I write this update in the most unusual of circumstances.
None of us could have foreseen the football season being interrupted by a global pandemic like that which we are enduring at this present time. As has been widely reported, the impact on football will be profound and there will be many challenges ahead. Stenhousemuir FC will be affected, including financially. However, at the moment, there is no point in trying to speculate or second guess what may happen. Instead, we will plan strategically and base our financial modelling on a series of evidence based possible outcomes.
At present, the Scottish FA has postponed all football under its banner until further notice. The SPFL postponed last weekend’s fixtures and any matches midweek. I have asked for clarification for this coming weekend and the few weeks beyond but none has been given. I have publicly said that I think this position is untenable. Trying to limp from week to week is the worst scenario possible. We need surety for a longer period so we can cancel arrangements accordingly. The English Premier League and the English Football League have done this, they postponed until the weekend of 3rd/4th April. I have asked that the SPFL does likewise so we can stand down catering arrangements, let visiting supporters from afar cancel travel and accommodation, and at least try to keep supporters, staff and our players informed.
The Scottish FA has also suspended grassroots football under their banner. This is perplexing. A team is not able to train as a group of 16, but they are able to attend school where they mix with hundreds. Again, this decision needs to be looked at and I have taken this up with the Scottish FA.
Of course, health and wellbeing should be the top priority, but we should be guided by the advice from scientific and medical experts. At the moment, the Scottish FA and SPFL have diverged from that advice. We should empower parents to make the decision on whether or not they want their child to train.
We are in a very dynamic and changing situation. I expect this to continue for the foreseeable future. As a Board, we will do everything we can to protect and maintain our Club. I imagine there will be tough decisions ahead but we will need to face these head on. The greatest challenge will be financial. We expect to see a reduction in income in the tens of thousands over the next few months. We will need to adapt accordingly and the long term future of the Club will be the priority.
We understand that there is a meeting called by UEFA on Tuesday 17th March. We hope that our leaders, both within UEFA and in our domestic authorities, will step up and deliver clear leadership and decide what the immediate future of football will look like.
In the meantime, we need to consider the wider implications of the Coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 is a particularly infectious disease that will be prevalent in our local communities. We must look beyond our own problems in the football club and consider the effect of the pandemic as it spreads. To this end, you may have seen our recently launched Community Help Initiative. This is where we believe we can best serve the needs of our community. We are offering to coordinate and run a community help scheme where we can help the most vulnerable. This could be through collecting prescriptions, doing some shopping, or walking the dog for people concerned about leaving the house.
We launched this idea on Saturday afternoon, and I’m delighted to say that we already have over 30 volunteers, many with no connection to the football club, signed up and actively helping. Thus far we are working on spreading awareness, and the next phase will be connecting with those who need help and then delivering it. David Reid, the Vice-Chairman of the Club is coordinating efforts, and I thank him greatly for being the one to spearhead this on the Club’s behalf. I’d also like to thank our staff and community coaches who are all working on this project. And finally, I’d like to make special mention to the army of volunteers who have made contact and are out there helping. From the darkness of these worrying times, there is always good, and the way that members of the community are rallying round is inspiring.
I will do all I can to update supporters on all matters at the club as events unfold. In the meantime, do consider helping with our Community Help Initiative if you can, but more importantly, stay safe and healthy.
Chairman – Stenhousemuir FC