BOSSES at Chichester City hope a combination of new sponsors and local support from the public can help set them off into a brave new era.
Players and officials are delighted by their new partnership with Masala Gate Indian restaurant in St Pancras. The club have agreed a deal with restaurant owner Murad Hossain to become main kit sponsor and are confident this - plus support from The Nags Head, The Vintage Bar, Bella Pizza, The Charcoal Grill and Carrera Porsche - will signal a bright future.
They hope that, as they start to rebuild the senior men’s teams around local, young talent, the public’s support of the players on the pitch will follow.
With this in mind, the club are inviting local fans to Oaklands Park this Saturday to take a look at their new facilities and support the City’s young side against Ringmer for a Sussex League division-one match (3pm kick-off). Entry is free for everyone.
On Sunday, a similar invite applies for the senior ladies’ team, who have a huge game against Swindon in the first round proper of the FA Cup at Oaklands Park (2pm).
Entry for this game will be free to under-18s but FA rules mean a minimal charge of £2 will apply to adults.
There is a real feeling things are turning around at a club who have had their share of troubles in the past.
City’s problems in recent years have been well publicised and, since the completion of their new clubhouse at Oaklands Park in 2011, have had to fight hard for their very existence.
A breakdown of communication with landlords Chichester District Council, inherited club debts and internal disputes have all contributed to the deteriation of circumstances that reached their climax 18 months ago, when the club came within 24 hours of their end.
The club’s directors have, since then, set about repairing relationships with the district council, organising the finances and fixing the in-club differences and structure.
New chairman Michael Madden is overwelmed by the support received in recent weeks and said: “It’s been an extremely testing time for everyone at the club over the past few years and it is fair to say it is the senior men’s teams who have been the hardest hit.
“We’re focussing on the development of local young talent and, while we are sure this is the correct strategy for the long-term ambitions of the club, it does mean we are operating with an extremely-inexperienced squad who, while being committed and talented, have, as you would expect, found it tough adjusting to the demands of senior men’s football.
“The support and sponsorship of local businessmen like Murad will be a real shot in the arm for all our staff and players and this, with the improvement in our financial position and the imminent completion of our lease over the ground, is a real morale booster.
“This club have a long and proud history and we are starting to believe we can now look forward to the next chapter of the men’s story positively.”
While acknowledging that the problems experienced off the pitch have affected the state of the men’s teams, the club’s board are proud that, against the odds, they have managed to maintain their position in step five of the national league system.
They have also worked tirelesly to ensure the overall problems have not had a knock-on effect on the other sections of the club and point out there have been recent and current successes of which the club are proud.
The under-18s are undeafeated back-to-back champions of the county youth league and won the Chichester and district youth sport team of the year award - with the current crop of under-18s looking to emulate their predecesors, sitting unbeaten at the top of the league.
The youth section continue to be among the leading clubs in the county, offering high levels of coaching and succesful competition for local boys aged six to 16.
The senior ladies have excelled, progressing to the third tier of the national game and working hard to establish a new girls’ section that provides affordable footballing opportunity to junior girls in the district and lay the foundations for a future at the top of ladies’ football.
Many of the clubs’ players of all genders and ages have represented the county and, in some cases, national teams.
There are now extremely close links with the City’s two main providers of higher education, which means gifted footballers can compete and study to high levels without the need to leave the district.
Madden added: “The club are now really coming together. The board is a diverse but like-minded body that represents all sections of the club who share the aim to continue and expand our services to the community and maintain and build on the success of the youth and ladies’ teams.
“It’s also our medium-term aim to propel the senior men’s team to the level that a city like Chichester deserves.
“We have, for years, produced a wealth of young talent at this club and failed to keep them here. We now have a management team in place who are strongly geared towards the development of young footballers and it’s our priority to ensure the current crop of gifted players will remain with us and achieve playing success in the near future.
“This will not happen overnight but with the continued support of people like Murad and the partnership and support of the community, we are confident we will achieve our goals.
“It’s important people realise we’re now a club who are about investing in local players and developing them from six years of age to full senior status, boys and girls.
“These are players who care about their club and community and having the support of that same community will be a huge boost.”
REPORTS Pages 116-117