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In excess of £200k: The cost to Cambridge United to conclude Sky Bet League Two season

Cambridge United chief executive Ian Mather
Cambridge United chief executive Ian Mather

Ian Mather has outlined the full financial impact to Cambridge United if the Sky Bet League Two 2019/20 season was played to a finish.

Chief executive Mather has revealed that the cost of the U’s playing their remaining nine games would have been significantly more than £200,000.

The figure would have involved the full cost of Covid-19 testing, travel expenses and taking the players and members of staff off furlough, with no income as matches would be played behind closed doors.

The division’s clubs provided a unanimous indicative vote to end the campaign at a meeting on Friday, May 14.

“It was a long call going on for two hours, and there was a lot of discussion about what would be the right thing to do,” said Mather.

“It was concluded that it would be helpful to the EFL, to Rick Parry who was in the meeting, for the clubs to indicate what they thought was the right solution to it.

“I think we were helped by the fact of the way the league positions are that the three teams at the top are pretty self-selecting, then you’ve got four in play-off places – unlike in League One where there are more teams competing for the possibility of promotion.

“We went through club by club indicating our preference. The thing we were indicating was what was concluded – the top three would be promoted, we would have play-offs and there was a discussion around Stevenage.”

The outcome means that the top three clubs – Swindon, Crewe and Plymouth – would be promoted, the play-offs will take place involving the teams occupying the spots

In the vote, it was also indicated by the clubs not to have relegation, with one to go down this season and Stevenage in last spot, three points adrift of Macclesfield with a game in hand.

The indicative vote will go before the board of the EFL to take on a formal ratification process, with many things still up in the air such as relegation from League One.

The decision to end the season now was the view taken by the U’s for some weeks, and they had made it known to other clubs.

“Our view was that it was largely down to the finances of it,” said Mather. “To carry on playing, for five games at home and four away, we would have had to have taken all our players off furlough.

“Furlough is the only new money that we have coming into the club. We would have lost the furlough money, we would also have had to take staff off furlough.

“We would have to have incurred costs for both home and away games, away including travel and hotel costs. We were looking at significant costs, and then you add in the cost of testing.

“For us, that could have been in the region of £140,000 just to finish those five homes games, so you were looking at a sum of well in excess of £200,000 to finish a season in a way that would not have any direct effect on Cambridge United because of our league position – we were not going to go up or down.”

With no income, it would have also been too much to bear in League Two. But with clubs giving way to reach a consensus, it has allowed a route to conclude the season.

Although it still needs to be ratified, giving the unanimity of the indicative vote, it seems unlikely that there will be any more football for the U’s this season.

It means that full focus will be placed on planning for the future.

“We can look ahead,” said Mather. “We’ve got all sorts of scenarios and financial models – when do we start, when do we start with a crowd, what do we do if we have to play behind closed doors.

“We’ve been modelling all of those numbers and looking at the cashflow needed for each of those.

“We’ve been down all sorts of routes and nothing, I think, will surprise us because we’ve been planning for it.

“We’ve also been talking to Paul Barry. We’ve had several conversations.

“He was on a call on Sunday with the board, and he remains absolutely 100 per cent behind the club and we’re working with him to see our way through this.”

Mather will be meeting with Cambridge United Supporters’ Panel and Cambridge Fans United to discuss with them the options.

“I think it’s quite helpful that we’ve got fans’ groups who are actively engaged and we can talk through the problems with them,” he said.

“We will come up with a solution which hopefully all fans will find fair.”

He added: “One of the good things that has come out of it all is the response from our fans – we’re blessed we have such a great fanbase.”

The U’s last match was on March 7, a 2-1 defeat away at Leyton Orient.

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