The coronavirus has decimated the finances of football clubs, taking away just about all their sources of revenue but not their outgoings. So much of what they earn comes directly or indirectly on a matchday, and the Terries have not hosted a game since February. Even when football returns, be it this season as the Football League hopes or next, it is likely to be behind closed doors, something Devlin could be “hugely expensive”.
With no way of knowing when or even if a vaccine might be found, planning long-term is extremely difficult, but Devlin says he is focused on an eight-month period, and braced for no matches in front of supporters during it.
“We've got to reshape the business because we potentially are looking at maybe up to the end of this year without really bringing in any revenue in terms of playing football without fans in the stadium, which is going to be really difficult for the players, really takes away something from the sport and actually can cost clubs money,” he said.
“We're still waiting for the protocols to be put to us but some of the early stuff I've seen comes with huge expense because we can't open our doors again for players, staff and fans until it's absolutely safe to do so. I don't think we should even be contemplating that until we're absolutely certain it's not a risk to anyone involved in the sport, particularly fans.”
As the pandemic hit late in the season, plans and budgets for 2020-21 were close to completion but had to be ripped up. No one can yet be sure if 2019-20 will be completed, or what form the following season will take.
“We're working on a number of scenarios,” said Devlin of the reworked budget. “It was initially working on perhaps playing football again by June with crowds, (then) that looked like it was never going to happen, then it was June without crowds, then it was maybe September. Now some of the advice we are given is that we are unlikely to have crowds into a stadium much before December. That takes away a huge amount of our revenue.
“This is the challenge – how do you continue to a business like a football club when there’s no money coming in but you still have salaries to pay, costs to meet and you want to make sure that this club, this institution, that’s been around for so long, is fit enough and lean enough to come out of the other side?
“This is going to be a really tough eight-month period, but it’s important that we all work really hard to meet the challenge, which I’m sure we will do because we have some quality individuals in the organisation.
“We want to make sure we do what we have to do to bring the club through this crisis.”
Clubs at all levels are facing dire financial problems and whilst some are run better than others, Devlin insists none could have prepared for the damage covid-19 has wrought.
“You couldn’t have budgeted for this,” he said. “You can budget for highs and lows, but what’s really difficult to budget for is completely having your revenue streams dry up almost overnight.
“What we are focusing on at the moment is the next six to eight months and what we need to do. If certain things fall into place come early 2021, hopefully fans will be able to come into the stadium.
“Will we be able to have a full stadium, or will the Government say we can only have 50 per cent capacity? We just don’t know those details yet.
“We are working blind. There’s completely uncertainty, but despite that I can assure everyone we are working really hard to pull the club through this really testing period, so they have a club that they can still support that’s in good shape going into the next calendar year.”
Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.
And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.
Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.
If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.
Sincerely. Thank you.