Alfreton chairman Wayne Bradley: 'Some clubs may not survive virus impact'

Alfreton Town chairman Wayne Bradley hopes his club’s prudent financial model could be key to it surviving the COVID-19 pandemic – but fears the future of others could be in doubt.

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 10:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 9:08 am
Alfreton chairman Wayne Bradley says an uncertain future awaits.

Concerns have been expressed as to how many clubs and businesses nationwide will be able to cope financially with the loss of income caused by the outbreak, with sporting fixtures postponed until May at the earliest.

And whilst Bradley acknowledges there will be many complications when it comes to staff contracts and other costs incurred during the period of inactivity and beyond, he feels some clubs will be better equipped than others.

He said: “We have always been very prudent to make sure we don’t operate over budget when it comes to expenses, playing squad and so on.

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“We’re in a fairly modest financial state but a lot of other clubs are in a very different position. There’s never been a level playing field. In the same way that the virus itself is a big threat to people with underlying health issues, you could apply that to football clubs and businesses too.

“We’ve met our PAYE obligations for March and our staff will also be paid what they’re entitled to this month.

“It gets more complicated after that given we have no income stream from matches, gate receipts and so on and it’ll be harder to meet our financial commitments.

“There’s no crystal ball available to see how things will pan out so we have to take it as it comes rather than speculate or go on rumours.

“Complications will obviously arise given player contracts run out and therefore playing beyond April will become very difficult, but that’s where the powers that be will have to make decisions.”

Bradley believes that the differences in the way non-league clubs are run in relation to those in the professional game could also have an effect on whether the season is completed or not.

He said: “Contracts in the levels above us are often rolling 12-month deals or expire at the end of June, so there’s more scope for the higher leagues to finish their seasons a bit later than us.

“We have far fewer options. Will we carry on? I don’t know.

“There's talk of the Derbyshire Senior Cup final being moved to becoming a pre-season fixture. I wonder if there’s any way we could finish the current league season later in the summer, before then having a short break and starting the new season soon afterwards.

“There’s certainly an argument in the pro game for running this campaign up until the winter break and then starting the new season and running it through the year, with a break for the European Championships, and doing similar in 2022 to help encompass the World Cup at the end of that year.

“We need to be stacking up the options, and if non-league football can follow suit then so be it, although it will probably require contracts to be adjusted accordingly.”

Bradley does, however, highlight the need for the decisions made to be the right ones long-term as well as for the immediate future.

He said: “We have to be careful not to find an answer for today that’s to the detriment of long-term survival, or that might take years to filter out as we try to return to normal.

“All clubs have had pressure put on them to make sure debt is minimised. But any business struggling before this is now in danger of failing.

“I just hope clubs don’t blame the circumstances and dismiss their duty of care, either financially or to their staff.

“As things stand, we’ve had no contact from the National League on all of this. We have submitted aspects of our financial details, such as what our loss of income would be and so on. They’ll now have to pull something out to take us forward.

“It’s important to stress that people are losing their lives and that’s at the very top of the list of concerns of course.

“Everything is having to be taken on a day-by-day basis, whether that’s an individual’s health or that of a football club or business, and we have to be capable and mindful in how we respond to those challenges that will intensify all the time.

“All we can do is hope to ride it out and come up with the best solutions.”