I hope you are all staying safe, and at the very least sticking to the government guidelines to help control the further spread of this awful virus.
By all accounts, the South West has been relatively lightly affected, at least so far. That must, in part, be thanks to people like you who have acted sensibly in the face of the risks.
We must remember, though, that everything is relative, and we know that many of the Green Army and their families have suffered greatly from the effects of this pandemic. To those hit hard by the virus, Jane and I, along with everyone else at the club, offer our heartfelt condolences.
Argyle, I am glad to say, has been offering more than words alone. We acted quickly to hand over our newly-renovated Mayflower Grandstand to the NHS, and, while most of our staff are furloughed, several have volunteered to help our Community Trust in their efforts to reach out to those of our supporters we fear are the most vulnerable, or in need of help.
Our Community Trust has been very active, helping to encourage people to keep fit during lockdown with online classes, and has joined forces with Plymouth City Council to offer its resources to the Good Neighbour Scheme. In the local business community, we continue to pay our small creditors promptly, and are grateful to some of our larger creditors for their forbearance in making payment terms easier for the club.
Many of our staff have been furloughed, but those that remain have been working hard to make sure that we stay in communication with our fans and are prepared for when football can return. Last week, we were able to reopen our online store, with deliveries being prepared by staff back from furlough, who are, of course, observing the social distancing rules. We are very grateful for everything they are doing.
We are doing what we can while there is no football being played, but the lack of revenues from playing matches in front of their fans threatens the financial stability of all football clubs. Argyle is no exception. When I wrote to you in April, I said that we are relatively well-positioned to withstand the rising financial stress that is inevitable when there are costs that continue every day and few revenues coming in - but that we are not invincible. If football itself is threatened, then so are we.
Someone asked a week ago what our business plan looked like. I replied that it is impossible to have anything close to a meaningful business plan when there are so many uncertainties about the next few months, let alone the next few years. We do not even know what division we will be playing in, let alone when we can start selling tickets again!
Having a clear business plan is therefore currently impossible, but what we can do is be thoughtful about possible outcomes and do our best to keep as many options open as we can, while protecting against the worst that may happen to our finances.
Our goal has been sustainability, and we were well on our way to achieving that goal of having our revenues equal our costs. At the moment, we have very little income, and no immediate prospect of having much more until we start playing again in front of the Green Army.
My role since becoming Argyle’s owner has been to provide the money to invest in our future. The longer this virus goes on, the more obvious it is that I have to do more to protect that long-term future. The best way to do that, while keeping options open, is to put cash in the bank.
I will therefore be injecting yet another substantial amount into the club in the next few weeks. This cash will be used to protect Argyle from some of the bad financial outcomes that we think may happen in the absence of financial support for EFL clubs from some other party.
The cash that I am putting in this time will, however, be the last such injection from me. We are already thinking about further ways to reduce our cost base to overcome the short-term difficulties, and, once this crisis is over, we will need to be more reliant on the investments we’ve already made to generate the resources needed to achieve our longer-term goals. Those investments include not just the visible - the Mayflower, for example - but also the less visible. In the last two years we have changed personnel throughout the club, improving capabilities, but increasing costs.
Everyone in the Argyle family has a part to play. I have described mine.
Players must accept that tough times are ahead. Argyle has honoured all of its contracts and will continue to do so, but new contracts will look different from those in the past and will provide for as many different scenarios over the next year as possible.
It would be irresponsible and threaten the survival of the club if we were to promise to make payments to players (or anyone else) over a period when we simply do not know when you, our fans, can buy the tickets, the pasties, the drinks, the programmes, and the replica shirts that help to provide the money for those payments.
While there has been so much uncertainty, we have been reluctant to publish a retained list of out-of-contract playing staff to whom we would like to offer new contracts, but we will be doing so shortly. We owe it to our playing staff to give them some certainty in a world where so much is uncertain.
The club’s management and staff must continue to make sure that every penny is always spent wisely in ways that help to protect us from financial disaster and secure our continued existence – not only as an aspirational football club, but also an asset for the community. This injection is not for spending on items that would be nice to have in different circumstances. We must adapt to the world we are in, not be driven by the world for which we hope. We are all in this crisis together, and our spending must reflect that.
Your role as fans is to support the club where you can – by making direct donations, buying stuff from the club shop (online only at the moment, of course, but what a response to the new kit!), waiving season ticket refunds, if you are able to do so, and so on. I realise that times are tough for almost everybody. Do what you can, but we will also understand if you can do no more than you already have.
What everyone can do to help, though, is be patient. Our short-term goal is survival, and we are better placed than most to withstand this crisis. But that also means that we will not be doing some of the things that you may ask for. Again, we are protecting our resources to improve the probability of our survival. That will determine our priorities.
This is a global tragedy that has already caused a global depression. It will change the future of the world in ways that are as yet unknown. Like all fans, I hope that football survives, and believe that it will. If it does, Argyle will thrive.
We need to make sure that we are still around to enjoy those times. That means generating the financial strength that we need and, of course, staying healthy. Staying healthy means being careful about our financial resources, and, of course, staying safe.
Thank you, as ever, for your support.