You will doubtless have read all about the recent discussions that have taken place between the National League, the DCMS and Sport England regarding how the rest of this season will play out and the associated financial implications. Government confirmed that it had never indicated that financial support post-Christmas would be in the form of grants, but that loans would be available to ensure clubs could carry on and avoid the worst of the financial implications.
A sub-committee of directors put a lot of work into compiling our application to Sport England and we are pleased to say that we were approved in principle. However the Ts & Cs that accompany the offer are, by necessity, quite complicated and there is still some work to be done to assess the implications of any loan in relation to normal club operations, our broader community programmes and the club's long term business plan.
No such complications have affected Matt and Jason and the players recently though, with a tremendous run of form taking us to the top of the National League table. This, of course, also carries a number of implications surrounding the possibility of promotion to the Football League and we are also working hard off the field to address these, many of which we have previously experienced following a strong season in 2017/18.
We are pleased to confirm that our application to EFL has been accepted. Should we be fortunate enough to still be challenging for promotion as the season progresses, we have a schedule of works to undertake, tasks which we are addressing right now with several projects already fully planned out, ready to be implemented if our current on-field performance continues to the season's end.
We all know that the EFL does not permit 3G surfaces, so we have been getting plans and quotes for a return to grass should it be necessary. Even modern hybrid grass surfaces cannot take the hours of usage that a 3G will sustain, so an important question for us to solve is where our many community teams would be able to play and train. We are exploring a number of options, including trying to identify alternative sites for a new 3G facility.
The ideal location would obviously be Collingwood Recreation Ground but the issues are sufficiently complex that we need to explore other options also. With this season ending later than normal there is unlikely to be enough time to lay and bed in a new grass surface before the start of the 2021/22 season so, if we do win promotion, we might need to consider a ground-share arrangement for the first few home games, a contingency for which we are already making provisional plans.
We have appointed a planning consultant to look at a number of matters including additional seating, upgraded turnstiles, improved floodlighting and the return to grass. Even these headline items bring a number of further implications that have to be addressed. Everybody is working hard to ensure that we have all eventualities covered no matter how the next few months turn out. Rest assured, whatever the outcome, we will be ready!
The gradual lifting of the covid restrictions means that we hope to begin a phased re-opening of our facilities over the next few months, perhaps with the return of the famed bottle-bar on Friday evenings. Even this will require a lot of “unseen” work, with various health and safety inspections and checks to be completed.
Finally, the FA Youth Cup has recommenced and our lads face an exciting, if slightly daunting, trip to Liverpool on Tuesday. We all wish Marvin and the boys the very best of luck and hope they have an unforgettable experience.
We cannot wait for the day we can all be back together in the stadium watching our wonderful team - in the meantime please continue your fabulous support which is so appreciated by all the players and management team.
Stay Safe and please follow the Government's rules and guidelines on social distancing.