Published on: 16/10/20, 4:15 pm
To begin with though, on behalf of everyone at Bedford Blues, I wish to offer my sincere condolences to those supporters who may have lost loved ones during the ongoing pandemic. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the incredible NHS staff, key workers and carers, at this difficult time.
We have tried to engage with supporters and stakeholders each month to offer updates via various channels, but this has been extremely difficult with a lack of certainty around next season from the RFU and government. We await more answers at the end of October and remain intent on keeping an open line of communication with supporters.
Following the latest government advice in regard to the sporting sector and the imminent ending of the current furlough scheme, it is important that we offer a picture of where the club currently resides as we hope for a safe return to Championship rugby.
As you will all be aware, the sudden loss of income throughout this period has left Bedford Blues under severe financial pressure, and we are doing everything we can to secure a long-term sustainable future for the club at Goldington Road. You will be all too aware of the challenges the club has faced in the past; however, in some ways this surpasses the issues of 1999 due to the complex nature of the unknown.
Many of you will have seen the government’s recent decision that spectators may not be able to return to watching live sporting events until the end of March 2021. Clearly this is a huge setback to the Club and Championship Rugby, as well as sport in general. While we appreciate the very difficult challenge the government faces in controlling the spread of the virus while enabling parts of society and the economy to remain open, the prospect of no crowds for the next six months adds to the pressure that we are under.
Put bluntly, Bedford Blues does not work as a business or rugby club without you, the supporters, at the matches. We do not rely on vast TV broadcast deals or league wide sponsorship, and following the RFU funding cuts, our sustainable model created in the last six years is hanging by a thread.
Alongside our fellow members of the Championship, we are lobbying hard to try and influence the government’s decisions. Earlier this week we have written a letter to our MPs and local council to garner their support, to which there has been an extremely positive response. This is an area where you can add your voice too, I would urge you to write to your MP (which can be found here: members.parliament.uk/members/Commons) to show your support for the Club’s plight.
We have been extremely proud to support the launch of the charitable arm of the club, Blues Foundation, right in the middle of the national lockdown. The work they, and Blues Community, have undertaken throughout this period should not be underestimated and has been massively impactful across Bedfordshire. Several key projects have had a direct impact on the vulnerable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the challenges we face, I remain confident that we will get through them. We are extremely lucky to have a fantastic Board of Directors at Bedford Blues, both with a strategic mindset to navigate the choppy waters ahead and to safeguard this club for the town and supporters. We also have a very strong group of staff to deliver it and employees who deeply care about our fantastic club.
The unclear picture facing the staff, especially the playing group, is a difficult one with no scheduled return to rugby and a dramatically changed financial landscape. These are young people, invested fully in our sport, managing their emotional wellbeing has and continues to be a challenge, but we are committed to supporting them through this period.
The Club was in a strong position before this crisis – with manageable debt, a supportive Board and five successive years of really promising commercial growth thanks to our superb sponsors and supporters of the Blues.
We still do not have a start date for the Championship and as such we feel it would be naïve to offer supporters the opportunity to purchase Season Tickets, either for an unknown delay to the 2020/21 campaign, a season behind-closed-doors, or worse still no season at all!
Everyone at the Club has been heartened and indeed boosted by the support of our loyal #BluesFamily, as soon as the picture becomes clearer we will need your support more than ever.
As displayed through the Blues Beer Garden and Oktoberfest celebrations, we can certainly run socially distanced events at Goldington Road and we believe that we can operate in a safe and secure manner within the restrictions on a match day. Rest assured; we will welcome you back whenever allowed.
I thank you again for your incredible support and the patience you have demonstrated through the pandemic. However, I must also ask you for more of the same; this is an evolving situation with lots of uncertainty, and one which requires informed and considered decisions. Whatever decisions are needing to be made, the Board will take in the best interest of the future of the club.
Hopefully, the next few weeks will offer more clarity when it comes to our operational plans for next season and, as always, we’ll look to maintain regular communication through our regular channels.
Bedford Blues Chief Operating Officer
On behalf of the Bedford Blues Ltd Board of Directors