I do not think that anybody could have envisaged the impact this coronavirus has had on football, or on any other sport worldwide. However, it has created a scenario which we all have to deal with in very individual ways.
My first message to all of our fans, staff, players and all associated within the football club and the wider community is to be safe and stay well. We are all thinking of you and your families.
Financially, the club has prepared well for the end of this season and into next season, but that good work has now been completely thrown in the air due to the current situation. The sooner we get guidance from the PFA, EFL, FA and Premier League on where the season is going, the sooner we can evaluate and prepare financially. It’s embarrassing regarding the silence of the PFA in all of this, as those players' wages are the defining figure for the survival of many clubs, including ours, but hopefully in the coming days those key meetings will provide us with a direction and more certainty.
We employ our players to play in a football league and in various football competitions under the guidance of the EFL and FA who have suspended these competitions, so that being the case these bodies and the PFA must support the clubs until such leagues and competitions are back up and running. Club survival is crucial and we are looking at many options and plans to get through this but feel our hands are tied until such help is given and I don’t mean the £50m the leagues have been allocated, as this is just an advancement of monies and loans we have to pay back sometime in the future. We need a positive cut or deferral in players wages of at least 50 per cent until football returns in its entirety and although the furloughing system helps its not going to save clubs. If a cut or deferral was applied to all players above the minimum wage it would give us a chance to get through the remainder of this season and have a solid foundation for the coming season, whenever that would begin.
In the meantime, the club has had discussions at board level and we have decided to furlough a number of staff but will continue to pay those staff 100 per cent of their wages for March and April as we will the remaining staff who are working to keep the club going. We will be claiming the 80 per cent of gross wage to a maximum of £2500 per month for our furloughed employees back from the government which, when it is paid, will help along with the NI and PAYE support they have offered. The football club is not eligible for many of the loans put forward by the government so the longer we go on with the shutdown the more help will be needed from the governing bodies.
We have supported our players fully through March and hope that when we come to the next payment schedule at the end of April we are in a position where progress has been made by the EFL, FA and PFA on potential help, because it will not be easy if nothing is forthcoming.
If nothing happens on player wage support we will endeavour to sit down and discuss options with our players in the coming weeks to see if there is some middle ground we can find and that may include furloughing as one or part of an option.
I would like to also offer my sincere thanks to all those who have purchased a season ticket, I have left a message with a couple of those supporters, on their mobiles, to thank them personally and I gather some of the players have also spoken or left a message. I assure you that this money will be crucial in supporting the club at this difficult time.
Please keep safe and healthy, and please spare a thought for all those families and friends who have lost someone due to this horrendous virus and of course to all the NHS workers and people associated with caring for those who have been struck down by it. As with a few other clubs we have offered our stadium to the NHS for anything they may need.