Published: 1st April 2020
First and foremost, to all Arabs and their families, before I give an update on where we are as a Club, everyone attached to Dundee United hopes you and your loved ones are staying safe and strong through this very worrying time for so many of us.
The month has certainly gone in a different direction to the way I envisaged it before the impact of the virus hit home: season tickets were about to be launched, we were entering contract stage for close-season work to be carried out on the playing surface and further works within the stadium, in addition to commencing the initial phase of developing Gussie Park into an Academy campus befitting the Elite status recently achieved. Some of these projects will naturally go ahead while others will potentially have to wait another season or two, given the uncertainty around the season end and start dates and the reallocation of resources.
Above all, United fans and staff were looking forward to concluding the successful season the First Team was enjoying on the park and anticipated promotion at some point.
No one is clear yet on what will happen with the rest of the season and how it will conclude but I can assure you all that promotion back to the Premiership was our aim at the start of it and that will not change, however it is achieved: there has been too much invested into this season by the Club and the fans to not see this ambition realised. It is a tough predicament that the SPFL and SFA Boards find themselves in at the moment, especially as there are no precedents to rely on. In my view, the direction coming from FIFA and UEFA will influence the majority of the leagues throughout Europe, including our own, as they try to re-arrange their footballing calendars and the participants for their next competitions.
As we all enter the second week of a very necessary national lockdown in the UK, the Club has continued working hard behind the scenes, having anticipated some of the events we are currently experiencing and reacting as positively to those that could not have been foreseen. A working group was assembled more than a month ago with the following three main objectives:
- to ensure continuity;
- to protect the future sustainability of the Club; and
- to ensure, as reasonably practicable, that employees across all departments, including players, are affected as little as possible.
To that end, we have identified and researched the various sources of assistance offered by the Government including funding, grants and other schemes aimed at delivering economic stimulus, we have reviewed the Club’s expense commitments without breaking any obligations with suppliers. We are looking at bringing forward new income initiatives ahead of plan, one of which the Club hopes to unveil in the coming days and weeks.
One of our recent actions was to temporarily close the doors to Tannadice at the beginning of last week, as we had already allowed and prepared the majority of our staff to work from home if work needed to be done. The subsequent downturn in business and the further introduction of Government measures have made us amend our plans again.
Therefore, the Club has decided to utilise the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (the “Scheme”) and place a large number of employees across all club departments on furlough leave. Dundee United, in some aspects, is not unlike any other business that is either utilising this Scheme currently or is in the throes of implementing it, especially as it protects the employee’s role at the Club during this period.
I believe that this is the best option for Dundee United and it would be remiss of me to not make effective use of it, given the importance of protecting the long-term sustainability of the Club. The Scheme is a huge source of business relief, essentially on our cash flow, given that wages and salaries are our largest monthly outlay and an invaluable short-term lifeline to the Club while we await the return of football and our usual match-day income streams. A skeleton staff remains at the Club so that we can react to changes at the right time and with the right decision.
On the income front, we had initially looked at holding back on making season tickets available for fans to purchase, essentially because of the question of when this season would end and the next one commence, but we also need to be prepared for when football does resume. In the coming weeks, we will make available for sale 2020/21 season tickets and, through pricing plans and other incentives to try to make them as attractive as possible, encourage all Arabs out there to support United with the purchase of a season ticket, with the offering that fits your budget best. The revenue generated will go to strengthen your Club’s financial position at this crucial and uncertain time.
We, United Together, have achieved so much during the last season and we have so much to look forward to once season 2020/21 starts and we want and need you all there.
I urge all Arabs, take heed of the Government warnings, protect your local communities and stay at home unless you are an essential worker. If we all follow the advice and work together, we will hopefully all return to some degree of normality in the near future.
On a final note, and until we see you all back at Tannadice cheering the players on:
Stay Home, Save Lives, Protect the NHS!