their eyes and smell the coffee.

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It's a reminder that covenants on the land and the goodwill of the existing owners are all that stand between most clubs and none-existence.

 

I must disagree with FMS about spreading the money though - if you doubled or quadrupled the amount of money coming down the divisions, you would just see it flow straight through into players wages. That's most of what clubs spend on, and whatever their income they tend to try and spend the maximum and a bit more on the playing staff. If the level of income for clubs at our level plunged, so long as a club still had it's facilities I would expect that most would carry on but with much lower pay available to the same players. Of course, some clubs would be hit very hard and wouldn't make it. but that day is coming anyway. Some players would leave the game, but many would still be doing very well in it compared to their options.

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