Football: Chester may adopt new name to survive

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The Independent Online
CHESTER CITY will be forced to adopt the name of a data communications company if they accept an 11th-hour takeover bid.

Michael Harris, a local businessman, is launching a pounds 250,000 package to save the club from liquidation. But the deal will go ahead only if the Third Division club end 118 years of tradition by ditching their name to become Total Network Solutions FC.

Opponents fear it will open the floodgates for other companies to make big-money offers to change clubs' traditional names.

Michael Fair, of the Chester City Independent Supporters' Association, said last night: "What will be next: Manchester United becoming Tampax United or Liverpool becoming McCain Chips Athletic? It's totally abhorrent."

The Football League has no rules opposing the move and a spokesman for Total Network Solutions last night confirmed that Chester would operate as TNS if Harris had his way.

He said: "It is an avenue we will be pursuing as part of our interest. Mr Harris is football-mad but he is also a businessman and if he can help Chester while promoting his own interests everyone will benefit.

"He will be lodging his bid by the end of the week, either as an individual or as part of a consortium. It may be a break from tradition but changing the name would be a small price to pay if it meant the club's long-term safety was guaranteed. We believe it would be of good to both parties. As a businessman Mr Harris is looking for any opportunity to promote his company but his interests are also for the good of the club and football as a whole."

Harris signed a five-year sponsorship deal with a League of Wales side, Llansantffraid, at the start of last season on the same condition.

The controversial name-change, approved by the football authorities, has proved hugely unpopular with supporters of the Welsh minnows, now known as TNS.

Of Harris's latest takeover move, Michael Fair last night said: "Any businessman who steps in to save the club will be welcomed with open arms but if this is the condition he will completely alienate himself from everyone involved in the game. Football fans follow their local club rather than an out-of-town company and this is an appalling precedent."