Former England striker Michael Owen has joined forces with radio presenter Colin Murray to help raise much-needed funds for Chester FC.
The pair are working together to stage a fundraising 'all-stars' game – involving former Premier League players and legendary names from the Blues' past – at the Swansway Chester Stadium.
Just seven-and-a-half years after relaunching as a fan-owned phoenix club, Chester have fallen into serious financial difficulties again and face going out of business if they cannot raise £50,000 soon.
Supporters have already rallied round and contributed almost £20,000 to a fighting fund in a matter of days, while Owen and Murray – who both have an affection for the club – are also doing their bit.
The pair have teamed up with Blues director Jeff Banks to arrange the all-stars match, which will take place on Thursday, February 15 at the Swansway Chester Stadium.
Former Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester United striker Owen, whose father Terry played on the wing for Chester in the 1970s, said: "I was born in Chester and brought up listening to my dad’s stories about the 'glory days' from his playing time at Chester FC, including that run to the semi-final of the League Cup. It’s so important that we do what we can to help them. We can’t lose this club again."
Murray, who lists Chester as his 'second club' after Liverpool FC and was involved in the Blues’ rebirth in 2010, has already signed up ex-pros Keith Gillespie, Maik Taylor, Perry Groves, Trevor Sinclair, Danny Higginbotham and Chris Iwelumo.
The broadcaster joked: “I wanted to help assemble a team of ex-professionals that I respected and admired, but when they all said 'no' I ended up with this lot!"
Murray's all-stars will play a team of 'Chester legends', managed by former Blues boss Neil Young.
With supporters having already forked out a lot of money to help save the Blues, Murray says the match will be a way of giving something back – while also generating income from the turnstiles where the admission price, £10 for adults and £5 for juniors will be 'value for money'.
He added: “It would be wrong to ask fans for a hand-out, and this game is not that. It’ll be a lot of fun. Proper value for money, regardless of the circumstances. However, if we can pack the stadium for one night, then Chester FC will be in much better shape and we can have an amazing night."
The bombshell news about the club's financial problems was delivered at a meeting held by City Fans United (CFU), the group which owns and runs the football club, at the Swansway Chester Stadium last Thursday
Until then, supporters had not been aware of just how bad the cash flow problems were. But the crisis was mapped out in stark terms by the CFU board, with chairman Jonny Hughes admitting those running the club had had 'failed' the fans.
Mr Hughes later resigned, along with three board members. All four have this week been replaced, and a Back the Blues campaign has been launched with working groups set up to investigate various ways of making money.
The all-stars game is just one of a series of initiatives which should help.
This evening's youth team game with Gateshead was being used as a chance to drum up much-needed cash, while a staff versus supporters game will take place this Saturday at the University of Chester's Parkgate Road campus and there will be a race night on February 23.
Fans have been digging deep and making generous donations, and there has been a rise in CFU membership in the last week.
CFU revealed earlier this week that £17,066 had already been raised in the days following last Thursday's meeting.
Addressing supporters at the meeting, financial director Lawrence Kirby admitted: “If we can’t raise £85k-£90k a month then, we could be finished within a couple of months."
In the shorter term, £50,000 is required to keep the club running.
Manager Marcus Bignot's playing budget is being slashed, and CEO Mark Maguire has been made redundant as part of the cost-cutting measures.
CFU chairman Hughes has resigned and apologised to supporters, along with directors Neil Bellis, Anne Salmon and David O'Toole. Jeff Banks, Mark Howell, Calvin Hughes and Simon Olorenshaw have all since been co-opted on to the board, subject to FA clearance.
The Blues are in relegation danger in the National League, with home attendances falling and money hard to come by.
Further information about helping raise money for Chester FC can be found on the club's official website (www.chesterfc.com), or on the CFU website (www.cityfansunited.com). Email email@example.com if you have any suggestions or further enquiries.
There will be an open meeting for all fans in the Blues Bar at the Swansway Chester Stadium this Saturday where board members will give an update on the situation. The bar opens at 2pm.
Tickets for the all-stars game will be on sale from tomorrow via the club's official website and the ticket office (01244 371376).