Chester FC would like to update supporters and City Fans United members on the progress that has been made as the club aims to navigate through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
These are extreme and unprecedented times for us all and first and foremost the thoughts of everyone at the club are with those who have lost family and friends. We wish to place on record our appreciation for the incredible NHS staff and frontline key workers who are going above and beyond to help others.
The impact of the crisis on the club has been significant with the loss of five scheduled home fixtures and the cancellation of a number of fundraising events resulting in significant reductions in income.
The board of City Fans United has been in constant dialogue during this period and engaged with key stakeholders including the Community Trust, the council and MBNA as we attempt to steer the football club through these uncharted waters and ensure the health and wellbeing of our players, staff, supporters and local community.
We continue to work tirelessly to safeguard the football club and maintain its financial stability, both in the short term and long term, to enable us to emerge in the strongest possible position for when football resumes.
This is a rapidly developing situation and as a board we are committed to presenting supporters with accurate information and thank you for your patience and understanding.
Please find below an update on the steps we have taken already and the present situation:
What we have done
· While it is not possible to put an exact figure on the cost of the pandemic to the club, the cancellation of five home matches and several fundraising events mean a potential £100,000 worth of revenue has been lost. We have lost income from non-matchday related income such as Liverpool Women FC venue hire, as well as end of season pitch hire and our Awards Evening.
We have taken steps to collect a number of outstanding invoices and are grateful to those businesses and individuals who have made prompt payments. The club does have some debtors and will continue to pursue these.
· We have placed the majority of club staff on furlough leave and accessed the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The board decided to continue to pay all staff, including those furloughed, 100% of their salaries up until 2nd May. The first payment from HMRC was received this week and we wish to thank our players and non-playing staff for their understanding and cooperation. We have held discussions with staff with regards to what happens after the 2nd May and have also considered rotating furloughs for those staff that we still need to remain working.
At present the CJRS is due to run until 30th June. We are in continuing dialogue with HMRC regarding the scheme, however given the uncertainty around when football will resume there may well be more difficult conversations to take place as time goes on.
· The club has a number of ongoing running costs and annual outgoings to consider over the coming weeks and months including insurances, utilities and VAT. Where possible, we have taken steps to defer or postpone these payments, including the negotiation of payment holidays which means the club don’t have to pick up the cost later in the year. The club has applied for a Coronavirus Business Support Grant (£25,000) and club has received business rates relief for this tax year (£11,700). We wish to place on record its thanks to both Cheshire West & Chester Council and Flintshire County Council, who have been extremely supportive.
· We have been in frequent contact with the National League regarding the impact of the pandemic on the game. In April we supported a resolution asking member clubs to end the season and cancel remaining matches. The league has since asked member clubs whether the play-offs should be cancelled or postponed – the outcome of this vote has not yet been confirmed.
· We are due to receive circa £13,000 which is the advanced annual solidarity payment from the Premier League for the 2020/21 season. While this is not new money, we are grateful for the Premier League in bringing this payment forward three months.
· The virtual matchday initiatives have raised £4000 which will cover of the costs of improving the pitch over the summer. We wish to place on record our thanks to everyone who supported the virtual matchdays for making this possible.
· We have contacted sponsors and supporters who had booked hospitality packages for cancelled matches and we are extremely thankful to those who have generously advised the club to retain these funds. We have also received unsolicited donations from a number of supporters which are over and above forgoing pre-paid sponsorship and hospitality packages. This is an incredible gesture which is greatly appreciated and demonstrates what a true community club this is.
· We are currently contacting season ticket holders regarding the cancellation of the 2019/20 season and to discuss the options available. We are hugely grateful to those supporters inclusive of board members who have already informed the club to retain the full cost of their season ticket.
· The board has been holding at least two virtual meetings a week during the Covid-19 pandemic. These meetings have involved a number of key stakeholders and will continue for the foreseeable future.
· The Community Trust has been supporting the most vulnerable in our community with telephone befriending, practical assistance with shopping and prescriptions, delivering treat boxes to care home staff and producing Chester FC themed education resources for children who are home learning.
Like you, we are keen to see football return to the 1885 Arena as soon as possible. However, the board is united in its view that football can only return at a time when it is safe to do so for players, officials and supporters. We will continue to engage with the National League, footballing authorities and fellow member clubs on this matter and share any further updates with you at the earliest possible opportunity.
This is normally the time of the year when supporters are able to renew their season tickets for the new campaign, however given the uncertainty around when football will return, which league we will be in and how many teams will be in the division, we do not believe we are in a position to start season ticket sales. This is one of the club’s main income sources and enables the club to work with the management to agree a playing budget for the new season. As the situation becomes clearer over the coming weeks and months, this position may change and we will communicate this to supporters at the earliest opportunity. The Fan Engagement Working Group (FEWG) has produced a season ticket pricing plan for the board to approve, however this will need to be revisited once more details are available regarding the future playing season.
As a supporter-owned club, fundraising is hugely important and as a board we genuinely appreciate every single penny and thank everyone who has donated past and present. These donations make a significant contribution to the sustainability and development of our club. We recognise the impact this crisis is having on people’s lives and know some of our supporters will be struggling. As a community club, we want you to know that we will do what we can to help you. The next few months will be extremely challenging and we have to continue to fundraise to ensure the future of Chester FC. We would welcome fundraising suggestions and ideas. We know we ask again and again, however this is your club and the more we can raise, the stronger we are.
CFU memberships expire on 31st May so now is the ideal opportunity to renew your membership for the next 12 months or sign up as new member. You can renew online at www.cityfansunited.com/join-city-fans-united and the cost remains just £12 per year to be an owner of our club. In these challenging times, your commitment and contribution is needed more than ever and of course the more members we have, the stronger we are collectively. Please consider setting up a Direct Debit for CFU membership via email to firstname.lastname@example.org as this makes future renewals much simpler and provides further revenue for your club as well giving you access to great benefits as a CFU member.
The 1885 Arena remains closed at this time and with most club staff on furlough leave, the board is continuing to respond to enquiries. Please email email@example.com if you have an enquiry and this will be forwarded to the relevant board member. We would be grateful for your patience given the current circumstances.
The Board is committed to maintaining the community ethos and values of Chester FC and taking the appropriate steps to safeguard the football club. The longer the current situation continues, the more challenging this will become, however we are confident that together we can emerge from these unprecedented times and look forward to a positive future.
We believe that as a fan-owned community club, we have a unique strength which is being demonstrated in the way everyone from the players and management, club staff, volunteers, academy, Community Trust, sponsors and most of all you as supporters has pulled together.
We commit to keeping you updated as we move forward and in the first instance ask you to consider renewing your CFU membership or signing up as a new member to support your club.
Until we can return to the pitch, please stay safe, do what you can to care for the most vulnerable and look after your family and friends.
Our City, Our Community, Our Club
The Board of City Fans United