The Board of Cheltenham Town Football Club would like to take the opportunity to once again thank supporters for your support throughout the current public health crisis.
Although we are not able to welcome you to the Jonny-Rocks Stadium at this moment in time, we wanted to take this opportunity to keep you all up to date with matters affecting the club.
WHAT IS THE CLUB'S CURRENT FINANCIAL POSITION?
We are continuing to meet all our liabilities in full but our cash reserves are depleting fast. Having said that, not many football clubs appear to have cash reserves at all so we are probably in a better position than some. If there is no financial help for EFL clubs then it's possible we could lose £1million this financial year. For a club of our size this is a huge amount of money but in the wider World of football it's actually not that much. If you believe the media reports that some Premier League players are earning six figure sums every week then it's easy to see that a club like Cheltenham Town could survive very easily with the kind of cash injection the Premier League would barely even notice.
RETURN OF SUPPORTERS
We are continuing to support the lobby from all the football authorities towards allowing the return of crowds to football. Like all clubs were encouraged by the government to get football back up and running; we worked extremely hard to do it in very difficult circumstances and at great cost because for the last three months (plus the month of June for those clubs involved in the play-offs), we have received no assistance from the Job Retention Scheme yet we have had to pay the players and staff in full. A partial return of supporters would not have solved the problems but it would certainly have helped, both in terms of ticket sales and re-opening commercial revenue streams such as matchday hospitality, sponsorship and advertising. The clubs and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority have the expertise and the will to make it happen safely but the possibility was removed despite other seemingly more Covid-19 risky sections of the economy, such as the hospitality sector and some indoor venues, being allowed to open. Football was unfortunate to be on the verge of a return to crowds just as the infection rate began to rise again but there is a united view throughout football that the sport has been treated unfairly. The EFL and other football authorities remain closely engaged with government regarding both the potential return of supporters and other forms of assistance that can be provided for the spectator sports industries.
It is a constant source of frustration that supporters have not been able to watch our matches this season, particularly with the team having played some excellent football at times. We are fully aware that many season ticket holders have purchased their tickets for this season and, thankfully, the iFollow service has at least been available to plug some of the gap. The club's Commercial Committee and Board are in discussions with regard to the various options that may be available and we hope to make a further announcement to season ticket holders shortly. We are aware some supporters have had difficulties with using iFollow so please note we have produced a useful step-by-step guide for accessing matches and redeeming vouchers for home fixtures. We will be continuing to issue a digital match programme and teamsheet for all home games to season ticket holders.
The Board has kept an open mind with regard to proposals to re-structure the game of football in England. The so-called 'Project Big Picture' contained some attractive and some less attractive elements for League Two clubs and we await further details of other rumoured proposals to alter the distribution of wealth within the game. It is our view that such a re-distribution is long overdue but this should not take place at great cost to the long term interests of the game as a whole. The EFL Board are sticking to their guns that football needs a root and branch discussion around structural change and from a Cheltenham Town perspective, we believe we would have little to fear from developments such as an independent regulator. In fact, the status quo may prove to be the least attractive option for us because over the last few years it has become harder and harder to compete.
WILL CLUBS START TO GO BUST?
There is a strong view among League Two clubs that detailed political discussions around re-structuring should be left for another day. The immediate job is to sort out the current financial crisis and there was some better news on this towards the end of last week. Both the EFL and Premier League seem to at least agree that no club should go to the wall as a direct result of COVID-19. Obviously Macclesfield Town have already gone but sadly the problems there had pre-dated the current crisis, which only served to make a challenging situation for them even worse. The UK government has stated that they require the Premier League to provide a rescue package for the EFL and negotiations have begun, although little progress appears to have been made so far. The League One and Two clubs last week turned down an offer from the Premier League as it did not include Championship clubs so the EFL is standing together as 72 teams. Previous financial discussions between the Premier League and EFL have often taken the form of hard-nosed business negotiations but our view is that this time the situation is very different. The need is for football to come together to protect itself from the economic damage done by the lockdowns and some of the traditional battleground mentality needs to be set aside for the common good.
NON FULFILMENT OF FIXTURES
There has been some confusion in recent weeks around which matches have to be called off in the event of positive tests. The EFL have now clarified that any player testing positive must self-isolate for 10 days and any other player to have had close contact with them (defined as within two metres for longer than 15 minutes, such as sharing a car journey for example) will have to self isolate for 14 days. The difference is due to the incubation period of the virus. Clubs will be expected to field a team even if they have to select youth team players and any failure to fulfil a fixture will be investigated with a potential for a misconduct charge. All clubs in the League including Cheltenham Town are continuing to follow strict protocols in order to try and keep the risk of infection to a minimum. The Sports Grounds Safety Authority will be carrying out audits to make sure there is a high level of compliance.