Fifty per cent of the shares in a football academy linked to Chesterfield FC have been snapped up by a company belonging to a high profile British sports administrator.
Sir Rodney Walker, who has been chairman of the Rugby Football League, Sport England and World Snooker Association, is the majority shareholder in FBT Sportswear, the firm that has acquired shares in CFC International Football Academy.
The academy was one part of a business set up by Chesterfield CEO Chris Turner and former non-league footballer Liam Sucliffe, called the CFC Player Progression Pathway – based at the CFC Village opposite the Proact.
Their venture, legally separate from the Spireites, also included the CFC Football Development School Ltd, which endured a difficult 2016 with debts of £77k in their latest accounts, staff departures over late payment of wages and threats of legal action over unpaid refunds for a cancelled football trip.
A club statement announcing the share acquisition makes no mention of the CFC Football Development School Ltd.
Earlier this summer Mr Turner resigned as a director from both firms, but loaned a significant amount of money, along with fellow Chesterfield director Ashley Carson, to keep the businesses afloat.
Now, he says this fresh investment means a bright future for the International Academy.
And he claims that people who had tried to ‘undermine’ the organisation will now understand why such efforts were made to sustain it.
“Firstly, I am delighted that the future of the International Academy has been secured. It has been a long time getting to this stage and there have been ups and downs along the way, but I have always had confidence in the project,” he said.
“The potential of the organisation is immense, especially now it has the involvement of investors who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in sport and business.
“It goes without saying that Sir Rodney Walker is a world-renowned figure in sport, particularly in football.
“For him to recognise the potential and quality of the International Academy fully endorses the views we have always held about the viability of the project.
“Over the last few months, I have refrained from making comments about the organisation as I felt that was the right thing to do while negotiations took place with the companies involved.
“I hope that certain people who tried to undermine the organisation will now recognise why we were so keen to ensure that it continued.”
Mr Turner says that the ‘footballing partnership’ between the Spireites and the academy will remain, with no financial ties between the two.
“The Chesterfield FC annual accounts in November will show that no monies have been transferred to the International Academy, as has been claimed,” he said.
“The club’s board of directors have been kept informed of developments and have fully endorsed the project from the start. We now look forward to an exciting future for the International Academy.”
Sir Rodney Walker, chairman of FBT Sportswear, says the newly named FBT International Academy will continue to base itself in Chesterfield.
“I’m very impressed with the progress already made,” he said.
“I hope we can take this forward, not only in Chesterfield, as our ambition is to take this model globally.”
The new organisation will include a programme for kids from Under 9 up to Under 16, combining coaching with education.
Mr Sutcliffe will assume the role of chief executive officer in the new company.