First and foremost, I hope all of you, your families, friends and loved ones are keeping safe and well at this difficult time. Covid19 is affecting every part of society in all corners of the world and what matters most is that we all do what we can to look after ourselves and look after each other.
I thought it helpful to say a little bit about my current personal situation and how it affects Cambridge United. As many of you will know I am in the travel business and it is one of the industries that has been hardest hit by this global pandemic and one that will take time to recover in what is a very uncertain future for everyone. Of course that means a significant financial hit for my business - but I am obviously not alone in that. However, I do want to assure everyone that I remain completely committed to Cambridge United. I love the Club. I am proud to be the owner - the Club’s custodian if you like on behalf of you the fans. And I will continue to invest and help financially during the coming months although clearly I will not have the income I was expecting at the start of this year.
Football - particularly at the lower levels - is arguably facing its biggest challenge for many decades. At Cambridge United we have weathered our own financial storms over the last 20 years. What we are facing now is a very different situation and it is one shared by each and every club across the lower leagues. Fixed costs with vastly reduced income and no certainty whatsoever on the future. I have no special insight into how things will move forward over the rest of this year, as science and the virus will dictate that, but would just want to make four points
First I am confident that, whatever the future holds, we have the unity, culture and leadership across the Club - from the Board right the way through to our brilliant fans - that give us the best chance possible of getting through this and coming out the other side in the best shape we can. There are clubs with deeper pockets than ours. Equally there are others in a more precarious financial position. The Board are meeting weekly and, along with Ian Mather, working flat out to navigate the best way through - and thank you to everyone who felt able to buy a season ticket as we all appreciate that times are tough. The EFL will no doubt have to make some difficult decisions over the coming weeks and we all have to hope for the good of the game that we do not lose clubs to this crisis but that risk has to be flashing red.
Second it is clear that when football does return it will be behind closed doors in the first instance as we adjust to the ‘new normal’ whatever that looks like. No one will prioritise playing in front of crowds if it means jeopardising public health. The EFL will always have our full support in putting the safety of players, staff and fans first even though we all obviously want to be playing again as quickly as possible
Third one of the heartening things about this crisis is the degree of dialogue and conversation between clubs. We have always talked to each other but this crisis has brought a genuine sense of partnership as we are genuinely all in it together. I have been communicating with other owners and Ian is in constant touch with his counterparts across League 2. Clearly it is hard to get complete unanimity of view on the best way forward in the short term as everything is so uncertain. That said I genuinely think there is a shared sense that, when we come through this, there needs to be fundamental reform in the lower leagues to ensure that clubs are more financially sustainable - with more of a level playing field when it comes to playing budgets in particular. All of the focus is rightly on the here and now but we shouldn’t pass up the opportunity in the medium term to get lower league football on a sounder financial footing.
Finally, I would want to add my voice to those praising the Club and the Trust for the brilliant work they have been doing in the community through the ‘Here for U’s ‘initiative over recent weeks. We have always been more than just a football club with our roots deep in the community and it is fantastic to see the practical ways that we are helping the people who need help the most at the current time. We are genuinely United for Cambridge and as the owner I could not be more proud of the work that is being done.
Like all of you I am looking forward to the moment when I can cheer and moan again like any football fan. Football at Cambridge United has been one of the soundtracks to my life for almost the last fifty years and I am sure like so many of you it is leaving a big hole. It will be back though - of that I am sure. But in times like this you do also get perspective and see what really matters. It will be a real honour for the Club to host a game for the NHS staff and care workers next season to whom we all owe so much.
Take care stay safe and look after each other