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Coronavirus: Cambridge United faces ‘difficult’ decisions over staff and may put season tickets on sale early

Cambridge United may struggle to maintain current staff levels and are considering putting season tickets on sale early as they battle to get through the coronavirus crisis.

Chief executive Ian Mather warned the club would have to make “some extremely difficult decisions” about staff, with no gate receipts coming in or other commercial activities possible.

Ian Mather, CEO of Cambridge United
Ian Mather, CEO of Cambridge United

The English Football League, along with the Premier League, extended the official period when no matches will be played until April 30 today, but Mr Mather said it seemed likely that it would be summertime - or later - before players take to the pitch again.

With Euro 2020 delayed until next year, the 2019-20 season can be extended, although there is no decision at this stage over how it will be concluded.

Some commentators have suggested that matches could be played, at some point, behind closed doors.

The FA said it would “explore all options available to find ways of resuming the season when the conditions allow”.

As the Cambridge Independent reported, Cambridge United’s first team and coaching staff went in self-isolation after a first team player was exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

Mr Mather said: “These are unprecedented times for all of us in so many different ways. Events continue to move quickly and the picture is changing constantly.

“One of the most concerning features of this situation for everyone is that there is no clarity as to when it will end.

“We need to manage this on the basis that we have no football, or other commercial activity, until some point in the summer and quite possibly, sometime after that.

“In accordance with government advice this week, our stadium based staff have been working from home where possible, with the Abbey Stadium now effectively on lockdown, as the football club looks to ensure we do all we can to reduce the spread of the virus. Our first team players and staff remain in self-isolation, as was communicated earlier this week.

“Primarily, the health and safety of people is the most important thing at a time like this, and we encourage our supporters to follow government advice and avoid non-essential social contact.

Mark Bonner was recently made first-team coach. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mark Bonner was recently made first-team coach. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Last week the club stated that the current situation would lead to ‘significant financial implications’, and over the past days we have been able to calculate the effects the loss of revenue will have on our cash flow for the coming period. It is going to be extremely challenging to manage this but we believe we can do it.”

There was some help offered, however, from the English Football League.

“We are in regular contact with the EFL and Football League clubs, most of which face similar financial challenges. The EFL have listened to the clubs’ concerns and yesterday they announced there is to be a £50million relief fund,” said Mr Mather.

“This is welcome news but the amount we can access is relatively small and it is far from a complete answer to the financial problem we are facing.

“We are looking at ways of reducing our cost base and this will include making some extremely difficult decisions when it comes to our staff. We have had some really helpful offers of support, including a deferment of our rent for a period by our landlords, Grosvenor.

“Inevitably we will most certainly need the support of our fan base to help us financially. One option we are considering is putting season tickets for the 20/21 season on sale earlier than in previous years.

“In that scenario, we really would require your unwavering support where possible whilst understanding this is a challenging time for everyone.

“We have been working hard this week to look at how the club and trust can help the wider community and support those most in need over the coming weeks and months in different ways.

“A number of activities are now under way and you can follow this on social media – do share this with others so we can access as many people who we may be able to help as possible. We are and remain United for Cambridge.

“We will provide further updates as our plans progress.”

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