I HOPE you are all managing as well as can be hoped in this stressful time.
I realise that not all of you will be able to follow the advice to stay indoors, away from people and get some exercise, as you are working in essential jobs that must continue. We thank you for continuing to provide the goods and services the area needs.
Above all, we owe our thanks to those of you working in the NHS, putting yourselves at risk for the sake of all. At Argyle, we are pleased that we can do something to help, by handing over the Mayflower Grandstand to the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust for use for routine services during the COVID-19 response period. This will free up valuable capacity at Derriford Hospital to enable staff better to cope with what is, sadly, likely to be a flood of virus-stricken patients.
Argyle is a community asset, and it is only right that our resources be handed over to wherever the community has most need. In this case, the need is obvious. I thank our CEO, Andrew Parkinson, and Dr Jonathan Cope at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust for making the arrangements for the handover so quickly and effectively.
As part of our Crowdfunding campaign, we will donate a match ticket to NHS staff for every £100 we raise.
We launched that campaign, most obviously, to raise cash to help the club to continue operating while there is no football. It also gives an opportunity to those supporters who had asked how they could help, to do so, by paying in advance for sponsorship and other opportunities. We realise that not everyone will be in a position to contribute, so, please remember we are always grateful for the support of the Green Army, whether it comes with a cheque or not.
With your help, Argyle financial resources will remain enough for us to continue paying our bills. We will continue to do our best to ensure that those small, local businesses, no doubt also suffering, will get their money paid on time.
Elsewhere, our Community Trust, while it has had many of its school-based activities put on hold, is as active as ever. You can read a full list of the work they are doing here.
They are using their resources as best they can to distribute food, staff foodbanks, support online learning, keep vulnerable older people in contact…..the list goes on. Please read it and take pride in the work your club does in the community. I’m always proud of Mark Lovell and his team at the Argyle Community Trust, but never more so than now, when normal life is disrupted, and Trust resources are available to help keep people safe, healthy, and in contact.
While there is no real football to enjoy, we have stepped up our levels of engagement with all fans, particularly our younger ones, by starting a FIFA eSports Team, under player-manager Ben Taylor, which will be playing several evenings a week in the Virtual Pro Gaming League, streamed live on Facebook and, soon, on our own Twitch channel. If that seems a foreign language to you…. ask your grandchildren!
Thousands of people tuned in to the initial couple of matches played on Facebook (Plymouth Argyle eSports), and we will follow up in future with a more complete “Matchday Experience” with pre-and post-match interviews with Ben, and players, and all the buildup you expect to a real football match.
We have opened up the archives on iFollow and made available classic games from the past, been active playing Connect 4 on Twitter (handily beating Exeter City) and, generally tried to provide some football related entertainment for those of you suffering from withdrawal symptoms. There will be more to come in future weeks—keep an eye on social media channels for announcements.
I would like to take a moment to thank everyone at Argyle for continuing to work so well. I said last time I wrote to you that the club would emerge stronger from this awful crisis. We are already seeing people sitting far apart, but working together more than ever before. We don’t know what will happen in coming weeks, but when football resumes, you can be sure that we will be better run than ever.
Anyone who thought Bill Shankly was right—that football is more serious than life and death—is surely learning now that he was wrong. We can help you have some football-related fun, and the resources of the Argyle family are being deployed to help keep you safe. But you are each also responsible for the health of the community—again, I urge you to take care of yourselves, get some exercise, stay away from people, and, of course, wash your hands!