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Statement from the Chairman

7th August 2020

Statement from the Chairman The below statement featured in Dowse's Friday Catch-Up.

Today is about us updating on all that has been done and setting out the challenges we will face. Next Wednesday we will be communicating our strategy for the club being both sustainable off, and more competitive on, the pitch during this coming season which will be unlike anything we have ever experienced before.

I don’t want to swamp everyone with too much detail but if any fan or sponsor wants more detail it is there - please in the first instance, contact admin@wokingfc.co.uk; we will be as open, clear and transparent as we can. In particular, we would love to meet with current or prospective sponsors to go through things more closely.

This is a challenge but also an opportunity to demonstrate to the world of football what a groundswell of local fans in a supportive community can accomplish. We have already seen a glimpse of that with the great success of Get Behind The Shirt and as a football club our ability to pull together is second to none.

Of course, the primary challenge this season will be due to Covid 19. Clubs are waking up to the implications of what may come. Yesterday, sadly, former Conference Club Droylsden, who were formed in 1892 resigned from the Northern Premier League and cups and went into hibernation for a year. In recent weeks we have seen Kings Lynn set their season ticket price at £569; Dover have raised their prices to higher levels, gone part time, made their early games adult price only and put all their players on the transfer list as they wouldn’t take a pay cut! Both these clubs have benefactor income – which we don’t have.

As of this week only 9 of the 24 National League clubs have released season ticket sand admission details. The reason for this is obvious; until we know whether we are allowed 500 or 2500 fans we cannot set admission prices for the club to operate. In fact, at a National League meeting yesterday all clubs were strongly advised NOT to release season tickets as things were so uncertain and subject to change.

The plan at the moment is that the season will start on October 3rd and we are pushing forward positively on that basis. Re capacity our best guess (and it is a guess) at the moment is about 1100 which is half our usual attendance and considerably less than our total of season ticket holders’ tickets. We are pleased to have appointed Nick Davidson as our Covid 19 officer and many of you will have read his post on the site – the regulations currently run to over 80 pages; we are very grateful to Nick.

Alongside Covid 19 it is well known that Woking has an annual budget deficit in normal times of several hundred thousand pounds. We occasionally get windfalls like groundsharing, a cup game or a player sale like Joe Ward a few years ago but those are never guaranteed and therefore not budgeted.

During the development process we received additional funding. If the plan had been successful further financial support was written into the agreements. There were also contingency plans in place if we failed to advance the stadium development but with Covid 19 those plans became largely impossible to progress.

We have to be clear that Covid 19 is the biggest economic challenge the country has faced since World War 2. There is now talk of a second spike much greater than the first coming in a few months. At our level, match days are the vast bulk of our income but by season launch we will have had no football related income whatsoever for over 6 months - no programmes, bar, food, hospitality or gate income whatsoever and also negligible hall-hire on non-matchday. The coming season looks like smaller crowds and bar and hospitality income slashed; one National league club we spoke to will not be able to open their bar at all as that will be used for away changing.

In addition, the FA is in financial crisis and making redundancies and our money from the Premier League has been cut by £40,000. I don’t weep for them, but Arsenal are making a lot of redundancies. There is therefore no additional help expected from higher up the football pyramid – perhaps we will be surprised!

The good news (and there is good news!!) is that Woking has managed funds very well in recent years; probably in more detail than ever before. 2 years ago, we made a profit for the first time in 23 years (largely helped by the Watford match) and last year we made a negligible loss (partly helped by careful management through furlough and other grants).

We are an exception in being effectively debt free and have never failed to pay staff and players on time – despite now having no outside help or benefactor. This careful management is the reason we have not needed to panic sell season tickets as we have managed the immediate cash flow very carefully. We also have a loyal core of excellent sponsors who are friends and fans of the club.

However, the structural deficit of several hundred thousand remains and Covid has added a once in a lifetime challenge - but be assured that your money (and the bulk is from fans) is being treated with absolute care.

What we do have is a fantastic and committed fan base and great reputation in the community. Boost the Budget over nearly 9 years has been the best example we know of a consistent fan led fundraising scheme – now well over £200,000. Get Behind the Shirt raised £70,000 in a matter of weeks.

We have a fantastic manager who works 24-7 for the club and community and alongside him a great management team and set of players. We are grateful for their patience and hopefully they can understand, to some extent at least, the specific circumstances we are facing.

We have done a huge amount of work to get plans together that will set us up for the season and, as we pull together and respond as we hope, we are confident of matching Dowse’s weekly budget from last year and hopefully increasing it. Next Wednesday we will outline our plans to address the challenges and give details of how we can all play our part.
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