Thank you to everyone who sent in questions following our call late last week. Here’s the latest from Chester FC via a Q&A…
Q: How has the Coronavirus affected contract renewals and players in for next season or are all talks renewals on hold or is there work going on behind the scenes with the players?
A: Any conversations with players remain difficult at the moment because there is still a great deal of uncertainty around how this season will conclude, and subsequently what the arrangements for the 2020/21 season will be.
That said, we are in a fortunate position in that we have already secured a number of our key players down for next season and we will need to discuss further with a number of players once budgets and other arrangements for next season become clearer.
The managers have clear identified targets and, once we are in a clearer position on where we stand from a footballing and financial position for the 2020/21 season, we will be working hard as a Club to achieve the highest level of success on and off the field.
Q: When are season tickets due to go on sale, and how has this/is this affected by the Coronavirus?
A: The Fan Engagement Working Group (FEWG) had been working hard prior to the Coronavirus to pull together a number of options for season ticket packages based on either the National League or National League North 2020/21 campaign – which was scheduled to have an extra two home games next season due to the expansion of the league. At present – again due to the uncertainty of next season – both in regards to the level we will be playing at, the scheduled season start date and the number of games in the season should the make-up of the division change the Club took the decision to hold off selling season tickets until we are clearer on these issues.
We do note that a number of Clubs across the country have taken the decision to sell Season Tickets for next season now to alleviate their short term cash flow challenge that they face this season, which has been brought about due to the postponement of games. Naturally this money can only be spent once and given that Season tickets are a key revenue stream for the 2020/21 season this is not the approach we have taken.
Q: With the club in lockdown can you please tell us the best way to return raffle ticket stubs and payments. Should we send cheques, or will you be setting up a telephone line so we can make debit card payments? Also as this is a key fundraiser can you make a concerted push to encourage members to sell tickets, difficult as this is at the current time.
A: At present the fundraising group are reviewing the Easter Raffle. Whilst a number of Supporters have returned tickets and cash to the Club prior to the lockdown recent developments have limited the opportunity to both sell tickets and facilitate the necessary arrangements to collect the cash. As you suggest the Easter raffle is a great opportunity to raise money as such it is necessary to maximise these initiatives where possible.
Q: How much money does the club need go get through to the end of this season if the league is voided?
A: Whilst it is not yet certain it is looking increasingly likely that the season will cease either for the foreseeable future or permanently. Calculating how much money the Club will need to survive is a far from simple task due to the wide-ranging variables both in terms of income now available through Government support and income previously expected which may no longer be realised.
What however is very clear is that due to the postponement of the season will have obviously impact on revenue anticipated from a match-day which alongside the postponement of LFC Ladies Fixtures, End of Season Awards Night, Pitch Hire and other activity will see a reduction of anticipated income into the Club of around £100,000 by the end of the season.
To support the long-term sustainability of the Club through this difficult time financially we are actively exploring a number of steps to cover this Shortfall such as:
• Taking advantage of the government’s proposed business rates holiday and potentially the £25,000 grant available to organisations involved in the leisure industry given our Business Rates are payable to Flintshire Council.
• Exploring opportunity to defer our rent payments to CWAC to support our current cashflow position.
• Reviewing, cancelling or postponing monthly payments for services that are not currently required while the stadium is closed and footballing activity is suspended.
• Actively monitoring and engaging the government’s proposed Job Retention scheme and have taken the steps to Furlough all players and eligible staff at the earliest opportunity as per the scheme rules.
In short, the answer is very much work in progress and as these schemes become worked up the picture will become clear. However the statement ‘Cash is King’ is very true at the Club at the moment with 2 player wages cycles left to be paid before 2nd May when player contracts cease, and payment of Government support via the JRS not yet forthcoming , it is essential all fundraising activity be continued to ensure we can meet our short term financial obligations in full and on time.
Q: If the season is voided will the club have to repay any money to sponsors and if so, how much?
A: We are currently linking in with our match related sponsors to discuss individual arrangements with them , in fact so far a significant number have donated the money they would have paid for sponsoring either the Match, Ball or Programme to the Club in lieu of the sponsorship which the Club are truly thankful for.
Our principal sponsors are covered under a separate arrangement so not directly linked to the fixture list completion i.e. not dependent on the actual matches taking place. That said, dialogue continues to take place with them individually but again it should be noted that this is more focussed on how they can continue to support the Club rather than pulling money away via reimbursement. Again this is something the Club are grateful for.
Q: Are the club worried about a possible downturn in sponsorship for next season given that many companies will be struggling financially throughout the country?
A: The longer-term Commercial challenge for the Club is something that is only going to increase for next season having already been a challenge for the Club. Usually it is this time of the year that we look to sell advertising boards and other sponsorship opportunities through engagement with companies and businesses.
Whilst this can still take place with those organisations and businesses we have existing links with, developing new networks and partners is particularly difficult given many organisations are in shut down at present.
This re-emphasises the importance that if any supporters can help the Club in any way at this time by volunteering within the Commercial Working Group then they can do so by contacting either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Q: Have all club employees been sent home or will the club be calling on the Government Job Retention Scheme to pay towards their wages?
A: This has been assessed on a case by case basis linked to the Club’s business continuity plan. Naturally some functions within the Club remain essential and will continue throughout this time such as pitch maintenance and accounts. However where possible we have taken steps to furlough non-essential functions both to safeguard their own health following Government guidelines as well as allowing the club to claim back money via the Job Retention Scheme.
Q: How many members have renewed CFU membership since the weekend?
A: On Saturday we tried to do something slightly different by focussing on CFU renewals to raise much needed funds but also to continue to engage our supporter base and achieved around 150 renewals.
Historically we have seen renewals completed on a year by year basis with people paying £12 which is excellent but also from an administration perspective is timely and naturally sees a drop off as people forget to renew over the years.
As such we are actively encouraging people when renewing, where possible, to sign up to the Direct Debit option which as well as being easier for the Club to administer will auto renew so preventing drop offs year on year. This option also allows for supporters to donate a little more if they feel able so dramatically increases the financial amount raised through the process.
Q: What are the club’s outgoings at this moment in time?
A: The main outgoing at the Club at the moment remains player salaries which are due to run until 2nd May 2020 and those players who have signed on for next season are currently due to resume on 1st July. The Salaried Staff (i.e. Managers and Club Employees) although also furloughed in the main are employed across 52 weeks a year.
Although May sees a reduction in expenditure in salaries these will come at time when the Cash reserve is naturally at its lowest in a normal season – hence the need for fundraising and Government support to be received at the earliest opportunity to support cashflow and make these payments.
In addition to this expenditure we also have expenditure for services we receive such as website hosting for the official website, pest control, refuge collection and cleaning for the stadium etc which are being reviewed to see what savings can be made given the wind down in operations.
Fixed costs associated with things like business rates, rent and other provisions linked to local authorities are being reviewed with the relevant organisations to see if we are eligible for national schemes or grants.
Q: Have the club been in contact with the league during this uncertain time?
A: The Club have been in constant dialogue with the National League around the arrangements for the conclusion of this season.
What is absolutely evident for nearly every Club in Non-League is that an extension to the season is not financially viable as all budgeting is based on player contracts, and subsequently wages ceasing on 2nd May.
Every club like ourselves are battling tirelessly to meet these outstanding financial obligations and to extend the season by even another month to six weeks to conclude the season behind doors could accrue up to £50,000 of costs which are unbudgeted.
In addition, it should be remembered that at such a time when restrictions are lifted and football can recommence players will be requiring a level of ‘Pre-Season’ style training which may further extend this period where clubs will be liable for wages.
However most important is the health and wellbeing of the players, supporters and everyone associated with football across the country and this cannot be risked just to conclude a season.