Club President Wael Al Qadi updates supporters on several topics in his latest open letter...
I hope you are all keeping safe and well and that your spirits are still up, despite the uncertainty that we all face.
As some time has passed since my previous communication, I wanted to take this opportunity to once again write to you and update you on our continued progress and vision for the club, despite the unprecedented restrictions that the pandemic has placed on us all.
At the start of this outbreak, I said that this pandemic posed the greatest threat to our club in its long history but despite the huge financial pressures that this brings, you have my word that I will continue to do all I can to fund the club through it.
Despite this commitment, the need for financial support in the EFL is clear and I join the other clubs in urging the government and Premier League to take joint responsibility in helping to cover the £250m funding gap that the EFL clubs are suffering at this time.
The English football pyramid is the greatest in world football and I am hopeful that one of the few positives to come out of this pandemic can be a re-think of how the wealth in the game is better distributed, helping to create a more sustainable game for the future where all clubs can thrive.
In the short-term, the financial implications of the virus are huge. With almost all of our income streams wiped out and many of our costs fixed, our losses for this year already look set to increase by at least £2,000,000 and that number will continue to rise. At the time of writing, there is no sign of when we will be able to welcome you all back to the Mem, however, our team have worked hard to ensure that plans are in place so that we can act quickly as and when the regulations change.
In the meantime, I urge all Gasheads who are able to continue to demonstrate their support for the club by making purchases through the club’s online retail store and signing up to watch our games on iFollow. Given the impact on all of our other revenue streams, this income is vital and very much welcome at this time.
It isn’t all bad news however. Work has continued to progress at our new training base in Almondsbury. It was great to see the players train there for the first time last week. This is a real flagship moment for the club and represents a huge step forward in our attempts to improve the club’s infrastructure and to provide the best possible opportunities for us to attract and develop players. Work on the site continues ahead of a proposed completion of phase one of the project early next year. Following feedback from supporters, we have also settled on a new name for the training ground which will from now on be known as ‘The Quarters.’
In my last letter to you all, I set out our six point strategic plan for the club and these areas have continued to be a focus for us through these tough times. Below is a brief update on each of these areas and how we are progressing;
1. Infrastructure improvements - as mentioned previously, the stadium project remains our priority. Unfortunately, the pandemic has halted progress in this area but we are continuing to work tirelessly behind the scenes to achieve this objective. As discussed, the training ground continues to develop and we are excited by the opportunities on this site which will be our new home for decades to come.
2. Sustainability - as a club, we have been working hard to become as efficient and sustainable as possible, however, those efforts have been severely undermined by the virus. That said, we are continuing to work to review costs and generate more income to work towards achieving our goal of becoming sustainable. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our existing sponsors for their continued support during these difficult times and welcome Cadburys to our list of partners. Throughout my time at the club, we have made a real effort to not only work and engage with local businesses but also expand our partnership base to a small number of national and global brands that fit our ethos. I think Cadburys certainly fit into that category!
3. Youth - The average age of our squad now is just 23.2 years of age. It is full of players with considerable potential that we have signed under contract and who we are confident we can develop to contribute to our future success and sustainability.
4. Develop the fanbase - at this time where face to face interaction is prohibited, developing the fanbase is more difficult than ever. However, I am touched by the support that we are getting week in and week out across the globe on iFollow. Our social media content continues to improve and that is an important means for communicating with you all during these difficult times. In addition, we have also launched our Crowdfunding campaign to develop a new area for children on a match day, including a sensory room for those with special needs. We hope this facility will help us support and attract families across Bristol in providing a safe and welcoming match day experience once we return.
5. Community - our links with the Community Trust are stronger than ever. Throughout this period, the club and the Trust have really come together and we have been delighted to work with them on a number of projects to help the most vulnerable within the city. We continue to be proud of all of the work they do and they have our unwavering support in achieving all they set out to do.
6. Continual Improvement - for us the bar continues to rise in all areas of the club and despite still operating on skeleton staff, we are continuing to pursue growth in all areas of the club. This is a long term strategic approach and the success of it won’t be measurable until some form of normality resumes, but we continue to be focused on making improvements across the board.
In addition to our progress when it comes to our wider club strategies, we have also been delighted to be recognised by a number of external bodies for some of the work that we have been completing at the club.
Firstly, I was delighted to see our improved performance in the EFL’s Family Excellence programme. As a club we achieved a score of 8.7/10 in the report, which ranked us 4th in League One and 15th overall across the EFL. The 'friendly and welcoming' environment at the Mem was highlighted in the report, alongside the visible commitment to engage with the next generation of supporters. This not only ties in with our strategy but is also a core part of our values as a club. The score this year was our highest since we have been involved with the programme and to sit so highly amongst the clubs in the EFL, particularly given the restrictions that the stadium gives us, is a real achievement.
Secondly, our new-look match day programme picked up two awards, winning the best programme in Sky Bet League One by ‘Premier Progs’ and in the Programme Monthly and Football Collectable awards. In the latter, we received a score of 18/20 - the joint highest of any club in the country. I would like to wholeheartedly thank everyone that contributes, edits, prints and reads the programme.
Following the success that we had last season, we were disappointed to hear that the Grounds Team of the Season Awards this season have been postponed However, we were delighted to hear that our team this year received a mark of four out of five for the pitch which continues to be a surface that we can all be proud of. We are especially pleased to see that this level of craftsmanship has also been extended to our two new pitches at ‘The Quarters.’
Additionally, last month we were honoured to hear that we have been shortlisted in the 'Coronavirus Innovation Award: Compassion' category, ahead of the 2020 Sports Business Awards. The work within this included our partnership with Above and Beyond to support and thank NHS workers, as well as the donation of 1,000 tickets for NHS workers (once spectators can return), working with the Community Trust on the delivery of essentials and visits to those most in need across the City, our communication with supporters through the pandemic and our focus on helping community, friends and family, our suppliers and each other through these difficult times.
On that note, we were delighted to see the brilliant work of the Gasheads Against Food Poverty Team who have worked tirelessly to provide supporters with the means to support our local food banks at this critical time for them. Once again, we are proud of the work that they have been doing and even more so that our brilliant fans have continued to support it during this tough economic climate.
Finally, no update would be complete without me discussing the start to the season that we have made on the pitch. It has been the busiest window that I have been involved with since I joined the club, with a total of fourteen new signings. As stated previously, our strategy is to look to bring in young players that we can develop, as well as playing an attractive style of football. Suffice to say, it’s early days, in a long term project.
I would like to place on record again my sincere thank you to all supporters for your continued support during these difficult times and to our staff that continue to work tirelessly. Together, we can all play our part in helping this club reach its full potential.
I hope you all stay safe and well and I look forward to seeing you all back at the Mem as soon as we are able.