Firstly, I hope you are all coping okay despite the terrible situation the world finds itself in.
I am sure none of us would have ever expected anything like this to happen. Every day brings more sad news, as the number of people dying after contracting COVID-19 increases. Key workers battle on heroically, doing everything they can to save lives as the rest of us can only watch events unfold, albeit with a deep sense of admiration and amazement at the bravery of these people.
I almost feel embarrassed to be talking about football with everything that is going on around us. However, we all know the power of the game and the effect it has. We need something now, more than ever, to look forward to and it is up to all of us connected to Bradford City to ensure our club survives.
Throughout the administration periods in 2002 and 2004, we all pulled together to keep the club alive. In the years which followed, I believe we achieved something that very few EFL clubs manage: self sustainability. Not only did we manage to be self sustaining, but we also achieved a little success as well. Incredible cup runs, Wembley appearances and promotion provided us all with memories which will last forever. This was a genuine, combined effort from everyone involved with Bradford City. It is my belief it was only possible because you, the supporters, bought in to what we were trying to achieve and turned out in huge numbers to support the club. Unlike most other clubs, we did not just rely on a wealthy owner to provide regular cash injections to pay the bills. The maximum possible budget was given to the manager out of the various income streams and everybody seemed to have a sense of pride in how things were going.
When I returned to the club in late 2018, I realised things were somewhat different to how the finances had been. The club was going to lose close to £2million in the 2018/19 season and Stefan was going to have to put a seven-figure sum of money in to keep us afloat. This he did. The plan was to get back to self sustainability as soon as possible, although it was not going to be easy with the contractual situation of a number of players and given the inevitable relegation to Sky Bet League Two.
Luckily, we had a great cash boost last summer when Oliver McBurnie was sold to Sheffield United from Swansea City and our sell-on clause kicked in. This gave us a fighting chance to achieve our goal. Unfortunately, since that time, the world has changed and football has ceased trading. The vast majority of clubs are in a fight for survival and we are no different. Stefan has said he will provide further cash, if needed, as he naturally does not want the club to fail. However, this cannot be an open-ended, blank cheque. Everyone has a part to play.
At the club, we have used the government’s Job Retention Scheme and furloughed the vast majority of employees. Those who have not been furloughed are working extremely hard to keep the club in business. We have agreed a deferral of PAYE payments to HMRC and tried to reduce outgoing payments as much as possible, while our income is as low as it currently is.
Last week’s decision to suspend season-ticket sales was one which had to be made, given the current circumstances. It has, however, naturally created an even bigger cashflow problem. Many supporters have subsequently made contact to say they would have bought a season ticket despite the current uncertainty, in an effort to help the club through this challenging period. Although this is no longer possible, we understand and appreciate the desire and willingness of supporters who want to contribute financially to help us through. We have never doubted our supporters’ loyalty and it was heartening to witness such a response to what was an extremely tough move to make. We are looking at ways in which you can show your support in the weeks and months ahead. It may be possible, for example, to sell 2020/21 iFollow season tickets if the EFL announce next season is going ahead, with the majority of it likely to be played behind closed doors.
While we all hope special moments may happen again in the future, I think we all know, in order for them to become a reality, we need to navigate our way through a very difficult short to medium term to keep the club in business. If and when we are in a position to put something on sale, please support any initiative, if possible, although I do understand that financially things are very difficult for many people at the moment.
If we all play our part then, hopefully, we can pull through. Who knows, maybe the next Stamford Bridge triumph can happen again soon.
In the meantime, please try and stay safe and let’s look forward to when we can all watch a game at the Utilita Energy Stadium again.