An update from Club Doncaster chief executive Gavin Baldwin....
As we come out of our first full month of lockdown, I can honestly say I’ve never experienced a month like it during all my time as chief executive of Doncaster Rovers.
We have always taken great pride in ensuring our stadium is a welcoming environment for all visitors, whether that be football supporters, rugby supporters, concert goers, the business community or households visiting for leisure reasons and to not have any kind of activity taking place at the stadium is a surreal experience.
I, like all of you, cannot wait until we are back to normal but we must be patient and wait until we are told it is safe to do so. We are liaising daily with the EFL, RFL and others about their plans for resolving the current season and the timescales they are operating to. I know the representative bodies are speaking to the Government regularly but this is an ever-changing situation and, while we all long for the return of sport to our lives, we must not rush to make decisions that have a risk of endangering any member of the public. I am already aware of supporters who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and we don’t want any more families to suffer.
Most staff at Club Doncaster have now been furloughed and for a club of our size that makes sense. We do not have the riches of some of the other football clubs at our disposal and, while we have always tried to safeguard the club by spreading our revenue across different sources that are not just limited to ticketing and sponsorships, those other sources have also been severely impacted by the pandemic. Our car boot markets, stadium events, pitch bookings, office and car park leases, and discount card/book schemes have all seen revenue plummet to an all-time low. We are incredibly grateful therefore to those that have been able to support the club during the last few weeks through purchasing season tickets or lottery subscriptions, these wonderful gestures are enabling us to keep cash coming into the business and allowing us to top up salaries to their full amount.
Those staff who aren’t furloughed are working hard to try and safeguard the future of the club and identify any possible revenue streams we can. Commercially we’re ensuring we’re still in contact with all our partners to see how we can support them and operationally we’re trying to use this time effectively, looking at how we can improve the infrastructure at the club to make us a more efficient organisation. Meanwhile, the chairman and I have been working with the finance director to plan for every eventuality, including the possibility of no football for the remainder of the calendar year. While we hope and pray that this is not the case, if we can plan for a worst case scenario anything else will be an improvement.
I must once again put my thanks on record to our supporters clubs, both the main branch and Retford branch have donated a combined £9,000 to the club this month. This amazing gesture has genuinely made staff members emotional and it is so humbling to know that with everything that is going on, our supporters continue to act so wonderfully towards the club.
You may have seen our online auction of once in a lifetime experiences that is currently active, the auction is helping to raise valuable funds for both us, the NHS and other charities. There is still a week left on the auction and some opportunities up for grabs so if you are in a position to do so then please consider placing a bid.
In recent years, on the release of fixtures, the club have held Rush Week providing supporters the opportunity to secure tickets for home league games at Bronze Membership prices without being a Bronze Member. Next week, as we try to bring forward cash flow, we will be launching Rush Week once again and this time we will be offering a combination of ticketing vouchers, retail merchandise and hospitality experiences. There will be opportunities for both Silver Members and non-Silver Members to benefit from the Rush Week campaign, which will be extended throughout May – so again please look out for that.
Finally, we continue to receive updates from the EFL and given the questions we are receiving from supporters and journalists alike we have provided an updated Q&A below based on what we know. As soon as we can provide any certainty on the future of football and how it will return we will make it our priority to engage our supporters.
I hope this update finds you safe and well. Please continue to follow the Government advice and I look forward to once again sharing our stadium with you all.
When will the transfer window open and close?
We know the EFL are in active discussions with the Premier League and the Football Association regarding a practical solution for the transfer window. We know it is the view of the EFL that the window should only open after the current season closes and we support that view.
When will football return?
At present, the football season is postponed indefinitely. We receive daily updates from the EFL and the ongoing conversations they are having with all the relevant stakeholders but no date has been provided for the return of football. The EFL have suggested that they will look to provide at least a three week notice before any resumption of the football season.
Until we have notice that the season will commence and players can return to training they remain at home. All parties concerned agree that the health and wellbeing of all individuals, fans, staff, and players remains the overriding priority.
Will the current season be completed and by when?
The EFL’s primary objective remains to conclude the 2019/20 season when it is safe to do so and are keeping all options open as to how this may happen. It has been estimated that the EFL requires 56 days to complete the outstanding matches in a season (including play-offs).
The current recommendation of the EFL is that clubs should be advised not to recommence any training activity with players until May 16 at the earliest and we are abiding by this advice. This an ever-changing situation though so this date could alter. Again the health and wellbeing of all involved remains the priority and football will only return when it is safe to do so.
Will matches take place behind closed doors?
This is not yet known but it is expected that this will be the safest option. Obviously this presents many challenges from an operational and financial view point. There are several working groups reviewing the options on how football will return and whether this includes fans inside stadiums, games behind closed doors, various streaming options and ensuring that season ticket holders remain valued.