I’d like to give our supporters an update with where we are with regards to the effect on the club due to COVID-19 and how you could help at this tough time for everyone. I gave a commitment to be transparent when I first took this job and I have tried to be as forthcoming with information as much as possible.
I attended a RFL meeting on Tuesday for all Championship and League One clubs and the RFL are looking at modelling various scenarios about how we complete the season depending on when we resume. With a World Cup in 2021 there will be no flexibility to go into next year and because of a contractual minefield the season would not go beyond 30th November.
We held a board meeting last night and it was very calm. The club is not in any immediate financial distress but obviously as the days and weeks go by without any income the picture can change rapidly. The message from the government is clear in that there is help available in the form of loans and we can arrange to defer payments of VAT, NI and PAYE. We are in the process of looking at our income targets against what we have received so far this year and for each line item making a judgement against the effect of shutdown and future income projections. Clearly some things like match day admission will be totally affected whilst others like lottery income may only have a very minimal effect. Loans and payment deferrals of course need to be repaid and could well affect the club for an extended period and handicap our ability to grow both on and off the field. The government have also indicated that the purpose of these loans is to firstly stop businesses going under but also to keep wages in the economy. I am a big believer that if you look after people you will be rewarded in life and business and it is our intention that we fully meet our staffing cost commitments.
The RFL have been very supportive and professional throughout this crisis but we cannot rely on help from the governing body. They have their own funding issues to manage.
I have seen several posts from our supporters wanting to help. It is reassuring when times become difficult that our greatest asset, our fans, realise how important the club is to the community and their lives. We really are privileged.
Times will be tough, and we plan to unashamedly copy some of the initiatives that we have seen from some other clubs by introducing some virtual tickets, virtual away bus trips and an online half time draw. Basically, money that you would have spent following the Raiders still finding its way to support the club to help keep it afloat. We have other ideas like running a guess the score competition with results decided by an old-style pools panel. Whatever we decide we will keep you posted.
There are also other options that are already in place. I’m sure the Supporters Trust would welcome more members of the 200 club, I’m sure the Auxiliary Branch would welcome more members of the lottery and Super Lotto and there is the 1875 club that has committed to fund the squad whenever strengthening is required. With these options there is no requirement to set-up fundraising pages that take a commission, but we thank those people who had the club’s best interests at heart in thinking of that too.
This is also a perfect opportunity to grow the number of Ourleague members and the Barrow Raiders database. For the database we simply need e-mail addresses and the permission to use them. The Ourleague website has some fantastic content and there are plans to show some vintage games from the past. If our fans could make it their mission to introduce as many new members as possible, stating they support Barrow Raiders during the registration process, then you would be doing the club an enormous favour in securing additional funding for next year when we might need it most.
We know times are tough for businesses but there is a massive advertisement opportunity for the panels on Hindpool Road. We regain ownership on 1st April and there has been a lot of interest. This itself could be our lifesaver for this year and growth beyond that.
And finally, our community team are not going to be stopped in their tracks. They are currently in communications with Public Health Cumbria and England about providing educational opportunities or rugby camps for the children of workers essential for our country to fight the virus outbreak. They also plan to help the most vulnerable in society and basically continue where they left off in winning our Love Barrow award. I’m sure there will be plenty announced from that side of our organisation.
I hope the message is clear. There are some tough times ahead but with your support we are in a good starting position to battle through. Thanks as always to all our supporters.