COVID-19 has physically taken the lives of many people and destroyed the mental health of countless others. To talk about football and its survival seems a little trite and selfish but the game, at the highest level, affects a great deal of people that no only play the game but watch it and live in the local communities and use their clubs as social hubs.
As the new season came closer, the 12 Cymru Premier League clubs were asked if they would start the season without spectators. We all declined and made our feelings felt. Despite this feeling of unrest, the FAW forced us into playing behind closed doors for “2 or 3 games” using the mantra that it would be a good sign to the Welsh Government that football could be trusted.
All 12 Cymru Premier League Chairman put their faith and trust in the FAW’s words and agreed, knowing that they were heading towards financial meltdown if spectators were still unable to watch the games. We were assured that it would only be a short space of time and the Welsh Assembly would allow Elite Sports to have spectators.
At a recent Chairman’s Meeting, it was indicated that there is no appetite to allow spectators back into grounds until March 2021 at the earliest, which means a whole season without spectators and income. So, we have been strong armed into playing games at considerable risk to the clubs and now, for the League to be able to draw substantial funding from UEFA, the League must get to Match Day 22. Failure and there’s no UEFA funding for the clubs, the academies and the grassroots game.
How do I look into the eyes of my loyal members of staff, coaches and players and say that we don’t have the money to pay them? With the festive period fast closing in, how do they celebrate the New Year knowing that they have no job to go to?
It was the FAW who were adamant that the season had to start without the prospect of supporters or the ability to attract significant commercial revenue either through our clubhouses or from third party sponsorship. The FAW has £8m in cash reserves, according to their last accounts, and yet they refuse to use it to help the very clubs that put them in power and give them a reason to go to work.
The FAW has suggested we borrow the money and secure it against the assets of the club. How can the club borrow against its assets when it doesn’t have an income to make the repayments? This insight to the business workings of the FAW left me absolutely stunned.
The only solution I can see is for each club Chairman to either financially invest in their clubs, raise finance through the boardroom or appeal to the fanbase for a fundraising effort. Any clubs that can’t do that faces a bleak future and the prospect of going out of business and out of the league.