Football development centre linked to Chesterfield FC is £77k in debt

The Proact Stadium Pic By James Williamson
The Proact Stadium Pic By James Williamson

Repaying a cancelled overseas tour for young players and start-up costs have put a football development centre linked to Chesterfield FC £77,000 in debt, a director has said.

Liam Sutcliffe director of CFC Football Development Schools Ltd, who set up the company alongside Chesterfield FC CEO Chris Turner, has defended the centre’s financial performance.

The centre, which is a separate entity from Chesterfield FC, but uses the Spireites’ logo and is based at CFC Village opposite the Proact Stadium, is also known as the Player Progression Pathway (PPP).

Chesterfield FC has stated the development school could ease the financial burden of nurturing young talent through their official academy.

But in its latest financial accounts, the PPP, which aims to attract young talented players and prepare them for a career in the professional game, revealed debts of £77,000.

The Derbyshire Times has been contacted by concerned fans over fears Chesterfield FC was propping up the PPP with club funds -something both the club and training school deny.

Explaining the deficit, Mr Sutcliffe said: “There were significant start-up costs incurred, associated with several new projects, including the CFC Village. The company was also committed to making a five-figure payout following the cancellation of an overseas trip.”

Responding to the concerns of supporters a spokesman for Chesterfield FC said the PPP was the ‘envy’ of other clubs around the country, and denied there was a conflict of interest for either Mr Turner or Mr Sutcliffe, who is named on the club website as head of academy recruitment.

He said: “Over the last ten years, the club has invested over £1m in the youth system. Working alongside the academy, it is felt that the PPP has the potential to ease some of the financial pressure on the club. In time, it is hoped that the youth structure at the club will be self-sufficient.

“Liam Sutcliffe is not and never has been an employee of Chesterfield Football. The football club does not believe there is any conflict in the CEO being a director of CFC Development School Ltd and he has the full backing of the board of directors. This is an innovative approach to the development of young players that is the envy of other clubs in this country and overseas.”

Supporters have also raised concerns over the involvement of businessman Dennis Bingham, who was briefly operating as an international scout for the PPP and sponsors Chesterfield FC through his firm Royal Pearl International.

Mr Bingham appeared in a club-produced video alongside Mr Sutcliffe, following a short and turbulent tenure as president of struggling Italian side Monza.

Mr Bingham has now cut his ties with the PPP alleging harassment from Chesterfield supporters, but his sponsored boards remain in place at the Proact.

Speaking to the Derbyshire Times, Mr Bingham claimed he had worked with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the past and had taken over at Monza with the intention of securing sponsorship from his friends in Ferrari and Formula One, before a serious illness forced him to sell up.

He said: “Some fans have concerns that I’m involved in some big takeover because I was involved at Monza. That was never my intention and I had no intention of working with Chesterfield FC. I didn’t know Liam Sutcliffe, I brought a player up and got talking to Liam in the lobby and he wanted to pick my brains.

“One thing led to another and he asked me to try and help bring in international players. I didn’t even put that much work into it, I brought Daniel Wong in, that was it.

“I did nothing else for the club. I was actually on my way out of it, It wasn’t for me.”

Mr Bingham has claimed that club supporters inundated his family’s businesses with abusive phone calls, and that he had informed the police.

Derbyshire Police said they were unaware of any complaint from Mr Bingham, but said the complaint could have been made to another force.

Clarifying their relationship with Mr Bingham’s company, a club statement said: “Following allegations on an online forum relating to the sponsorship agreement with Royal Pearl International, club officials have outlined the deal in place.

“It has been confirmed that Royal Pearl International have paid in full for a sponsorship package for this season and next season. The agreement features match day hospitality, stadium advertising boards and advertising on the big screen. There are no plans to renew the sponsorship deal once it has expired.”

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