Chester MP describes dispute over football stadium on Wales-England border as a ‘joke’ and a ‘mess’
The MP for the City of Chester has described the news that a football club whose stadium is located on the Wales-England is being investigated by North Wales Police for Covid breaches as a “joke” and a “mess”.
North Wales Police and Flintshire County Council have said they are working to “investigate” Chester FC to find out if matches played at its ground on 28 December and 2 January broke the Welsh Government’s coronavirus regulations
Christian Matheson MP, who represents the Labour party, said that when he first heard the news “I assumed it must be a joke fronted by an aggrieved Wrexham fan but clearly it is deadly serious”.
The club has issued a statement on the matter after it was invited to a meeting with representatives of North Wales Police, Flintshire County Council, Cheshire Police and Cheshire West & Chester Council this morning.
According to the club, it has been told by North Wales Police and Flintshire County Council that it could “commit further potential breaches if it continues to play home fixtures with crowds while the current restrictions in Wales remain in place”.
It says it was told that this was “based upon direction from the Welsh Government that the premises of Chester Football Club are governed by the Welsh Regulations”.
Despite the seating for the club’s stadium being located in England, Christian Matheson MP said that “I am clear that the club has a central Chester postal address, and the offices of the club are in England”.
“The Club is affiliated with Cheshire FA,” he said. “The only access to the club is via the English side and games have always been policed by Cheshire Police.
“I’m absolutely in favour of respecting rules to manage the coronavirus pandemic and the club has been doing just that. From face coverings to restricted numbers in the bar, the club have taken all necessary measures to keep everyone safe.
“I’ll be supporting the club board to find a common-sense resolution to this mess. ”
Alert level two rules have been in place in Wales since December 26, in a bid to try to tackle the surge in Omicron cases.
This has meant groups of no more than 50 have been allowed to meet outdoors. But, there is a limited exception in place for team sports which allows 50 spectators to gather in addition to those involved. Under the rules professional sports has to be played behind closed doors.
Since these rules came into force Chester FC, who play in the National League North, have hosted two games with fans in attendance.
The club’s Deva Stadium home is on the Sealand Road Industrial Estate and lies on the Welsh side of the border with England. This border runs along the back of the East Stand with the pitch and as well as four stands lying in Flintshire.
On December 28, a crowd of 2,075 saw the team play a 2-2 draw against Fylde. A crowd of 2,116 witnessed the club’s 1-1 draw with Telford on Sunday, January 2.
There are currently no restrictions on outdoor gatherings in England. As an English club, Chester is under the jurisdiction of the English FA, and the club’s offices are on the Cheshire side of the border.
In a statement, Chester FC said: “This morning Chester Football Club was invited to a meeting with representatives of North Wales Police, Flintshire County Council, Cheshire Police and Cheshire West & Chester Council.
“During this meeting, the Club was given a joint letter on behalf of North Wales Police and Flintshire County Council which outlines potential breaches of Welsh Coronavirus Regulations at our fixtures on 28th December 2021 and 2nd January 2022.
“It also states the Club may commit further potential breaches if it continues to play home fixtures with crowds while the current restrictions in Wales remain in place.
“We were informed this was based upon direction from the Welsh Government that the premises of Chester Football Club are governed by the Welsh Regulations. The Welsh Government was not represented at the meeting.
“It was agreed that all parties would seek further legal advice given the complex issues and future implications of any outcome.
“We will provide a further update to our supporters as soon as we are able to.”
An earlier joint North Wales Police and Flintshire County Council statement said: “Discussions around Chester FC’s recently-played home fixtures remain ongoing between North Wales Police and our partner agencies.
“North Wales Police and Cheshire Police, along with representatives from Flintshire County Council, are working together to review and investigate the matches played at Chester’s stadium on 28 December and 2 January, following reports of COVID Regulation breaches.
“Further meetings have been arranged between North Wales Police, Cheshire Police, Flintshire County Council and Chester FC officials to discuss the situation further and we will issue an update in due course.”