A POLICE investigation has been launched after Chester FC discovered thousands of pounds were missing from the club’s accounts.
After finding a significant sum of money was unaccounted for, club bosses alerted Cheshire police who have since arrested a man on suspicion of stealing from the community-owned football club.
A 27-year-old from the Hoole area has been released on police bail pending further investigation.
Supporters were told about the missing money at a meeting of the City Fans United (CFU) supporters trust at the Exacta Stadium last night.
Blues chairman Tony Durkin and vice-chairman Steve Ashton told CFU members the discovery had been made after the club’s new board was elected at the end of November.
Although the exact amount unaccounted for was not confirmed, the Leader understands it is at least £20,000.
Mr Durkin said: “To say the last 60 days have been challenging would be an understatement.”
He confirmed the board had uncovered “financial irregularities” and “abnormalities” which were now under investigation.
“I can’t say very much because it is still being investigated,” he said.
Mr Durkin said the club had already taken action to introduce tighter financial arrangements and had appointed a new financial controller in Laurence Kirby.
Cheshire police spokesman Rachel Heyes said: “Cheshire police are investigating an allegation of theft of money from a business in Bumpers Lane after a complaint was received from the company on January 4, 2013.
“A 27-year-old man from Hoole has been arrested on suspicion of theft by an employee and has since been released on police bail. The investigation is continuing.”
l CHESTER FC are forecasting a loss of between £65,000 and £70,000 this season. Supporters were told the club had cut its playing budget and was trying to renegotiate some commercial contracts in an attempt to balance the books.
Mr Durkin, who only took up his post as chairman on December 4, described his first two months in the role as a “whirlwind” during last night’s City Fans United (CFU) meeting.
He said the new board had undertaken an in-depth review of the club’s financial and commercial position since being elected.
“What we found was the club was not on track, nowhere near in fact,” he said.
Mr Durkin reassured CFU members the club was now on top of the situation and taking steps to reduce costs and bring in additional revenue.
“What we need to do and what we are doing is getting our house in order.,” he said.
He added the forecast loss could be attributed to increased player and staff costs, under-performing commercial contracts and some financial irregularities the club had uncovered.
But the club had already improved its financial controls and was continuing to try to make further savings, he said.
“On a positive note, we are still debt free and that will still be the case,” said Mr Durkin, although he said any loss would eat into the club’s reserves.
Mr Durkin also praised Blues manager Neil Young for the way he had handled the playing budget cut, revealing Sean Clancy, Robbie Booth, Levi Mackin and Luke Denson had all been allowed to leave to reduce the club’s wage bill.
“There is no money available at the moment for new players,” he said.
Vice-chairman Steve Ashton said the new board had spent the past 60 days carrying out due diligence around the club.
He outlined the significant progress made since 2010 but said the club now faced its “biggest challenge yet”.
Mr Ashton said the club needed to increase income, make greater use of volunteers and grow its fan base and the new board had already started work on achieving this.
Figures sent to CFU members in November revealed the club lost £2,970 in the last financial year.
The club posted a £107,626 profit in its first season, although that figure included money pledged by supporters to help start the club.