Boreham Wood Chairman Danny Hunter has provided an update on where the Club stands on season ticket renewals and prices for 2020/21, as well as the ongoing and developing situation surrounding COVID-19.
I hope that this update finds you all well and that you are safe and healthy.
The good news is that I did discuss a best price scenario for our adult and older fans a few weeks ago. We came up with what I thought was a great price, but looking back I think my decision was made more in hope than belief that football is coming back to Meadow Park anytime soon, but the adults and OAP’s ticket offer was, for the record, priced at £99.
The bad news is I cannot release that offer, as the Coronavirus Pandemic is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. In truth the Club’s situation is perhaps going to be a whole lot worse than I or anyone could have budgeted for just three or four weeks ago.
As such, I cannot in good faith release any season ticket offer, no matter how hard I try, as I cannot see how any Non-League football can start again in England. It’s just not going to happen when we have the second highest death toll (and rising) in Europe and still have days of 700 plus people losing their lives.
I’m honestly trying to find the positives, but I do, as Chairman, have to remain realistic. No matter how much we all want to see the lads playing football again at Meadow Park, I’ve got absolutely no idea how I can safely get our stadium and facility, two teams and match officials on a pitch, while getting two sets of supporters safely into the ground anytime soon, let alone stage a contact sport with players not able to maintain social distancing rules anytime in 2020.
I’m missing my football club, the football and my staff (who are like family to me.) I’m also missing wheeling and dealing, signing off on deals, new players and of course, I’m missing many of our loyal sponsors and the Wood Army’s wicked sense of humour like mad.
But realistically I think football for all things Boreham Wood in 2020, is over. Let’s hope I’m wrong, though I don’t think I am. I suppose I could pretend that Non-League will be back by August, September or October, a bit like the National League Board and some of the member clubs are doing, but that’s not going to help us.
I feel our fans, players, staff and sponsors involved in our club, want honesty from their Chairman and they expect clear leadership from me to steer our club into calmer waters and I feel I’ll be proved right with my forecasts come December.
I do, of course, have sleepless nights in trying to solve the Club’s problems, in regards to what is at present an unsolvable pandemic conundrum. No matter what way I look, no matter how I interpret the government guidelines, I just cannot see how any football at our level in 2020 will be possible until a vaccine is found.
As such, if I don’t budget realistically for what will most definitely be a more long term shutdown, then I honestly fear for our survival, so I’m letting our fans and my community know what the realities facing our football club actually are.
I’m being transparent and honest with everyone in regard to my thinking and no doubt I’ll get some stick for this. But by going on the record now, and saying that the game we all love is not coming to our town, to our stadium or I feel to any National League club anytime soon, will give me a chance to re-budget quickly based on what we know today, and not what we perhaps thought a month ago.
Reality tells me, that no Government, no League, no Safety Advisory Group or Safety Officer can give me as your Chairman any assurances on how I can keep my staff, players and supporters safe, while staging a football match at Meadow Park in the foreseeable future.
If that’s the case, and it is, how can I possibly ask my staff, my players and you supporters to trust in luck and forget about Coronavirus, while blindly coming back to training, work or through the gates to support the team? That would mean forgoing all the social distancing lessons that we’ve painfully learnt together, to watch or play in a contact sport football match, it’s simply impossible.
I think the Premier League and Sky Sports could well see some wide ranging ‘change of venue‘ pushback, made by certain relegation threatened clubs resulting in no relegation, while also getting pushback from worried players in regards to their health, safety and wellbeing.
As such, important decisions on relegation and promotion must be made, as the Premier League Clubs try to protect their share of £760 million of TV money to complete this season. We already know their players refused the 30% across the board wage cuts they were asked to take. So you can be sure that when they now discuss their safety with their loved ones, their agents and PFA in what the Premier League are asking of them, that these financially independent players and their advisors will in large numbers refuse to play until it is completely safe to do so and who could blame them?
It’s common knowledge that the Premier League will need 40,000 virus tests to complete 92 games and I’m told that is at a cost of around £4 million. The EFL has over 360 games to complete their games, so that’s £16 million worth of testing, unless the life of an EFL player is not valued the same?
Either way, should Premier League clubs or any of their players for that matter, feel pressured into playing, when essential workers are not getting the same respect even when on the front line, that could well result in the public turning its back on Sky Sports.
So, I’ll watch with a touch of fear for the whole of football, to see if the Premier League and Sky are now only driven by money and decide, if I keep my Sky subscription going. I know that when just one high profile person dies, and it’s traced back to the Premier League restart, that everyone will look for excuses and run for cover.
Just one unnecessary death is one too many, when we already know subconsciously that to play, people are going to be put in danger, when we already know it’s now more about risk to financial reward for the bigger clubs, when we already know it’s about the club’s access to their share of TV money, their share of sponsorship money and for the bigger clubs about their share of all advertising, endorsements and prize money related to UEFA.
I’ll also watch very closely to see if I can learn from the Premier League, it’s safety advisors and see how its money overcomes all of the health and safety aspects that at present, our scientists and government medical authorities don’t seem to be able to solve. Put simply how do they put on a 90-minute full contact game, ignore social distancing and keep the players safe?
Let’s be honest, if you take all the money out of the above equation, it doesn’t become an equation at all and it wouldn’t even be discussed.
Every league, every club owner, every player and every football fan at all levels is of course missing the game so much. At our level I feel helpless and unprotected, because we know having no supporters in our stadiums simply equates to no football being played in 2020. Why? Because every owner or Chairman will tell you, if we play behind closed doors at National League level, then bankruptcy is assured for most clubs, so that option cannot happen.
The reality for our football club is now very, very clear – the League Board should just make a decision based on them having been elected by us to lead us. They don’t need me to tell them I cannot possibly plan for play offs just because they all wish it.
So, for me a far more common sense and hard line approach is now needed, and I think that my first phase approach to ‘operation survival’ has to be the likelihood of no football being played in 2020 with further tough decisions to make and stricter financial controls put in place at Meadow Park. My job is to somehow keep my staff and players safe, while ensuring our football club stays solvent.
The administrators at the top of Non-League now need to be very transparent with the clubs and the die-hard supporters and tell them the truth that we’re not coming back anytime soon. Then everyone can focus on ‘operation survival’ and the facts are that for most of us, we have no income whatsoever coming into our clubs. So, it’s going to be the owners like myself who have other successful companies, or clubs who have outside benefactors, who will keep Non-League afloat. It certainly will not be league boards or administrators.
As an example of my sleepless nights and calls for transparency, an important National League administrator, who trust me is a very honest and good guy, somewhat foolishly told me three weeks ago to prepare for the play offs and then two weeks later flip flopped and told me that he didn’t feel there would be football at our level in 2020.
The truth is that not all people on league boards are remotely financially capable, even fewer are medical experts, but they do hold authority. So, in reality everything these people in authority tell us, we must now take with a pinch of salt, because if they’re not financial or medical experts or not taking their lead from medical experts, then all this loose lip league advice is going to kill the club I love.
As a way of explanation, the “get ready for the play off” opinion first given, was of course wishful thinking on the League administrator’s part, which I stupidly listened to it and in truth it has already cost me over £125k in contract extensions.
The second opinion of “no football in 2020” was I feel far more realistic, and though it tells of dark times ahead, his candour and realism was hugely appreciated by myself. In fact, his honesty helped me to change direction, and perhaps saved the club over £300k on possible contract offers and summer spend. As such I’ve now re budgeted for no expected income coming into the Club in the foreseeable future, which has meant no further contracts being handed out, as we would not have been able to honour that size of spend presently and I do not wish to run our football club like that.
The National League Board, must now understand the difference between what they might want and what their member clubs now need and are now facing. The UK has just hit 28,000 deaths and that total is still rising at an alarming rate. Our clubs now need our Board, their Chairman and CEO, plus the FA, the EFL and even our Government’s medical experts to help formalise an ‘operation survival’ plan to acknowledge what’s really happening at grass roots level on a week-by-week and month-by-month basis, as we must all find ways to help football at all levels.
Our Government has already done fantastically for our football clubs by furloughing and making loans and grants available. They have allowed us to keep our clubs on life support, but until a vaccine is found most of Non-League and the hospitality sector will remain on life support until the life is slowly squeezed out of all us.
So I’m taking a more robust approach this week to every aspect of what the football club can spend, whether that be on cleaners, on pitch renovations, on-site maintenance and on our summer spends. This means I’ve stopped listening so intently to the National League, its Chairman, CEO or the Board, because if my football club did go bankrupt, and it won’t, nobody will remember the League’s advice, but it would always be my fault.
Our ship for 21 years has been based on one ship, one captain and it’s my responsibility to look after my staff, my players, my Club and our supporters, while ensuring my Town has the Club it loves still in place, with its Community heartbeat still beating and our Meadow Park home there waiting for them when they return.
I know if I fail I will have to answer to myself, my family, my partners, my sponsors, my staff, my players, my Town and my Community and that’s a pressure I believe I can cope with. As such I don’t need anyone to tell me that there will be no play offs tomorrow, next week, next month or this season.
So, let the National League continue with their “non-decision” letters that are nothing more a politician’s dodge and let them get on with the fantasy island conference calls and zoom meetings, as they pretend and try to convince us that we are a big part of the professional game and the wider football family.
How is that true, if the Premier League can advance the EFL £125 million, of which they get £123 million pounds, while the National League are advanced just £2 million, to split amongst our 68 member clubs, then ‘football family‘ is a very loose term.
Trust me when I tell you that the Premier League and EFL have at the time of writing, given us nothing in terms of any new financial support, just that advance on monies that were already contracted to us in August. So other than five or six emails from the National League admin team reminding us how to access government or sporting loans they’ve not really improved anything.
I actually see this lockdown, as the perfect time for our League to re-look at the existing promotion and relegation issues, look at the National League/EFL loan structures, look at Non-League agent’s fees, look at how a new League voting system might look and look at how much the EFL clubs take out of the National League and Non-League game in loan fees.
This is especially prevalent when EFL clubs already receive 100% of the Premier League Development monies, then recoup further monies in loan monies from all National League clubs, to develop their players. I believe we all now need to understand our worth within the football world and get ourselves on the front foot, as we ask the FA, EFL and their antiquated structures to take us seriously.
We actually now need to refuse to take loan players and prop up certain EFL club budgets, until we get fairness in regard to payments to develop these players and we need to revisit the three up, three down scenario into the EFL.
We should through lobbying, a series of meetings and through social media, articulate our arguments and hold EFL clubs who rip off National League clubs to account. Even in a pandemic and even while furloughing, we can try to create a fairer footballing structure and improve things across the board for all Non-League clubs.
I will always support our Board and whatever they finally decide, more than one club is going to lose, but for now I have to somehow ensure that my staff and players do not get complacent or unnecessarily exposed to this terrible unseen virus, which is still unfolding before our eyes.
I must somehow, before people return to our facility, try to ensure as stable a Club as possible but I cannot contemplate any resumption of the National League in 2020, or perhaps any time after until a vaccine is found.
So for the sake of Boreham Wood FC and for the sake of our small Town, who still hold big dreams, I must now follow my instinct, stop listening to any National League rumour and opinions, because nothing off the field health wise, is remotely going to change in the next six months, other than this pandemic having the world firmly in its grip, as winter comes, then flu adds itself to the mix.
On a much more positive note, I know if I’m realistic, I know if I accept a situation where football is most definitely secondary to people losing their lives, and if we can all stay strong as a community, then together we can ride this out, but for now the sporting horizon doesn’t have a new beginning for a contact sport at our level.
However, let me finish this club statement on a more positive note by saying, and this will sound sentimental, but I’ve never cared more about my staff, our players, our supporters, my Town or Community. I remember setting out with many of you, 21 years ago as a young Chairman, to see how far we could take our Club up the Non-League pyramid and for one brief moment during an away day fixture at Tranmere Rovers, we led 2-0, sat top of the table and we topped the lot.
So, I know when we all meet again, that we would have survived as a Club and we’ll be ready to somehow challenge for a place in the English Football League. I know today’s update does not make great reading for any of you in regard to 2020, however with realism there can be hope, as it means our club will still be here, and means when the government and the medical evidence says so, we will open our doors with confidence and be ready to thank God for our blessings and take strength once again in each other.
Until then take care, stay safe.
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