Coventry City chief executive Dave Boddy has revealed the cost of the coronavirus on the club so far and spoken of his fears for smaller clubs if fans aren’t allowed back any time soon.
The Sky Blues ’ CEO has given assurances to supporters that the club are “coping” at the moment but admits the long-term damage for all forms of top level sport could be catastrophic the longer the pandemic drags on.
“The lost income from the last time we had a home fixture with fans, which I believe was the Sunderland game on March 1, to now is lost and gone forever,” he said, speaking to CoventryLive.
“On top of that there are costs of implementing the testing regime, which is not cheap and worked out at £6,500 to date since the initial testing in pre-season, and all the PPE and preventative measures we have had to implement have been very expensive.
“So having no match income and those costs I would say it’s well in excess of the initial figures (£300,000-£400,000) the Peterborough chairman quotes shortly after the lockdown.
“I would say what we will have lost, in terms of income, will be somewhere near £1million to date.
“We are managing OK but the longer it goes on for all sports in general, with no spectators, the worse it will get.”
City have sold out their allocation of 3,500 Championship club memberships, so how significant have they been to the club?
“That’s helped,” he said.
“The cost of memberships has been reduced to where season tickets would have been but that’s been driven by the uncertainty of not knowing when we’d have spectators back in.
“We’d hoped it was going to be October 1, so initially we’d targeted Friday’s Bournemouth game as being the first game to have spectators back.
“But then through SAG (Safety Advisory Group) meetings it became clear that that wouldn’t be possible and then, prior to the latest wave of lockdowns in the country, we were looking at the Blackburn game on October 24. But now, who knows? We just don’t know.”
There has been talk that fans may not be back for another six months.
Asked if he fears it could be that bad, Boddy said: “I don’t know but I don’t think it will be this side of Christmas and we have prudently budgeted to have no spectators this side of Christmas and for the remainder of 2020.
“So we have been prudent in that case but it remains to be seen what will happen in the New Year.”
As for whether he feels the club are currently coping, he added: “We are at the moment but the longer it goes on the whole of football and the sporting world is going to struggle if the situation carries on.
“We have heard from Stephen Vaughan, CEO at Wasps and what their position is and the general position of Rugby Union, and there’s uncertainty whether they will start their season.
“There’s talk of League One and Two being mothballed for the season and the National League not starting, so the implications are unknown but could be, in the long term, catastrophic for sport.”
It appears that clubs with relatively wealthy owners are in the strongest position.
“Absolutely, and that’s why the Championship will cope,” said Boddy, who said Sisu continue to fully support the club.
“But at League One and Two level and below they will probably struggle in general.
“So it will be down to the backing of owners if the situation continues in the long term.”
Asked how much shirt sales helped, he said: “It’s all part of the day to day budgeting. You can’t run things on fresh air.
“Yes it all helps but that’s part of the budgeting process and what we were expecting. So it’s not new money, it’s part of the budget.
“It’s money that’s already been budgeted for.”
The cash rich Premier League has been criticised in some quarters, including from the Government, for not doing enough, but Boddy feels that’s unfair.
“The Premier League forward funded our solidarity payments for this year, so they have paid that early, as they did, I believe, when the crisis first hit,” he said.
“I know the EFL are talking to the Premier League on a day to day basis in terms of other support but, for me, the Premier League haven’t got a bottomless pit either.
“They have got their own issues.
“I read in the national press that the Government are pointing the finger at the Premier League but as I said, they haven’t got a bottomless pit.
“The longer we go on without spectators, the more acute the problem will be and that applies to sport across the country.”
So given the size of stadiums and limited numbers that were going to be allowed in, does Boddy think there should be a way to get supporters in safely?
“That’s the argument in football and with top level sport in general. We have the ability to do it safely.
“The catastrophic view applies to the long term view of having no fans. But that’s going to be the same in all business, not just sport.”