As the MP for Chesterfield, taking a pride in, and promoting our town, is in the job description. Often that is easy, but on occasions, when things go wrong, it can be tough.
The recent relegation out of the Football League that befell Chesterfield FC is one such occurrence. Founder members of the Football League Division 3 North in 1921-22, Chesterfield FC have been in the Football League ever since. Despite being in the lower divisions in every season since the war, the club have never had to apply for re-election, nor even been close to relegation out of the Football League.
Therefore, it is a bitter blow to Spireites fans that in the first season that there has been a true relegation battle the team have succumbed to relegation.
Alongside our famous Crooked Spire and beautiful Market Square, the Football Club is one of the things for which Chesterfield is best known.
The whole town has joined in celebrations when they have won trophies, and which of us can forget the pandemonium that accompanied the trip to the FA Cup Semi Final back in 1997?
As a lifelong Football fan I have taken a keen interest in the goings on at the Proact Stadium and have had a good and constructive relationship with Directors there throughout my time as the Town’s MP. Their candour and generosity has meant that I have been able to learn a great deal about the tribulations at the club in recent years.
However that positive relationship never overshadows my ultimate responsibility as the Town’s MP to speak up for the fans.
Off the field there have been well publicised errors which have destroyed many fans trust in the current regime. The club has also been undermined by the fact that it has been apparently up for sale for much of the last two years, and the owner has not been present at the club for most of that two year period. There has also been a worrying trend of blaming the fans for the failures that have taken place.
It is a telling illustration of the importance of leadership that the side relegated was amongst the most expensive (best paid) of the 24 that competed in League 2 last season.
Whilst a number of potential buyers have come and gone, and three Managers too in that short period, the need for an engaged ownership that shows the love for the club that fans demonstrate on a weekly basis is urgent.
The existing owner has bankrolled the creation of the immaculate Proact Stadium and also the creation of the most exciting Spireites team in the last 30 years or more. That should have been a legacy to be proud of. But that legacy is undermined by the relegations of recent years which has seen the team fall out of the League for the first time ever.
Whilst it is clearly his business whether he accepts any offers he receives for his shares, on behalf of the whole town I urge him to either get involved again and provide the leadership that is missing, or accept an offer and walk away.
Supporters can be simultaneously grateful for his early efforts and furious about the trashing of that legacy on the pitch, but a failure to learn that a club without leadership will continue to drift downwards would be unforgivable. Our Football club has reached a crossroads that many thought they’d never see, the decisions that are taken now will set its future path, and could not be more crucial if the Football club is to remain a part of the nation’s consciousness.