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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Welsh government announce lifting of restrictions a week after starting Chester FC border row

The Welsh government has today announced the lifting of restrictions in Wales, a week after telling Chester FC that the club was in breach of Welsh Covid restrictions.

In a press conference this morning, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that sports stadiums will be allowed to permit full-capacity crowds from Friday, January 21.

Last Friday (January 7), North Wales Police and Flintshire County Council, under direction from the Welsh government, informed Chester FC that they may have breached Welsh Covid regulations at two matches since Boxing Day, which currently limit crowds to 50 spectators.

Read more of the top stories from across Cheshire here.

In response, the club was forced to postpone Saturday’s (January 15) home game against against Brackley Town in the National League North, as well as an Under-19s cup game.

Chester FC’s Deva Stadium straddles the border between England and Wales, but has an English address and games there are policed by Cheshire Constabulary. Chester FC are also members of the Cheshire FA. Despite this, the Welsh Government have declared that the stadium’s location in Wales is ‘a simple geographical fact’.

Chester FC manager Steve Watson and supporters at the January 2 home game with Telford

The club has welcomed the news, though maintains that the club was always right to follow English Covid rules.

A spokesperson for the club said: “While we are of course pleased our fans will be able to attend our next home match, we have always believed that should be the case and this news is tempered with frustration at the position our Club and supporters have been left in this week.

“We remain determined to find a long-term resolution that allows us to move forwards with certainty and will continue to engage with Cheshire West and Chester Council, Flintshire Council, North Wales Police and the Welsh Government to achieve this in a means that acknowledges the uniqueness of the Deva Stadium and preserves our status as an English football club dating back to 1885.”

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “We understand that administratively the club is based in England, but the stadium is in Wales. That is a simple geographical fact.

“The club’s home games are therefore subject to the current Welsh Coronavirus restrictions, and have been since they came into force at 6am on Boxing Day

“As a club based in Wales and impacted by our restrictions, Chester FC would have been eligible for financial support.”

When asked what support the Welsh Government could now offer the club, the spokesperson declined to comment.

Chester FC have never received Covid-related financial support from the Welsh Government, unlike Welsh clubs playing in the English league system such as Wrexham, who received £100,000 from the Welsh Government in April, despite their new Hollywood investment in February.

Chester MP Chris Matheson welcomed the news.

Chester MP Chris Matheson with Sir Keir Starmer
Chester MP Chris Matheson with Sir Keir Starmer

He said: “I’m pleased to hear it, and I congratulate Mark Drakeford on his stewardship in Wales, and I’m pleased to hear that restrictions are able to be lifted, which hopefully lifts a temporary uncertainty over the club and its matches.

“However, the long-term issue will need to be resolved in a common-sense fashion between the two local authorities, so that we don’t get into this position again.”


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