Being the last week of our pre-season preparations we have plenty to update you on.
Firstly, the continual support and interest being shown in the club, players and staff throughout this very difficult and disjointed summer and pre-season by you all, the backbone of the Fleet, has been extremely humbling for everyone involved with the club. More so, the support has provided the basis of a very positive and strong focus among everyone at the club day to day to deliver strong pre-season preparations and to perform for all supporters in a manner you can be proud of throughout the season.
We plan and prepare to win every match we play for you, and whilst not every game can be a victory, Dennis Kutrieb and the squad are adamant that a lack of preparation and work will never be able to be offered as an excuse or reason.
The season start
Our first competitive match of season 2020/2021 is scheduled for this Saturday, October 3rd, against Hastings United with a 3.00pm kick-off in the Emirates FA Cup, with our league opener following on Tuesday 6th. This season start date has been scheduled by the league for some time now, as has the FA Cup date, and we have planned and expected to begin this Saturday for many weeks.
League rules stipulate that all clubs must have a minimum number of players registered by a firm deadline, which has now passed, and so we – like all clubs – have commitments to our playing group, and also staff, who all rely on the club and football for their livelihoods.
The latest recent tightening of government policy around the Covid-19 pandemic obviously caused a major setback for all clubs in the league with the plans to allow supporters back into matches from this weekend put on hold for what has been forecast to be at least six months by the Prime Minister.
We obviously understand your frustration as supporters and the irony that the “Elite Status” our leagues fought so hard to obtain only months ago in order to participate in a behind-closed-doors play-off series, is now mandating our matches must be played behind closed doors.
National League status
Coupled with the uncertainty around the return of crowds or otherwise, was the sad news about Macclesfield Town’s demise last week. As we did during the summer, the club made our position known to the league directly and clearly about this and advised that should a replacement be needed to make up the mandated 24 clubs in the National League, that we, as the highest placed relegated club last season, would be in a position to take that position even at the short notice required.
At time of writing we have yet to have any guidance or notice from the league on the matter. However, we are also conscious of the very demanding circumstances currently being faced by everyone at League HQ. It would appear that the timing of the court process Macclesfield were subject to and the formation of the leagues last month, means it is too late to rectify things and ensure a 24-club National League and a 20-club National League South, therefore avoiding ‘BYE’ rounds/blank weeks. We certainly see the merit in rebalancing the leagues accordingly and represented those views to the leagues. However, we equally understand that the pressures and issues facing the league and sport generally at our level are large and that resources and priorities are focused on ensuring a viable financial platform and returning to playing the league so as to ensure players and staff have livelihoods .
We made the decision during the summer, and have maintained it, that we must focus on what we do have within our control. Our standards, preparation and work ethic is all something we can affect daily, and so we have planned and worked to being the best we possibly can be regardless of the league we are in or the outside influences and uncertainty that the entire industry faces currently. We will continue with that ethos and hope our supporters agree that our best use of resources and energy is doing just that. In tandem with this approach we have strongly represented our position and views at all times through the correct channels.
Matches, live-streaming and supporter attendance
This brings us to our first match this weekend and the plans in place.
Sadly supporters will not be allowed into the stadium and we do ask you not to attend the precinct around the stadium on Saturday either. Covid protocols are strict and necessary to ensure everyone’s safety and close adherence to them will be our sport’s best chance to welcome supporters back as soon as possible. It has been confirmed that even had we drawn an away tie this weekend, our own supporters as an “Elite Club” would not be allowed in.
We have entered into a streaming broadcast arrangement with Sportradar for all matches that are played behind closed doors this season. This service will be launched on our first home league match on October 10th.
In the meantime, we have arranged a one-off solution for this weekend’s Emirates FA Cup match which will be streamed live at a price of £7.99. More details about how and where to book your PPV ticket for this match will follow tomorrow (Wednesday).
The FA Cup matches will be a pay per view service for all; league matches, however, will cost £9.99 for non-season ticket holders, while all season-ticket holders will be provided access for no charge as per our terms and conditions of purchase. Season-ticket holders will also be given priority should supporters again be allowed into matches later in the season.
We are working very hard to deliver a quality viewing package along with match commentary.
We understand that the average cost per game of an adult season ticket is £2.76 more than the £9.99 that others can now pay to access the same stream to behind-closed-doors matches. Whilst there is a value to holding a season ticket by being assured priority access to matches before others once supporters are allowed back in, should any season-ticket holder feel strongly about the difference, please email the club on email@example.com. Once supporters are allowed back into matches we are happy to retrospectively consider how many matches were affected and provide a solution for you.
Covid protocols in place at the Kuflink Stadium
The Covid protocols are very strict in regards to the way grounds are segregated into Red, Amber and Green Zones for access and compliance. We have looked at the ability to open our social club or Main Stand bar for matches so that the game may be streamed live. However, as both bars are within our ground itself, coupled with the limited capacity required to adhere to licensed premises’ social distancing and health and safety rules, unfortunately this option isn’t available at this time.
We have taken the decision to not produce a printed hard copy matchday programme for the FA Cup match or League matches whilst supporters are not able to attend. We have considered a subscription service for a printed programme – however, the demand is minimal and the costs for small numbers prohibitive.
We have instead decided to include a match-specific extended squad sheet- style digital programme for all home matches that will be included free for all streaming packages for those matches (including season ticket holders of course). The programme will be up to date and contain relevant information for the match along with match reports, player and staff interviews and information, and information on the visiting team. This service will be in place from our first home league match of the season.
Volunteers and matchday numbers
The club has benefited during this period of low revenue by the support of a number of volunteers who have helped out with a number of matchday and non-matchday tasks. We advertised and encouraged people to sign up and help out during summer and a solid register of volunteers has been put together and has been helping out.
Even for behind closed doors matches there are a number of tasks that need doing, from pitch preparation and repairs, equipment setting up, car park management for players and visiting teams, Covid 19 protocol management, marshalling, etc. We have a strictly limited number of players, staff and matchday staff who are allowed on site for matches and those volunteers who are fulfilling roles are of course a part of that staff.
It is important that all supporters are aware that these volunteers have not just been placed into roles as latecomers now that behind closed doors matches are taking place – and all were volunteering and working many months before it was confirmed this was going to be the case. All are aware of the privileged position they are in in being able to see live football currently, as are all staff at the club, and everyone understands how difficult it is for supporters who are locked out in these difficult times.
Our new Kit and retail range has been launched and is available online and also in-store during the week. We are offering a name-and-number printing service together with full postal shopping service through our online shop, and have staff available to take enquiries via email or telephone at all times. With the club now bringing our retail back in-house, your support of this service is appreciated and ultimately assists the club financially during the current pandemic.
Dennis and the playing squad have certainly missed all of our supporters throughout pre-season and your absence in the stadium has been palpable. To try and alleviate this somewhat we launched our scheme this week to allow supporters who have a flag or banner to deliver it to the club so it can be displayed in the old stand during our upcoming behind closed doors matches. We have had submissions locally and from as far away as Italy so we hope to see plenty more of these from this Saturday.
Our players and staff are thinking of you all and are so appreciative for your continued support and for thinking of us as the season looms. We hope you enjoy the streaming service and look forward to the time when we can welcome you back in person to see the results of what has been a very promising pre-season to date.