Fans Forum, Monday 20th April 2020, 12:30.
By Zoom call
Present: Mark Maguire, Ian Scobbie, Neil Appleyard, Kevin Mcelhone, John Pearson, Richard Ward, Ron Harnish, Stu Miller.
The club is facing both short- and long-term challenges due to the Coronavirus outbreak which is affecting both HUFC and the Chairman’s core businesses and as such there have been difficult decisions made. MM acknowledged that good people had lost their jobs and throughout the process have deliberately avoided comment on social media and website updates out of respect of those affected. The reality is Mr Singh has invested significantly more than he ever expected and now is the time to bring the cost base down to a level at which he is comfortable moving forward. Even with a reduced staff level, losses in the National League are still likely to be significant per season if the club wishes to remain competitive on the pitch. League funding is just £82,000 and of this £58,000 is solidarity payment from the Premier League and so a club’s own income is critical.
Despite relegation the club has maintained a business structure more common in the EFL and on the basis of remaining in the National League next season unpopular but necessary decisions were made which will allow navigation through the short term while retaining the longer term position of the club.
Following a wage deferral last month, the club will make use of the Government’s furlough scheme for players and staff while there is no football taking place. Through a combination of local grants, we still have the option to draw down of next season’s League money (note this is not additional money), the furlough scheme and other matters the club are looking into we are confident of navigating the short term. The longer-term challenge is the main priority, and preparation of budgets for this is in progress.
The National League are still to decide the way to end the current season and while they had looked to follow the EFL, the reality of contracts in non-league (particularly for those players on 44 week contracts) and the reduced league funding means this is unlikely. It is also unlikely that football will resume in the next 2-3 months and the priority for the NL management is to protect the overall league as a competition.
If the season were to end early, then there is a potential risk to the club in terms of sponsorship and ticket income and the club are planning for every eventuality in this regard.
There are eight players under contract for next season and Dave Challinor retains full decision over the playing squad – subject to the budget available – for next season. The club has some players out of contract on 2nd of May and others at the end of June, however, it will be DC’s choice as to which players are offered new deals.
There are no plans to move HUFC towards a part time model or dramatically slashing the budget for the playing squad. A key interest of Mr Singh is that we remain competitive on the pitch, however, there is an acknowledgment that under a new structure there will be a significant need for volunteers to supplement the club employees in both the day to day running of the club and on match days. Where possible the retained staff will take on broader duties and coordinate the role of the volunteers. A recruitment drive will take place for fans interested in supporting the club with time and skills and MM is working to announce something in this regard. More detailed information will be made available in due course.
MM has received offers of fundraising from fans, particularly supporting the youth set up and more work will be done on various initiatives. What is most important for the club is to increase its total income from ticket sales, merchandise, through the bars and in the ground on match days and all fans are encouraged to support the club directly where possible. Due to the high number of Pools fans each one can play a role in the future of the club by increasing their match day and club spend by even a small amount.
While there has been some talk about bringing the National League into the EFL structure it is unlikely to happen soon. There priority for the national league is simply the need for the league and clubs within the league to survive.
MM/IS have submitted a strong rebuttal to the FA regarding the alleged racist and xenophobic incidents during the home match vs. Ebbsfleet and are yet to receive any response. MM thanked the many fans who submitted information in response to the call for evidence which did not provide any evidence that either incident had occurred.
Another ‘match day lottery’ will be held and information will be published soon.
The Fans Forum will meet again within the next month to discuss options on how fans can support the club on a volunteer basis.