Sustaining an anchor sports club during the coronavirus pandemic
In October 2020, Huntly Football Club was awarded £25,000 by Clarindarroch Fund to contribute to the Club’s running costs and thereby enable it to manage a deficit in income resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In October 2020, Huntly Football Club was awarded £25,000 to contribute to the Club’s running costs and thereby enable it to manage a deficit in income resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Established in 1928, the Club is a member of the Scottish Football Association. It nurtures young talented footballers in the area and provides them with the facilities and opportunities to enjoy their sport. The senior football team is semi-professional, playing in the Highland League, with average crowds of 250 per home game. The Club employs 20 senior players and three coaches and is supported by over 20 volunteers.
The Club also supports an Under-20 Squad, an Under-17 Squad, and other local football clubs. Local schools use the facilities free of charge on an ad-hoc basis. In addition, a licensed Social Club comprising a bar and function suite is also run from the Club premises. While this is a separately constituted entity, its purpose is to raise funds for Huntly Football Club and support a range of social and recreational activities.
Therefore, the Club is a hugely important part of the local community with many loyal supporters of all ages. Its activities contribute significantly to the local economy on match days when local shops, restaurants and bars benefit from the increased footfall.
The first Covid-19 related lockdown saw the cancellation of a range of income-generating activities, leaving a hole in the Club’s actual income against its budgeted projections for 2020-2021. The Club relies mainly on income from sponsorship and hospitality packages, match ticket sales, and a busy calendar of fundraising events such as ‘Marquee in the Park’, a golf day, darts match, and sportsman’s lunch. Due to the restrictions, most of this income could not be generated during 2020-2021. The financial situation of local companies that generally offer sponsorship was also adversely affected by the pandemic. Indeed, by the end of May 2020, the lockdown had begun to take its toll on the Club’s finances.
The Club knew it had to look at new ways to bring in revenue and drastically reduce running costs to get through this difficult time. The Board completed an initial financial review in June 2020, and, following consultations, the players, Manager and Assistant Manager agreed to take a significant salary reduction. Travel and equipment expenses were withdrawn. The Club also took advantage of the furlough scheme.
Nonetheless, ongoing running costs for 2020-2021 totalled over £100K, including utilities, staff wages, insurances, ongoing match and training expenses, ground repairs and maintenance, bus expenses, and professional fees.
“The massive shortfall in income streams because of Covid 19 made the financial survival of our football club a real concern for the Board. We needed to find a short-medium term strategy to ensure we could see out this difficult period. We had to continue paying for a range of core costs but were not able to have fans into games or any corporate guests. We also had to improve our facilities with player well-being in mind - changing rooms and dugouts needed to be adapted to allow some essential distancing.”
explains Club Chair, Gordon Carter.
The grant was paid in quarterly instalments on the receipt of up-to-date management accounts, showing that the Club was still a going concern. In addition, the Club, a company limited by shares, was required to re-structure as a company limited by guarantee with clear not-for-profit status. The shareholders were happy to do so, as the shareholder model had mainly become redundant while the new structure was considered to reflect better how the Football Club functions.
Other funding sources for the Club’s necessary expenditure for 2020/21 included a Scottish Government Covid-19 Grant, Gold League Membership (members prize draw), advertising signage, and some corporate and player sponsorship.
By securing sufficient funding to see it through this challenging situation, Huntly Football Club can continue nurturing young sporting talent and offering sports and wider recreational facilities to the wider community, thereby helping to maintain good physical and mental health and social cohesion. Without support from the Fund and others, there may have been a different outcome.
"I would like to say a huge thank you to Vattenfall and Foundation Scotland for all their support through these challenging times. We have learnt a lot and will continue to evolve as a club, adapting to the changing environment we are operating in”.
Gordon Carter, Club Chair