Our Owners and fans may now be aware of the Isthmian League’s announcement that a substantial number of clubs in the Northern Premier, Southern and Isthmian Leagues have agreed the pause in fixtures be continued.
Whilst the Club has monitored the changing circumstances and developments and has taken part in the consultation initiated by the Isthmian League, we wanted to wait until there was definitive information and facts before issuing our own statement on the matters at hand.
The Club has long prepared for a temporary pause to the season for the men’s first team and this has been an integral part of our discussions and planning since July. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough scheme) has meant that we have been able to protect both the club and our staff in unprecedented times. We are a football club first and foremost and consequently want to play football, but only in a world where it is fair and equitable and above all safe to our fans, our players, our volunteers and our staff.
Following the clear complications that arose from the Government announcement on Tiers and new restrictions on clubhouses, on 1st December 2020 the Isthmian League wrote to all clubs, including our own, asking them to vote on the following proposal:
“That Steps 3 and 4 continue the current pause in the season with a regular review in the light of changes to the current Tiers and/or Grants becoming available”
Clubs were asked to return their vote by midnight on 3rd December 2020. The club’s Board discussed the proposal and took the decision to vote in support of the above proposal, namely, to continue the current pause in the season.
Why did we come to that conclusion?
We are sure the effects of COVID-19 have impacted the lives many of our fans, volunteers and staff and the club recognises that. It has been proven that football can be played, albeit in a more restricted, socially distant environment. However, we also have to recognise the economic situation we, like all clubs at our level, face. With the compulsory closure of the Rook Inn and potentially other areas of the Dripping Pan, there would a significant financial loss in what is known as secondary income – in short, what is sold on match days that isn’t ticket sales, whilst our cost base would have remained the same. This loss of income would have presented an immense strain on the finances of the club and in the absence of grants or any other funding to recover this loss, we could not support the immediate return to football.
Our second consideration was the issue of fairness in insisting that clubs located in Tier 3 areas would be mandated to play games at home and behind closed doors or away from home for an indeterminate period. In our view, to have voted against a suspension would have been grossly unfair to those clubs affected and put their very existence at significant risk. As a club, one of our core principles is equity and we believe that all clubs should have the same opportunity to play in front of spectators.
As the situation with which areas, and de facto, which clubs are in which Tier changes, the Isthmian League will review the situation and continue to consult with clubs on a potential restart date for all clubs.
Now there is some certainty that we will have no fixtures in the short-term, what measures will we be taking?
Effective from 1 November 2020, the Club has furloughed its men’s staff and players plus bar and ancillary staff and will continue to use that scheme until the point that there is certainty regarding the return of fixtures – we’ve come to use the term ‘‘hibernate’’ to describe it. The Heads of Men’s Football and wider Board have, and will continue to ensure the club, staff and players are in an optimum position to put us in the best possible condition for when we’re back playing. We’ll keep fans updated on any concrete developments for the recommencement of fixtures as soon as more is known, and we collectively have been able to surmount all obstacles.