Our thoughts as always are with those impacted by COVID-19.
We wanted to update you all on steps we have taken over the last month to attempt to mitigate the sizeable effects of this pandemic on our business.
Over the last month, Worcestershire County Cricket Club (“WCCC”) like many other businesses and sports clubs has dealt with multiple issues. Despite the substantial challenges we face, we are confident we have a plan to see ourselves through. We have implemented club wide policies, uniformly accepted, impacting all staff (including players) equally, a powerful collective message in our view.
On Tuesday 10th March 2020 having concluded a detailed risk assessment it was determined that the pre-season tour to Abu Dhabi would be cancelled. The tour was expected to depart on 18th March returning 29th March where WCCC was scheduled to play against Essex CCC and Somerset CCC.
On Monday 16th March 2020, WCCC Board looked at five potential scenarios for the coming season. This included the season starting on time, a delay to mid-July, a delay to mid-July played behind closed doors, all season play behind closed doors and the season being abandoned in its entirety. WCCC is an Industrial and Provident Society owned by its members.
Our provisional work indicated a potential negative impact to profitability of in excess of £1.1 million, which for a club that in 2019 made a statutory loss of £89.3k and has £4.3 million of debt is substantial. WCCC took immediate pre-emptive action, spoke to lenders, deferred capital payments, and raised overdraft facilities.
On Tuesday 17th March 2020 a few players experienced mid flu-like symptoms and as a precaution self-isolated. WCCC took precautionary measures for all players, working alongside our own medical teams and ECB experts.
On Wednesday 18th March 2020 – with functions postponed, the threat of cricket being delayed and widening national concerns about the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, WCCC reassured all staff that it did not intend to enforce any unpaid temporary layoffs, nor make anyone redundant near term due to COVID-19 pressures.
On Friday 20th March 2020 the ECB announced that the season will be delayed until 28th May 2020 – and was running a range of scenarios with the season commencing in June, July and August. It remains unclear not just when the season will commence, but also what formats will be played (white ball, red ball and international). Our discussions with the ECB indicate that no firm decisions have been made on any format of the game. Later in the evening, the Government announced a set of measures which included the furloughing of staff to assist business impacted by COVID-19. The Government scheme guarantees 80% of pay up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
On Monday 23rd March 2020 WCCC furloughed 21 staff from Stadium, Catering and Commercial. WCCC, to mitigate any financial hardship, topped this up to ensure that each staff member furloughed would receive 90% of their pay.
On Friday 27th March 2020 we furloughed an additional nine coaches within Cricket Administration. The only cricket staff that remained were Head Coach, and Head of Science and Medical. The physical and mental wellbeing of our staff is paramount, with Camilla Henderson continuing to provide full psychological support and Dr Rob Young full support for our club.
Therefore, within a week of the government scheme being announced we had furloughed 30 of our 45 staff, excluding players which was being handled centrally by the ECB working alongside the PCA.
WCCC is now operating with a skeleton staff working from home wherever possible. Ground staff, while adhering to government policy – continue with their work to ensure that whenever the decision is made to play, WCCC will be ready. In the last week, as evident from the webcam accessible on WCCC’s website, after scarifying, the square has been reseeded, covered and is being regularly watered.
On Wednesday 1st April 2020 – the ECB announced a £61million interim package to help cricket withstand the financial impact of COVID-19 crisis. From a WCCC perspective, this reflected funds that were principally already committed to us to July 2020, rather than necessarily new additional funding. The only difference, at this stage, relates to the unfettered nature of maintenance payments which was a welcome assistance. The period and payments beyond July, with the playing schedule unknown, remains understandably uncertain.
On Friday 3rd April 2020, following ongoing deliberations with the ECB working with the PCA, WCCC held a series of conference calls with all players. On those calls, WCCC made clear our intention was to furlough all players on the same basis as all other staff. It was important to the club that all share the impact on a consistent basis. County cricketers are modestly paid relative to other professional sports. This policy appears to be supported by the PCA. WCCC intends to furlough 22 players for April and that period will be extended if required. WCCC will allow one month before the season starts for the players to return, where permitted, to ensure they are ready and prepared for whatever formats are played.
We do not know in what shape cricket will return this year, but we are confident that when it does, we will be ready. We are also confident we will survive this period of substantial challenge.
We will update you further as things hopefully become clearer in the coming months. In the meantime, thank you for your continued support, please stay safe and healthy.
With best wishes
Fanos Hira FCA
WCCC Vice Chairman