Chester FC is facing a very unusual situation which the vast majority of us don’t really think about. Their stadium literally sits on the Wales-England border and as the two countries have different COVID restrictions, it’s causing confusion for the club.

Basically, the major difference in protocol is that in Wales, sporting events are being played behind closed doors and no more than 50 fans can attend. In England, fans can attend games but must show proof of double vaccination via a passport or have a negative test within 48 hours. Since those protocols went into effect, Chester FC has had two home games which had over 2,000 fans in attendance.

The border sits just behind the bleachers so the pitch and all stands are on the Wales side. Although, the parking lot, the offices, and front gate are on the England side. Not to mention, fans enter the stadium from the England side and the stadium has an England address. Because the actual playing surface and the fans are seated in Wales, the Welsh government feels they have jurisdiction and have warned Chester FC of violating COVID protocols.

According to the BBC, Chester chairman Andy Morris said that it “had become a very real problem” as they claim to be an English club.

Chester isn’t just claiming they’re English in order to have fans in attendance. The club is situated in the National League North (the sixth level of English soccer) and has been in the English pyramid since 1931 when they were Chester City (which dissolved and reformed as a fan-owned club in 2010).

In addition, Chester revealed that they were initially told by the Welsh government that they wouldn’t be eligible to collect money from a £3 million fund meant to provide financial support toward Welsh clubs financially affected by fan restrictions, as they weren’t a Welsh club. The government has since told Chester they are eligible.

Other things like the fact that Chester is registered with the English FA and not the Welsh FA, land records confirm that the entire site is considered to be in Chester (England), and that the games are policed by English cops further provide evidence that Chester FC is English.

The club also pointed out how the Welsh government reacted to their status earlier in the pandemic and claiming precedent as a result. They talked about a similar time in December 2020 where Wales was in lockdown and England was allowing fans to attend games. At the time, Wales didn’t say anything so in Chester’s minds, the Welsh government considered them an English club during the pandemic.

As far as a solution in concerned, Morris revealed that police suggested setting up a fan zone on the England side for people to watch on a big screen instead of crossing the border into the stadium. That’s something that the club feels is rather counterintuitive and lacks common sense.

Chester vice-chairman Jim Green said, “They said we can have 2,000 people stood watching a giant screen in a fan park like you see during World Cup years.”

“That’s absolutely fine because that’s in England, but we can’t have socially distanced individuals in a COVID-secure compliance within a stadium. It’s a farce.”

It’s tough to argue against that.

[BBC/Photo: BBC]

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp