Chester FC can provide a further update to supporters and City Fans United members in relation to the club’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertain footballing landscape.
The human cost of the crisis has been devastating and the thoughts of everyone at the club are with those who have suffered loss. The pandemic will have a lasting impact for us all and the challenges facing football clubs may seem inconsequential in comparison, but as a Board we must focus on our responsibilities as your elected representatives.
Without question, the coronavirus outbreak poses a significant threat to football clubs at all levels and indeed the game as a whole.
The Board is committed to safeguarding the football club and ensuring it remains financially sustainable so we can overcome these challenges together and prepare for the safe return of football. This commitment means the Board must be prepared to make difficult but necessary decisions if required.
Complicating the current situation is the continued uncertainty over how the 2019/20 campaign will be concluded and the prospect of a potential play-off campaign. We are sure supporters will appreciate that while this remains a possibility, it has a bearing on the Board’s decisions and actions. To this end, we have decided it is not appropriate to publish a retained list until the 2019/20 season has been decided.
We do not know when football will resume, but it is clear that for clubs such as ours playing behind closed doors is neither practical nor financially sustainable. When crowds can return, it is likely social distancing measures will limit attendances and in turn reduce matchday income, the biggest source of revenue for most clubs.
The Board’s immediate focus has been on stabilising the club following the suspension of the season and initial loss of income, but we are now developing longer term plans to ensure we are prepared for whatever happens in the next 12 months and beyond. This is a complex process as it includes planning for several different scenarios linked to when football might return with budgets for each of them.
We understand some fans may be worried about the future or concerned about the impact of Stuart Murphy’s decision to end his association with the Club, but we want to assure you that we can come through this period together and emerge in a position to continue being a competitive force on the pitch.
Football finances at our level will look very different in the future and, while we must navigate the immediate challenges over the next 12 months, we believe this will ultimately be to the advantage of those clubs who operate sustainably.
As a club we are in a fortunate position: we have strong relationships with key stakeholders and sponsors; and we have a fan base filled with passion and enthusiasm that provides unwavering support.
It is a reality of supporter ownership that financial contributions from fans are vital and every penny the club receives is appreciated and benefits our club.
In the next week we will be launching a new crowdfunding scheme to help the first team budget for the 2020/21 season. We have listened to members and observed what other clubs have done, and we know many fans wish to help the managers deliver what everyone wants: an exciting, successful and talented team that makes supporters proud. If you are able to, this is your opportunity to pledge or donate to supplement the playing budget and make a massive difference to our club’s preparations for the new season.
Please find below an update on the most recent steps the Board has taken in an effort to navigate through this difficult period:
We continue to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the majority of club staff remain on furlough leave with some rotation as operations dictate. Given the play-offs remain a possibility; we have re-engaged most of the first team squad on short-term contracts until 27th June. All furloughed employees will now receive 80% of their salaries up to a maximum of £2500 per month and the Board wishes to thank the players, non-playing and non-football staff for their agreement to ensure we can preserve the club’s resources and protect roles. The CJRS has been extended until the end of October although government support will be tapered and we will continue to review our use of the scheme.
We have received a Coronavirus Business Support Grant (£25,000) through Flintshire County Council and continue to take steps to manage ongoing running costs and annual outgoings such as utilities and insurances. We are grateful to those companies who have agreed payment holidays and payment plans.
We continue to engage with the National League and fellow member clubs regarding the pandemic’s impact on the game, the options for completing the 2019/20 season and arrangements for the 2020/21 campaign and safe return of football.
We are hugely grateful to our season ticket holders who waived the offer of a partial refund following the cancellation of the 2019/20 campaign. The Board is acutely aware of the impact of the crisis on the economy and processed a small number of refund requests; however this represented less than 2.5% of the total potential liabilities. Thank you for your incredible support.
The Board has been strengthened with the co-option of Adam Langan until the AGM later this year. Adam is a lifelong supporter of the Blues and serves as a councillor for Newton and Hoole on Cheshire West & Chester Council.
We have received more than 1300 responses to the initial consultation on the draft strategic plan for Chester FC produced last month. The depth and volume of feedback received is hugely valuable and this will now be reviewed in detail to further develop the plan in preparation for the next phase of the consultation.
The Community Trust has maintained its work in the local area to assist vulnerable supporters and residents during the pandemic, including partnership working with other local charities and agencies to collect prescriptions and delivering hot meals.
As stated above, the Fundraising Working Group has been developing a new crowdfunder scheme to boost the first team budget for next season. It is important this scheme is properly developed to ensure it achieves its purpose.
The group has been strengthened with several new members and has been meeting regularly to explore other ways to raise funds to help the club remain sustainable while there is no football being played.
The pandemic is having a very real impact on people’s finances and we know some of our supporters will be struggling. Whatever financial assistance you can give our club really does help and this is not something we take for granted. If you have ideas or suggestions for fundraising, please email email@example.com.
In the past fortnight groundsman Mike Barrow has been able to start the annual pitch renovations using the £4000 raised through the virtual matchdays. Mike has asked us to express his sincere gratitude to everyone who contributed.
Last month we launched the first retro Chester City shirt last month and received almost 300 pre-orders, raising a further £4000 for our club. Claim Your Turf has brought in more than £1200 in a few days and the club shop volunteers are running a flash sale and have also launched branded face masks, bringing in further valuable funds. Fundraising is a team effort and you are the key components of that team so thank you again to everyone who has donated.
CFU memberships for 2019/20 expired on 31st May so if you haven’t yet renewed or wish to sign up as a new member, now is the perfect time. The cost to be an owner of our club remains just £12 per year and you can renew online at www.cityfansunited.com/join-city-fans-united. We are delighted the number of members paying via Direct Debit continues to grow as this can significantly increase revenue for our club and makes future renewals much simpler. To set up a Direct Debit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Claim Your Turf
From as little as £25 you can sponsor a piece of the hallowed turf at the Deva Stadium for the 2020/21 season and raise funds for the club’s Squadbuilder campaign. Claim Your Turf allows supporters or local businesses to have their name, photograph, message or logo printed in the matchday programme for each home league fixture, on the Chester FC website and on the wall of the Blues Bar at the end of the season. You’ll also be invited to a special end of season function. Email email@example.com to Claim Your Turf.
We have received a number of requests for season ticket renewals and sales. Your support is greatly appreciated and this is of course a key income stream for the club. However, we believe the sensible approach is to wait until we have some clarity about football’s return including the league structure, season length, number of fixtures and potential crowds, before starting season ticket sales. Rest assured, as soon as we have received the appropriate level of information we will update supporters.
Given the pace at which this unprecedented situation continues to develop, the Board remains in constant dialogue and is holding virtual meetings at least once a week, as well as having regular discussions with key partners and stakeholders, including MBNA and the council.
We will endeavour to provide further updates to members and supporters as regularly as possible and thank you for your continued support, patience and understanding.
Keep safe and we look forward to seeing you back at our home soon.
Our City, Our Community, Our Club
The Board of City Fans United