I hope everyone is looking after themselves in these difficult and uncertain times.
As I write, we should have been looking ahead to what would have been an exciting home game against Forest Green Rovers, one of only a handful of fixtures left until the end of the season. Of course, that has all been put on hold - and the weekend ahead will again sadly be one without football to look forward to.
The transformation in the last few weeks and the impact of the current pandemic has been immense for all of us. Collectively, we are learning to make huge adjustments to how we approach every aspect of life.
At our club, the last few weeks have seen us postpone so many aspects of the club’s operational activities. As well as losing, for now,the exciting fixtures that lay ahead of us at that time, including the game against our rivals Exeter City, we have also had to postpone many large conferences and events being held at Home Park Stadium. The Mayflower Grandstand had already become a hugely popular venue within the city and beyond, and to lose the use of this facility at this time has been hugely disappointing.
Effectively, the current situation has meant that so many of the activities that are carried out at the club have had to be curtailed. The match-day operations team; the commercial functions; hospitality and conferencing; ticketing; and retail have all been effectively stopped in their tracks, in the short-term.
It is with this situation, and with the reduction in income coming into the club, that the decision was made to temporarily stand down a large proportion of the staff at the club and seek support through the government’s furloughing initiative.
The scheme, which is currently in place for three months, will allow us to ensure that these staff will receive 80% of their pay through government funding. Additionally, Simon and the Board of Directors have committed to topping this up to the full 100% so that there are no individuals financially impacted during this period.
There remains in place a small number of non-playing and football staff to carry out identified club duties and ensure that we are able to hit the ground running when some sort of normality returns.
Despite the fact that many of the Argyle non-playing staff will be spending time apart from their colleagues, and their duties, during this period, I am keen to impress that we are all still one club and there for each other – it is important that we embody the ‘One Argyle’ philosophy now more than ever.
Of course, we have been fortunate to be able to call upon the financial support of Simon and the other shareholders during this difficult time. However, the reduction in income opportunities during this period has meant that we have had to consider all areas of support that may mitigate against the loss of income.
As well as seeking the support through various government initiatives and the EFL, we are very appreciative of the support we have received from our key sponsor Ginsters, and all our other partners during this testing time. Over and above this, of course, the fan support has been truly tremendous and our Crowdfunder campaign has already exceeded £27,000 – for which we are extremely thankful.
We also recognise that, in the current crisis, the club has a role to play in the wider community. We were delighted to hand over the Mayflower Grandstand and players’ changing rooms to the NHS this week to carry out important routine hospital services.
The professionalism and efficiency of all the people involved in getting this set up so quickly has been magnificent. We are already seeing large numbers of people actively using and benefitting from the service. The role that the Argyle Community Trust will play in the coming weeks will also be vital for our region, and I must express my sincere admiration for the work Mark Lovell and his team continue to deliver.
The short-term view is clouded by an uncertain picture of when football will return, and how it will look. Will the current season continue, or be voided? Will we play behind closed doors when we return? These are the sorts of questions that are being discussed between the football authorities, as well as topics within a wider agenda which will impact the whole future of the game.
Argyle will continue to input into these discussions. However, many of the questions do not have easy answers, and there will need to be compromises somewhere along the line.
It is easy for many people to think of football as ‘just a game.’ To me, the last few weeks have demonstrated how much more it is than that.
In facing these challenges together - being part of a club full of good people; great like-minded partners; and, of course, a tremendous fanbase, means that when we do come out the other side we will be able to deal with all of the challenges both on and off the pitch that we will face. One Argyle.
I wish you all the very best of health and good fortune.