At this point in the season, we all expected that our main focus would be on the run-in and securing our place in League 1, but recent events mean football has understandably been the last thing on most people’s minds.
First and foremost, I hope that all Tranmere fans are doing all that they can to keep themselves and others safe and secure, by following the Government guidelines on social distancing. We owe it to ourselves and to our loved ones to do everything we can to protect the vulnerable people within our community.
As Wirral's Family Club, we are doing our utmost to provide support and assistance to those who will struggle the most with the necessary isolation – whether for financial reasons, age or physical or mental health. We are working with HelpLink and have established a programme to ensure vulnerable people can be supported by daily phone calls and assistance with deliveries of food and prescriptions. At present we are supporting around 1,000 people. We are also working closely with Wirral Borough Council, our partners, to support their humanitarian efforts wherever possible. Thank you to the many of you who have joined the ranks of volunteers supporting these efforts.
The abrupt cessation of football has undoubtedly come as an unwelcome financial shock to the Club, and we have been working hard to ensure that the Club, and its staff, emerge from this dreadful scenario able to resume footballing activities whenever that is permitted.
In order to keep our staff safe, many areas of the Club (including the retail store/ticket office, the Academy and the function rooms) have been closed for the time being, but key staff remain working from home, and I would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication in very difficult circumstances. The Riverhill Hotel is continuing to function for takeaway food deliveries and as a hub for the community support initiative, and our education team is continuing to provide lessons for all students, albeit through virtual classrooms. Although the shop/ticket office is physically closed, online transactions are still being processed and calls are being taken. I would ask everyone to bear with us if response times are a little slower than usual, but a skeleton staff is trying its best to keep things running so that Tranmere Rovers can emerge from this terrible situation in a strong position.
A big part of that is ensuring that the team is ready to go as and when that is appropriate. Micky has been in constant dialogue with the players and they all have training programmes to follow from home so that they return in the best possible condition when the time is right.
With regard to the staff, we have a responsibility to balance the need to safeguard the future of the Club and the desire to support employees through a difficult time. This means using the Government’s job retention scheme to enable us to temporarily furlough staff who ordinarily work in parts of the business which can no longer function, so that we can avoid the need for redundancies. We have committed to paying in full all contracted employees whose roles are being furloughed, for March and April. We have been able to do this because of the work that has gone on to stabilise the finances of the Club in recent years which ultimately has made the Club able to attract investment. In this regard, I would also like to thank our partners, the Santini Group who, despite the impact of the coronavirus, have continued to provide the further support which had been planned and which has enabled us to ensure certain key projects, such as pitch renovations could take place and also has helped to fill the immediate cash hole.
We also have over 400 casual workers who would usually work on a matchday or as needed for functions and events. We understand that the government’s furlough scheme may also apply to these workers and we are seeking clarification on that.
Although we believe we are able to weather this storm as a Club, it will undoubtedly be a disaster for some who were already struggling. If we are to avoid a series of collapses of football clubs, there needs to be some radical change in the football industry to ensure that some of the financial pressures which are crippling clubs are addressed in a structured way. I have been asked to be part of the EFL’s Financial Working Group which has been formed to address the issues facing EFL Clubs and we are in regular dialogue with other governing bodies regarding how we can protect game in the short term, but also for generations to come.
These are dark times indeed, but I am confident that we will emerge at the end of it, both as a Club and as a community who can be proud of how they coped and helped each other in adversity.
Never before has our motto seemed more apt: Ubi Fides Ibi Lux et Robur.