The origins of CFCnet can be traced back around 20 years. We like to think that fanzines, online and paper based are part of Chelsea FC’s 100 years of history so here’s the second installment of how the CISA and ultimately CFCnet fit in to it all.

Although Ken Bates was rallying fans against Cabra and trying to get Chelsea fans to purchase its shares (to get a seat on the board etc), Bates’ attitude to the Chelsea Independent and CISA was, how shall we put it, ‘unfriendly’. This was rather surprising given CISA and Bates shared the same goal – Chelsea staying at Stamford Bridge.

Within the third issue of the Chelsea Independent was news of CISA’s first meeting. At the gathering people dared to criticise management and bemoan the lack of fan representation which was pretty radical stuff at a time when Bates ruled Chelsea with an iron fist inside an iron glove. Knuckledusters were merely child’s play. From the off, Bates railed against CISA and for the next 13 years would annually find space in his programme notes to slag off individuals. Indeed, any new Editor of the Chelsea Independent was deemed not to have ‘made it’ unless his name appeared in print in Bates’ programme notes.

Central to Bates’ hatred of all things CISA and Chelsea Independent was the accusation that the Chelsea Independent made bucket loads of cash and ripped off fellow fans, a charge I’ve also heard aimed at CFCnet. Nothing could have been further from the truth, both now and then. Immediately below I have copied a sample Bates diatribe from his programme notes:

“Let me make it quite clear. CISA do not support the Club, they are not independent and their little association has an extremely small membership, furthermore they try to make money by competing with Chelsea, all this while seeking recognition, free press tickets on match days and a place at the table for discussions – they have no relevance”.

In the late 90’s Bates made one too many smart comments and a brave (make that very brave or slightly unhinged – depending how you look at it) CISA member, David Johnstone took Bates to court following his negative comments about CISA. With litigation lasting two years, David took Bates up to the wire before Ken settled out of court. Following his days at CISA, Dave subsequently set up ‘blueandwhitearmy.net’ and still sells his fanzine cfcuk outside the ground on match days. David is a legendary Stamford Bridge figure and season ticket holder, and is currently employed by the Club as an archivist for the Chelsea Centenary Exhibition and Museum. CFCnet is proud to call ourselves friends of both cfcuk and blueandwhitearmy.net.

Going back to the late Eighties, here is Nick Brown in his own words on editing the Chelsea Independent:

“The early Chelsea Independents, like all fanzines, brought fans back to football and allowed supporters to air their views, where otherwise they would have been ignored. The Independent could also challenge the Club on the serious issues of racism, policing, pricing and ticket arrangements.

When I look back over the mantle I had as editor of the Independent, Chelsea were back in the first division (the current Premiership) and it was the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties.

The Taylor Report had just come out, the ‘members only bill’ had been defeated but now it looked like we were going all-seater. On the fan subject, in my first issue we printed a yellow card with ‘off side’ written on it to wave at Tony Adams and Arsenal at the forthcoming Highbury game. Over 4,000 cards were printed and they went down well (I know, I was there and loved it: Jez) with Adams receiving a torrent of ‘off side’ abuse. The Blues won thanks to a half volley from Jonny Bumstead who cracked in a goal from the edge of the penalty area. Chelsea were the only side to win at Highbury that season.”

End of Part Two.

Footnote: thanks again to Nick Brown for additional information. Also to Mark Wyeth.