Firstly, and most importantly, I hope everyone reading is safe and well.
I’m sure by now many of you will have had a vaccine, or at least received contact regarding one, and it feels apt to be writing this on the day of the first step in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown with schools returning across the country. It’s of course a significant step forward and I’m sure will help to further optimism amongst all of us that the light at the end of the tunnel is closer than it has been for some time.
Hopefully as a nation we can guard against any complacency and continue to follow all the guidelines and regulations which apply to each of us in order to ensure that subsequent stages of the roadmap can be met. The prospect of a return to social and economic normality in the summer is certainly an exciting one and hopefully the successful vaccine rollout – allied with our own behaviours – is enough to guarantee that proves to be the case.
Since the Prime Minister revealed details of the government’s roadmap we have been able to really begin looking ahead to 2021/22 which we hope will start with full stadia. With this in mind we are finalising discussions around the club’s strategy for season tickets and memberships, and we anticipate going on sale with one if not both in just a few weeks’ time.
Your support for the club throughout this entire pandemic has been nothing short of outstanding and believe me when I say that the management, players and all other staff are every bit as excited about seeing the stands full once again as you all will be about your return to The Den.
Before then, though, there is the prospect of pilot events in football and we would again be delighted to host one or more if selected towards the end of this campaign. We’re not yet sure what format such pilots would take, or whether EFL fixtures would be in contention as part of the government’s plans, but we certainly hope so and will await further guidance from DCMS and other bodies.
On top of making football a far greater spectacle for all concerned again, the return of supporters will of course provide a tremendous financial boost to clubs after a year of immense struggle. It’s amazing that clubs, particularly those in the EFL, have been able to survive for so long without their primary revenue sources and it is to the credit of fans and owners up and down the country for providing the key financial support which has enabled the continuation of these community assets.
For us, revenue generated through iFollow subscriptions, match pass sales, the Lions Loyalty Club and other commercial initiatives has been incredibly important, and I thank everyone who has contributed to one or more of those streams. I also cannot articulate just how indebted we are to our chairman, John Berylson, for the way in which he continues to support the club year after year, but never more so than in the past 12 months. In my view we have the best chairman in English football for so many different reasons and hopefully he too can be back at matches sooner rather than later when restrictions are lifted, especially as he’s now fully vaccinated.
There was a lot of talk in the media early on in the pandemic about whether its impact would provoke a long-term shift against historic overspending and general financial irregularities within football. As a club we continue to be of the belief that far stricter and more comprehensive regulations need to be in place – and be properly enforced – in order to ensure that no club and set of fans falls foul of irresponsible ownership or management.
Throughout all the discussions that have occurred between clubs and the governing bodies we have been supportive of the idea that existing rules need to be enhanced and developed rather than thrown out, instead of another new set of guidelines being introduced for others simply to try and evade. We, as part of that debate, accepted the concept of a Salary Cap, but one which would sit alongside profitability and sustainability rules. We believe such a framework would best limit deficits and protect long-term futures of clubs for the sake of all stakeholders but most importantly their fans. Regulations should be about the long-term sustainability of the whole of football, not simply individual clubs.
It remains to be seen what changes, if any, will be made to profit and sustainability regulations moving forward, although surely the selling of club stadia must be stopped. We all know competing in the Championship is difficult and financially challenging but the very future of clubs must not be put at risk and we certainly won’t allow the existence of Millwall to be gambled away in this manner.
In a separate issue, but one linked to club finances, I can confirm that we have engaged with legal representation over the failure (in our opinion) of our brokers with regards to our Business Interruption insurance. We’re not the only football club or indeed business to have suffered as a result of this and will continue to work hard in order to receive what we feel we are rightly and fairly owed.
A lot has been made publicly about the Premier League bailout for the EFL, which has served to add to existing frustrations and difficulties around finances during the pandemic. The truth is that in the Championship this was a loan to pay back HMRC debts that clubs had built up. We were then informed that the loan was being sourced from the government, which is ironic in itself, and that the Premier League’s involvement was to pay the interest. All that being said, the government effectively blocked the loan by trying to enforce undeliverable conditions anyway so the lack of financial support, which has lasted a year, continues, and we remain solely reliant on our chairman and other revenue streams which are wholly incomparable to what they are during normal times.
When I wrote to you two months ago, I spoke about the imminent introduction of a new internal Equality Steering Committee. In essence it has become a new department at the club, made up of staff from across Millwall and the Community Trust as well as external volunteers and advisors, with the remit of driving all efforts around anti-discrimination. The Committee has already met twice and will continue to do so monthly for the foreseeable future. I’m encouraged by the discussions and debates already had and the board are confident the work of the Committee will help to continue to keep the club at the forefront of efforts in this field which are every bit as important as ever before.
I’d like to thank all those who completed the fan survey which was sent out in January. We had just over 3,000 responses which gave us a good feel for the way you are feeling, both generally and in terms of your engagement with the club, but we also appreciate that not everybody received the survey when it was emailed out. After further investigations it became clear that this was because of an issue with one of our data feeds and as such the company who manage our email marketing platform are currently working on resolving that technical problem. Once that process is complete we will send the survey out again so that all who didn’t get the opportunity to respond can do so.
As I said previously, we view this survey as an incredibly important first step in better understanding your opinions, thoughts and feelings, and it will be followed by additional more targeted questionnaires based on the responses and results. It is imperative that we receive as many responses as possible so that we can implement any necessary changes quickly and efficiently, and I thank you in advance for your continued cooperation.
As always, stay tuned for further news and updates from the club, in particular the aforementioned launch of season tickets and memberships within the next month. Please also continue to show your support for the team by purchasing iFollow match passes. Not only is it a key source of revenue at a troubling time, it’s also a boost to the players to know that people are watching their efforts from home.