CHESTER FC's Covid regulations border dispute which could see the club being forced to play games behind closed doors is 'absurd' and a 'mess', says the city's MP.

Labour MP Chris Matheson said he thought the news the club had potentially breached Covid regulations over the festive period by playing two home matches in front of thousands of fans was a wind-up from an aggrieved Wrexham fan at first.

North Wales Police and Flintshire County Council have submitted a joint letter to the football club informing it of potential Welsh Coronavirus Regulations breaches.

The club had played two home fixtures against AFC Fylde and AFC Telford on December 28, 2021 and January 2, 2022 respectively.

But the Blues have now informed supporters, via a statement on its website on Friday, January 7, that the club was warned it faced further potential breaches if it continued to play home fixtures with crowds while the current restrictions in Wales are in place.

Current Covid regulations in Wales restrict the number who can attend sporting events, while there are no such restrictions in England.

The approach could mean Chester FC would have to play games at the Deva behind closed doors until Welsh Covid regulations change.

Chester MP Chris Matheson has now written to the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, Andy Dunbobbin, to try and resolve a recent border dispute.

The England/Wales boundary line, which splits Chester West Employment Park and Sealand Road Park and Ride in half, also splits through the Deva Stadium off Bumpers Lane, with the ticket office in England but the pitch being in Wales.

The club has an English postcode and, following the letting off of smoke bombs on to the pitch on Welsh land during Sunday's game, it was Cheshire Police who launched an appeal for information as part of their investigation.

Mr Matheson held a number of meetings with Chester FC on Friday and has approached the North Wales PCC, a former Labour Flintshire County Councillor, to try and resolve the issue.

Mr Matheson cautioned that MPs must respect the operational independence of the police so was keen not to comment on the specifics of the police action, but he said: “When I first heard the news, I assumed it must be a joke fronted by an aggrieved Wrexham fan but clearly it is deadly serious.

"It has always been an amusing quirk of our club that the ground on Bumpers Lane straddles the border.

"If the authorities expect us to follow two sets of rules, then I’m sure 2,000 Chester fans can congregate on the car park which is in England and follow the match on a big screen while play takes place on the pitch, part of which is in Wales. That’s how absurd the situation is.

"The club has a central Chester postal address, and the offices of the club are in England. The Club is affiliated with Cheshire FA. 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 but the club has been doing just that.

"They have been and continue to follow the English rules as I know myself from attending a game over Christmas. It’s not as though we have been ignoring the coronavirus restrictions.

“The team is playing with a new confidence; we’ve got a great new manager and assistant in Steve Watson and Steve McNulty. The recent games have been entertaining and following a tough couple of years due to the pandemic, we need more people at the Deva Stadium not fewer.

"They have to follow the rules and they have been following the rules. 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 because we need people to understand and buy into these necessary restrictions. I’m worried that this dispute will have the opposite effect and make people less compliant.”


Chester FC earlier put out a statement which said: "This morning (Friday, January 7), Chester Football Club was invited to a meeting with representatives of North Wales Police, Flintshire County Council, Cheshire Police and Cheshire West and 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."

Chester FC's next scheduled home game is against Brackley Town on Saturday, January 15.

In an interview with Capital North West News, club vice chairman Jim Green explained it was a "very strange situation" and the club had previously played two matches in front of socially distanced fans when English Covid restrictions permitted in December 2020, despite Welsh Government Covid lockdown rules preventing spectated professional sport at the time. 

However, it is not the first time North Wales Police have intervened at the Deva Stadium during the Covid pandemic.

Back in October 2020, Storyhouse Chester had to rearrange its outdoor drive-in cinema at the ground because the police force informed them the club's toilets were in Wales, and due to the different rules in place at the time, people would be breaking the law if they needed to cross the border to relieve themselves.

The cultural hub eventually compromised with audiences congregating on the English side of the car park in a reduced capacity, and portaloos were brought to the car park instead of people using the club toilets several yards away.