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CLUB UPDATE | Open letter – FAQs

12 June 2020

For today's club update. We will be answering a range of questions related to the club and it's operations, starting with an open letter from the board of directors:

Dear Exiles,

On behalf of the Board we hope you are staying safe and keeping well in these difficult times. When we communicated the indicative decision of League Two clubs to curtail the 2019-20 regular season on May 15, we anticipated that the season curtailment would be have been made formal soon after. However, due to a number of complex issues this did not happen until this Tuesday (June 9).

As promised in our original statement of May 15 and reiterated in our updated statement on June 4, we now want to share with you some of the work that has been taking place in the background. We have done this in the form of the attached questions and answers. While not exhaustive, we hope it will answer the majority of questions you might have at this stage. We are undoubtedly in extraordinary times and the Board has been working on a range of activities to ensure our great club comes through this crisis, ready to operate and prosper as and when the environment improves.

There is a long road to recovery, given the impact of the virus on everyday life, the wider economy and the way in which football operates. The future will be different to what we have all been used to, and our football club will need to adjust accordingly. We will communicate further to all supporters when it is appropriate to do so. Thank you all again for your understanding, patience, and continuing support. Please stay safe.

Board of Directors


Q&A

GOVERNANCE

Q1. What engagement has the Club had with the EFL?
A. The Club has been represented at all relevant EFL video and conference call meetings since the pandemic forced the postponement of fixtures. The Club has played a full part in these meetings, ensuring our views are heard by the 23 other clubs in League Two.

Q2. How does this engagement work?
A. League Two have an elected EFL Board representative who, with his deputy, then works with all clubs throughout the Division. The League Two representative then reflects the views and thoughts of the Division at EFL Board level.

Q3. How has the Board operated within this unusual period?
A. As you can appreciate, the Board has had to work in an agile manner during these difficult times. The Board has met, via video or telephone conference, on multiple occasions during the Covid-19 crisis with all key decisions tabled for agreement by the Board as a whole.

Q4. How did the Board reach a decision on the curtailment of the season?
A. The Board has been engaging on a frequent basis and thus were abreast of all issues. The EFL had sent out a raft of papers for consideration and all Board members were in possession of all the information to allow a decision to be made. There was a unanimous decision of the board to support both the curtailment of the season and how it should be curtailed.

Q5. Why curtail the season and not conclude on the field?
A. The health and wellbeing of players, staff and supporters has always been at the heart of the Board’s decision making. In addition, the economic factors have also been a key factor in the decision- making process. As time progressed as a result of lockdown, these factors became more prevalent.

Q6. Has the Club been involved in the discussion with the EFL around salary cap proposals?
A. Despite the pandemic there have still been business-as-usual activities to handle. The Salary Cap proposal is one of those subjects and the Club has contributed accordingly to the wider EFL debate. The Board is supportive of this measure as it will contribute to making football at our level more equitable and sustainable, and that can only be good for the game.

Q7. Have we asked for an extension to the laying of our accounts?
A. Yes, this has been requested and accepted. Our accounts for 2018-19 will now be submitted to Companies House on by 30th September 2020

Q8. Has the Club asked for the assistance of local politicians?
A. The Club has good relationships with our local MPs and MSs. All have been engaged with and updated on issues facing the club during this crisis. We have also engaged with Welsh Government to ensure the appropriate minister is also aware of the challenges facing football clubs at our level in the league pyramid. Our thanks to those who have supported the Club in different ways.


FINANCIAL

Q9. What financial support has the Club applied for and taken?
A. The Club has applied for all appropriate financial support available to businesses during the Covid-19 crisis. This ranges from grants, to an interest-free, government-guaranteed loan and the Job Retention Scheme. The Club has also been able to defer PAYE/VAT payments, another part of the support package available to all businesses.

Q10. What assistance has been provided financially by the EFL?
A. The EFL advanced money that would usually be provided as part of the close season grant. In addition, they have facilitated a loan on favourable terms to all member clubs.

Q11. Has there been any additional money provided by the EFL or wider Football Family?
A. At this moment in time there has not been any additional money offered to the Club, other than the EFL loan which was offered to all clubs.

Q12. Why has the Club topped up the salaries of furloughed employees at a time when limited
income has been generated?
A. Despite the pandemic the Club still has to meet its contractual obligations. In not doing so the Club would be breaching EFL rules and likely face disciplinary charges as a result. It would also likely face employment tribunals in the future. In reaching this position it has, as you would imagine, taken advice from the EFL and an employment expert. The Club’s position on furlough is reviewed by the Board on a monthly basis.

Q13. What has the Club done to ensure it survives the pandemic?
A. The Club has undertaken a number of activities in this area. Firstly, it has taken all the appropriate support that has been afforded to businesses and those offered by the EFL. It has deferred payments where we are able to do so. In addition, it has revised its planned budget to reflect the current pandemic situation and economic downturn, and likely impact this will have on our traditional revenues. It has reviewed its complete cost base with a view to identifying and then implementing savings where it is able to do so. This activity is kept under close scrutiny and will be a focus throughout the forthcoming season.

Q14. What measures have the Club put in place to protect its financial viability?
A. The Club has undertaken a complete review of its cost base and identified a significant amount of savings throughout the Club in each department. Where it has been able to implement savings, it has done so. As already mentioned, it has also taken all the appropriate support that has been afforded by both UK and Welsh governments, drawing on the relationships it has created to help navigate this turbulent time. This is an evolving picture and one that is occupying complete focus and will continue to do so throughout the next season.

Q15. What are the biggest financial challenges faced by the Club?
A. The global pandemic has presented many challenges for all businesses and we are acutely aware as a Board of that position and the impact on our traditional revenue streams. The biggest challenge facing the Club – and indeed all clubs at our level - is not being able sell season tickets in the traditional way and knowing it is highly likely we will be playing behind closed doors for a period of time. When you then add in our commercial revenue, this amounts to around 40% of our traditional income. This is as a direct result of the global pandemic. That is the scale of the challenge the Club and indeed football at our level faces.

Q16. Have Trust donations to the Club been maintained throughout this period?
A. Yes. As a supporter-owned club it is important that the Trust continues to support the Club financially.

Q17. Has the Trust membership seen a dramatic downturn in numbers?
A. No. Membership levels have remained constant and the Trust Board thanks all members for their continued support during difficult economic conditions for everyone. Maintaining membership levels means the Trust can continue to support the Club financially.


OPERATIONAL

Q18. What are the current plans in relation to the season starting and crowds being able to
attend?
A. Our current assumption is that we will not see the season commence until October and that crowds will not be permitted until January 2021. These are working assumptions based on what we know today and, of course, may well change now the season has been formally curtailed.

Q19. What engagement has the club had with Rodney Parade?
A. The non- furloughed staff have met on a regular basis (virtually) with officials at the Rodney Parade. They have discussed a raft of issues especially given that our rugby partners are in a similar situation to the Club and faced with similar challenges.

Q20. What work has been undertaken on the pitch at Rodney Parade?
A. There has been some remedial work undertaken on the pitch and this will ensure that it is ready for the forthcoming season, whenever that will be.

Q21. Who is the kit supplier for next season?
A. This will formally be announced next week.

Q22. When will the Club be launching the new kit for the 2020-21 season?
A. There will be a full set of communications via the Club’s website, social media feeds and local media next month. The club is excited with the new designs and its new kit supplier and looks forward to working with them.

Q23. When will I be able to purchase the new kit and from where?
A. All the detail of how to purchase will be contained in next month’s statement. In short, the new kit will be available to buy online and via the club shop when the latter is able to open (see below).

Q24. When will the Club Shop be open again?
A. The Welsh Government recently announced that ‘non-essential’ retailers could begin preparations to open on June 22. The Club has been undertaking a full risk assessment to ensure the safety of staff and customer before the shop re-opens. We will communicate soon our plans around retail in general.

Q25. Can I get a refund for the ticket(s) I bought for any of remaining League Two home and away games for 2019-20 season?
A. We recently covered this in our communication dated June 10, and hope supporters are able to assist the Club in these difficult times by not seeking a refund but we also understand not everyone will be able to do so. We recognise the disappointment of not being able to attend the remaining matches of the regular League Two season, and that many of our supporters will be facing difficult economic circumstances. Should any supporters wish to receive refunds for match tickets purchased for any of these games, they should email office@newport-county.co.uk. Please note proof of purchase will be required.

Q26. Can I get a refund on my season ticket for the four (4) Home games I was unable to attend as
a result of the pandemic?
A. We have covered this in our recent communication of June 10. With finances uncertain for all professional football clubs ahead of decisions regarding the 2020-21 season, the Club would hope season ticket holders do not feel the need to request refunds. However, the Club recognises everyone’s circumstances are different and should any 2019-20 season ticket holders feel it necessary to request a refund, please email office@newport-county.co.uk to allow arrangements to be made.

Q27. How can I watch County matches in 2020-21 if no crowds are allowed?
A. We will communicate how this will be possible in the coming weeks.

Q28. When is the Club planning for supporters to be able to attend matches next season?
A. As relayed above, our current planning assumption is that crowds will be allowed to attend from January 2021 – this will be for home and away games. This is a working assumption at the moment and one we will be monitoring closely, as well as engaging with stakeholders closely, as we recognise this could change and we will, of course, communicate if and when that does occur.

Q29. Does the Club have a shirt sponsor for next season?
A. Given the economic downturn this is likely to be a challenging proposition and as a result we have been exploring options. We will be communicating on this issue very soon as we have developed an approach that engages supporters, reflects the status of our Club and the current economic climate the pandemic has created.

Q30. How has the Club kept our younger supporters engaged during the lockdown?
A. We have continued to send birthday cards, video messages, newsletters, and weekly activity packs to our Clwb Spytty members along with other young supporters. We have contacted all our Clwb Spytty families during the pandemic and continued to support those families that have reached out. We have shared information from our charity partners at Kidscape offering free workshops regarding online safety, and how to help build resilience and assertiveness when dealing with a bullying situation. Kidscape also have several articles available on their website which have also been shared through the Clwb Spytty social media sites that would be beneficial to families during the lockdown period.

Q31. Will young fan engagement continue through Clwb Spytty, despite the current season being
cancelled?
A. Yes. Our current Clwb Spytty membership expires on 31st July, 2020. At this point, when we know more with regards to Covid-19, we will look at what options we have for renewal, and for the introduction of a ‘Teen Exiles’ package. Both membership options will reflect our circumstances at the time. The Clwb Spytty children who were due to participate in the Match Day Experience and Mascot Package on 13th April will still be given the opportunity to participate once crowds are able to return to football at Rodney Parade.

Q32. What are the plans to be better engage our teenage fans?
A. We are currently redeveloping the Trust memberships for our supporters of a High School age to ensure that their memberships are relevant and Covid-19 friendly. It is important to us to offer a membership to our teenage supporter base, who show so much passion for their club, that reflects what is important to them whilst recognising they cannot vote on issues as a Trust Member until they are 16. We are currently engaging with our young supporters in a focus group to help to shape what that will look like and will launch at the appropriate time.

Q33. Has the Club maintained contact with vulnerable supporters who have had to self-isolate
during the Covid-19 pandemic?
A. Yes, some have received personal video messages from players, others phone calls from directors to see how they are coping while missing out on the socialisation they get from matches. We appreciate that during this time mental health issues can surface so we will continue to do this until we are able to resume attending matches. If you know of anyone who is classed as vulnerable and could do with a call or message, please email office@newport-county.co.uk and include contact details of that person.

Q34. What has the Club been doing to engage, support and assist our local communities while
ensuring the safety of those involved?
A. The Club have been sharing important messages from government, charitable partners and the EFL around mental health. These are for anyone in our community, not just County supporters. In addition, some players and management have been volunteering to work (in safe environments) to support local charities such as The Bigger Picture to deliver food parcels to vulnerable families and those struggling financially. Others are unable to physically join in so have made financial contributions to organisations providing support in our local community. Every Thursday we share our ever-growing video of people connected with the club showing our appreciation for the NHS and other key workers. There are ideas in place for us to continue showing our gratitude to those we rely on at the moment when football returns. More information on this along with some stories of what has been happening will be shared as we progress towards a time when football can resume safely and in the appropriate context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Q35. What is the Mental Health Charter the Club has signed?
A. In October the Club was the fourth EFL member club to sign the Mental Health Charter for Sports & Recreation. The plan that accompanies this outlines that we aim to improve wellbeing for our employees, volunteers and supporters together with the wider community and utilises our status in the city to spread a positive message to our surrounding area with various programmes from the Club, County in the Community and our charitable partners. It has been endorsed by the City Council, local MPs and Members of the Senedd with a commitment to work collaboratively with interested parties across the city and beyond to enhance mental health and wellbeing. The Charter can be seen on the Policies section of the Club’s website. If you have any feedback or suggestions in this area please address them to equality@newport-county.co.uk

Q36. What damage occurred after the recent training ground break in?
A. Thankfully, the damage at the training ground was limited and with the help of Maindee Handyman, MT Electrical and IDS Industrial Door Services the building is secure again. Our thanks to those organisations for helping us in our hour of need.

Q37. There has been talk of new protocols at training bases as a result of the pandemic. How will
this affect our training base?
A. The EFL has produced a robust document, based on the Premier League protocols, for use in concluding the current season 19/20. As the focus from the EFL has understandably been on concluding the current season (19/20) we are yet to understand whether these will extend to next season. We will establish the position through our ongoing engagement with stakeholders.

Q38. Will the Club need to test players and staff for Covid-19 during the season 20/21?
A. The health and well- being of all our staff and supporters is paramount and will continue to be so. At this point we have not received any guidance from the EFL in relation to next season.

Q39. When will the retain and release list be communicated?
A. In normal circumstances clubs have to notify those players out of contract by the third week in May. This has been extended by the EFL to June 23. The list will be communicated in line with that date.

Q40. When will the players return to First Team training?
A. Given the decision has now been made to curtail the regular League Two season for 2019/20, inevitably the focus will now shift towards the 2020/21 season. Any return to training will be aligned to the start of the season and we will communicate when the EFL plans become clearer.

Q41. When are Pre-Season fixtures likely to be confirmed?
A. Similar to the return of players for Pre-Season, the Club are awaiting clarification in order to confirm Pre-Season fixtures. At present, the club remains engaged with a range of football clubs in order to confirm Pre-Season fixtures as soon as possible.

Q42. When will the fixtures for the 2021/22 Season be announced?
A. This is not known at the moment given the EFL’s focus has been around the current season. It is not anticipated we will know this for some time as the League Two play-offs will need to conclude along with other factors. The club will communicate this announcement as soon as we are able to do so.

Q43. Will I be able to purchase a Season Ticket for the 2021/22 Season?
A. As relayed a little earlier, this is a traditional revenue source for the Club and we have been working to strike a balance between protecting that critical source of income against the backdrop of the global pandemic. It is recognised that the pandemic will have had an impact on both supporters and indeed the Club. We will communicate over the coming weeks on this matter.

Q44. How has the pandemic affected the Academy?
A. As an Academy, we have remained positive; supporting our players and staff during these unprecedented times. We have continued to follow guidance from the Government, EFL and FAW with health and safety being the priority for everybody involved with the club. While the lockdown period has been challenging, the Academy have used it as a time to reflect and plan as we continue to grow as a Category 3 academy.

Q45. How has the Academy functioned in the pandemic?
A. For players, there has been continued support from our club doctor with expert advice and guidance around COVID-19; nutritional plans, physical programmes and advice from our Sport Science team; session ideas and challenges set by our technical staff and a wellbeing calendar developed with tremendous psychological support by our Safeguarding team. As expected, this period has caused significant uncertainty and therefore communication with the parents, players and staff has been integral. The Academy manager, Damien Broad, is in constant contact with staff, players and parents and when there is any further news on a safe return, this will be communicated out to all. Until then, we will continue to support everybody to stay safe and well during what is a difficult time for all.

Q46. I sponsored a player’s shirt this year, when will I receive it?
A. Firstly, thank you to all those supporters that sponsored a player’s shirt this season. We have communicated this week (June 10) the process of how shirts will be sent to sponsors.

Q47. Will there be any end of season awards?
A. As outlined in our communication dated June 11, we will be having an end of season awards as we recognise this is an important part of the calendar for everyone at the club. Full details are covered in the communication.

Q48. Why has the Club’s communication been limited?
A. The Board took the view that communicating anything other than official EFL updates regarding the 2019-20 season ahead of any decision being made about the season would have been counter-productive and created unhelpful speculation while discussions were ongoing. As soon as League Two clubs took a unanimous and indicative view to end the regular season, we issued a communication to our supporters on May 15. We then issued a further communication on June 4 in which we identified a number of communications and have started issuing them this week. This will continue next week and beyond. Our social media pages have been updated on a daily basis and, as you can see from answers above, we have ensured regular communication with young supporters, vulnerable supporters and the Academy. The Supporters’ Trust has also produced its quarterly newsletter during the lockdown period.

Q49. How can I ask a question?
A. If you do have a question that is not covered in the above Q&As please send an email to office@newport-county.co.uk If we can answer we will do so, and if we are unable to do so we will respond relaying that. All we ask from supporters is patience as we are operating a skeleton team so there may well be a slight delay in responding.

Q50. How can I help the club in these challenging times?
A. The club recognises that fans will want to help the club where they can in these difficult times. There are a number of immediate areas where help would be much appreciated: a. If at all possible, do not seek to claim a refund for 2019/20 match day and season tickets

b. Support our weekly lottery which is a great source of income for the club – details as
follows - www.countylottery.com/register 

c. Support the Trust by either taking out a membership, increasing your current membership level or renewing if it has lapsed. Details can be found on the Trust website at www.ncafctrust.org or alternatively you can email the Trust at info@ncafctrust.org

d. Support the initiatives that we will communicate over the coming weeks We hope the above answers most of the many questions you may well have – but we recognise this is not an exhaustive list. We have tried to strike a balance of openness and transparency while also appreciating that these are still very uncertain times for everyone.

Please stay safe.


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