For football clubs such as us at Stenhousemuir, the already reduced office administrative operation has now been scaled right down to largely home working as per the Government advice.
This is the right thing to do at the right time.
Football seems less relevant and less important today than it did last week. However, in normal circumstances, where clubs are a hugely significant part of their local communities, it is vital that we do keep on top of things to ensure we survive this difficult period so that we get back and running when it is possible to do so.
Financial planning continues to be the key activity in our club, and at most clubs across Scotland. The statement released a couple of days ago by Aberdeen FC made grim reading. They have set out their financial loss and signalled how difficult it will be to try to mitigate those losses. If you extract the financial numbers from Aberdeen’s statement, that could have been any club in Scotland making that statement and saying those words.
The issues are the same for every club, just on a relative scale. £5 million to Aberdeen would put them in the same financial difficulty as £100k would to Stenhousemuir. The issues are the same, the overwhelming majority of our income is now not coming in, but our costs continue. This simply won’t work.
Clubs cannot haemorrhage cash for a sustained period. In some cases, the reserves aren’t there. There is no room to manoeuvre. It’s a case of either finding new cash income which is almost impossible in the current climate, or cut costs.
So football clubs, the rivalry, the secrecy, the mind games, the needling… it is all a bit pointless these days, because we all share the same issues and are enduring the same problems.
The problems for football clubs don’t just affect football. There are catering contracts, security, first aid and paramedics, the pubs and bars, the bus companies and all the other businesses and people that support football club operations.
That message of being in it together is crucial. The overwhelming majority of the country gets it, understands it, and is willing to live by it. It was evident at Stenhousemuir too. Last week, before we had gone into lockdown, and before many of the social distancing rules had come into effect, I spoke with our first-team manager Davie Irons. We speak every couple of days usually, but this call was different. He called to say that he was voluntarily offering to forego his salary. The assistant, Kevin McGoldrick, was doing likewise.
We were in this together, and if their gesture meant that the club would survive, they were happy to do it. If it meant that the staff or players could be protected, then they wanted to play their part.
At the weekend, the club office, community and ground staff also stepped forward and offered to take a wage reduction if it meant saving other people’s jobs and helping the club.
All of these people rely on their wages like the rest of us, but here they were thinking of others and shouldering their part of the shared financial burden. They want the club to survive, and they of course want to remain part of the club’s future.
As a board, we cannot thank our people enough. Our goal will remain unchanged. However, we will look for solutions that have the least possible impact on our staff and on wages. They have offered to be there to help us, so we must do all we can to look after them.
So there is a feeling of shared responsibility, and perhaps even a renewed community collective spirit. This virus is exacting a terrible toll on humanity, but perhaps amongst the carnage, a positive story will emerge of people helping people, groups standing together, and maybe even football clubs thinking of the greater good of the game?