I wanted to provide another update for supporters on what has been happening over the past few weeks.
Even although the nation remains in lockdown, and there hasn’t been any football played in Scotland since March, the game has continued to find ways of making headlines.
Reconstruction has been on and off the table more than once over the past few weeks. As a club, we fully engaged in the process through the original reconstruction task force and maintained a consistent position throughout. At each stage we provided feedback to make it clear that we would be willing to consider and support reconstruction on either a temporary or permanent basis. It’s disappointing that a consensus could not be reached and the league will now face legal challenges. For now, it looks like it will be a return to the 12, 10, 10, 10 league model next season.
On a more positive note, the club continues to plan for next season. We have been working hard over the past few weeks to get the club into a position where we could start contract discussions with existing squad members. Inevitably, this process also involves players being released or leaving for new opportunities. I’d like to thank those leaving for their contribution to the club and wish them all the best for the future.
As it stands, we have 10 players signed on for next season. Due to the uncertainty of when the campaign might start, the discussions with the players has been more complex this season. However, the guys that have all signed on again were all willing to work with us and commit to the club despite the challenges and uncertainty that lies ahead. I’d like to thank them all for their support. Our goal was to build a strong foundation to the squad whilst we continue to work towards getting the league up and running, whenever that may be.
On that subject, all clubs in Leagues 1 and 2 are in discussion with the SPFL and Scottish FA on when we can commence next season. It is highly doubtful that we will be starting in early August alongside the Premiership. The earliest start date is most likely in October. We face some difficult obstacles to overcome, the most expensive of which is the testing of players. Playing behind closed doors would also present financial challenges. However, these are just some of the issues that we are working on and we fully intend to find solutions. If games are to be played behind closed doors, then we will try to provide a streaming service so that supporters continue to be part of the action.
In other areas, the Community Help Initiative continues to provide a much needed and valued service to the community. As we have started to enter the transition out of lockdown, there will continue to be a need for the help we are providing. The initiative has started to transform accordingly and we will aim to transition the CHI to meet changing demands. For the last couple of years we have been exploring the establishment of a full charity attached to the club and we are now looking into the viability of getting this up and running so that the work we have been doing during the pandemic could transition into the new charity. This would be an exciting new step for the club to take and provide a strong base to continue our work in the local community.
The volunteers have clocked up over 15,000 volunteer hours, delivered just under 10,000 school lunches, 2,000 hot meals, over 1,000 food bank parcels, and carried out 900 shopping trips. A magnificent effort all round and I’d like to express our thanks to everyone who has helped.
On the community football part of the club, a significant number of community members have continued to pay their monthly standing orders during the shutdown. We understand the financial pressures that people may be under therefore this continued commitment is very much appreciated. Our community coaches continue to run some online activities and challenges and we are delighted to see that many young people are taking part. We are getting ever nearer to the phase of exiting lockdown where football training can resume at Ochilview. We will be ready to welcome our young people back in a safe way when we are given permission from the authorities to do so.
Finally, I’d like to thank all the club’s supporters for sticking by us. We have welcomed many new shareholders on board, our Goldline Community Sports Lottery has gained a number of new supporters, and many others have donated and supported our initiatives. We recently wrote to all season ticket holders offering a refund for the last few games that were unable to be played last season. Not one season ticket holder requested a refund. This demonstrates the willingness of supporters to stand by the club. Thank you!
I’m hopeful that my next update will have further news about restarting football back at Ochilview. That is the objective we are all working towards.
Chairman – Stenhousemuir FC