Hi everyone and welcome to the latest board update. We hope that you, your families and friends are all well and staying safe in these uncertain times.
It’s been a testing time for us as a board, not least in mastering the art of new technology to conduct our business via video conferencing. It’s certainly proved challenging for some and Pete Jarvis has yet to learn how to mute his microphone, so we suffer the background noise of constant kettle brewing to feed his tea habit!
Key issues for us are:
Liaison with the RFL
As reported previously Neil Hampshire has been participating in the regular RFL Video conferences on behalf of the club to represent our interests. There has been some scenario planning ongoing in terms of re-starting the season but of course nothing can be confirmed until we know, first of all, when the lockdown will end and when events will be allowed to re-start. As an example you may have noticed that France has announced a provisional end to their lockdown on 11 May but have also said they would not consider holding any “events”, sporting or otherwise, until mid–July at the earliest. That’s the kind of uncertainty we are likely to face even when the UK lockdown ends and things appear to be getting back to normal. Both Neil and Head Coach Gary Thornton have been leading the club’s response to the RFL, fully liaising with the board. We, along with other Championship and League 1 clubs, have made it clear that reconvening the season behind closed doors would put us under severe financial pressure, and the RFL is sympathetic to that point of view.
You will have seen in the press that the RFL has also bid for funding from the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) and Ralph Rimmer remains hopeful of a positive response. Obviously the terms of that bid are sensitive and have not been shared with clubs but we will keep you updated as and when we are in a position to do so.
This is obviously of paramount importance to us. All businesses will face a difficult future once the crisis is over and we are no different. There are several key elements in our planning:
1. Financial Forecasts
Director Phil Hodgson and Peter Todd have worked tirelessly to get the finances in order and the forecast is updated regularly, so that the board has the most up to date information when it convenes. As you can imagine this is no easy feat given we need different forecasts for each scenario we are working on with the RFL, and we are very grateful to Phil and Peter for their efforts.
As chairman Kenny Sykes has said previously, our pro-active approach in driving new members prior to Christmas has been essential in putting us in a good position to pull through this challenge. We are still confident of survival but it won’t be a stroll in the park, and the continued, generous support of our members and supporters will be critical.
2. Furlough and CJRS
You will have seen from a previous update that we have put all players and staff on furlough leave, allowing the club to make a claim under the CJRS (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme). We are in line with all RFL clubs in taking this approach and Phil has been liaising with our accountant to ensure our claim is correct. Both Neil and Damian Irvine have been crucial in understanding and interpreting the complex legislation in the various Government Business Support schemes, and we would again thank all players and staff for their positive attitude and understanding of our position in agreeing to furlough terms.
There isn’t a lot of positive news on this front, we’re afraid, as businesses begin to feel the economic impact of Covid-19.
* Clipper – Our sponsorship with Clipper will end after this season. We would like to place on record our wholehearted thanks to Steve Parkin and his team for their terrific support for the club over the last three years. It has been an honour and a privilege to be associated with such an excellent organisation. We wish them continued success and they are more than welcome at the South Leeds Stadium at any time in the future.
* Alpine – Our sponsorship with Alpine has also ended with immediate effect. Unfortunately, Alpine have entered into administration and are no longer trading. We thank them for their support; our sympathies are with them and their employees as they try to resolve their financial issues.
* Bartletts – We remain grateful for the continued support of Bartletts and hope that they continue to work with us in the future.
As you can imagine, new sponsorship is going to be incredibly hard to source in the current climate and to that end if anyone is, or knows of any parties who may be, interested then please let us know via director Phil Hodgson (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Pete Jarvis has been working hard, ably supported by Jane Hopkins, to manage our stock and return unused kegs to our suppliers ensuring the return of funds into our coffers. His pro–active approach has helped address a real problem area for us. We are grateful to them both.
We hope you have been enjoying the heritage matches, quizzes and player updates we have been providing on our website, Facebook, Twitter and Hunslet TV and thanks to Gareth Evans, Paul Johnson and Scott Johnson for their support here. We are aware that this may prove a source of untapped income for us and we are looking to test a paywall approach that would allow the club to gain income, fans to access heritage games and, possibly, stream current games (if not live then shortly afterwards, dependent on broadcast rights). Ian Johnson and Phil are looking into this for us and will update further in due course.
6. Memories Club
Many of you will also know that we have had to cancel the Friday Memories Club. It would be great if we could make Fridays a “memory” day on the website with some of you sharing your Hunslet stories from the past. Please email them in to our press officer: email@example.com.
This is, without doubt, the most important issue for us and is absolutely crucial to our future survival.
We fully recognise the financial pressures many of you will be under and completely understand if some of you feel you can no longer commit to monthly payments. It’s important that you look after yourselves and your families in the first instance.
If that is the case then we thank you for your support thus far and still hope to see you at games once the season recommences. Where people can continue, again, we thank you for your support and we remain immensely grateful for your continuing subscriptions. We are currently undertaking a review of the various membership packages and benefits and we will come out with further information soon.
8. Season Tickets
Some of our fans simply purchase season tickets rather than membership packages and again we are grateful for your support. Obviously, as previously advised, the season tickets remain fully valid as and when the season re-commences.
Whilst the lottery has also been suspended due to the lack of practicalities around agent collections, where people can still make payments electronically that would still help this element of the club’s income.
10. Christmas Lunch
Plans continue for this year’s lunch, to be held on Friday 11 December at Headingley. Once again Jarvo is being ably supported by Alan Stephenson, (thankfully recovering well after recent open heart surgery) and letters to last year’s attendees, together with announcements on our website, will follow shortly. This is another way to help support the club going forward.
As you will know we suspended this year’s elections due to Covid-19. Under the circumstances the board is considering postponing this for a full twelve-month period through to March 2021. This will allow the board to concentrate their attentions fully on handling the various issues outlined. If any member has any significant objection to this could you please let us know and we will be happy to re-consider.
In the meantime if anyone is interested in helping out or getting involved in any capacity can they first of all contact Peter Todd with details? firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no doubt that these are unique and trying times for everyone and there is no past experience we can learn from. A constant question on the various RL Forums is “Will the season be abandoned?” The real answer is that no one knows. The RFL are working incredibly hard to get things up and running again and we, and other clubs, are supporting them in the best way we can. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that we will not play again this season. That is not a comment from a position of knowledge but more a pragmatic realism given what we are seeing and hearing daily from a variety of Government sources. They are already openly discussing a phased return to normality and no doubt “events” (the heading under which sport appears to sit) will be towards the back of that approach. We are not looking to set any hares running here but we feel it is important to manage expectations. If that situation does materialise then we will come back out with further proposals regarding 2020 season tickets.
Rugby League, in fact society as a whole, is facing great uncertainty and financial hurdles, and Hunslet RLFC is of course not immune from this.
The club, though, has a long, proud and probably unmatched history of overcoming major challenges – often, crucially, through the support of its fan-base and of the wider South Leeds community.
Hunslet, famously, became known as the `jam-jar club’ in the 1940s when local people backed us with cash raised through that means.
In 1973, the club was quickly reformed as New Hunslet following the sale of Parkside. And many clubs would have sunk without trace when we were denied entry to Super League in 1999. Not, however, Hunslet.
Only last winter, supporters acted swiftly and positively to the clarion call to overcome a cash-flow issue. Steps taken then are certainly standing Hunslet RLFC in good stead right now.
And, going back into the mists of time, the launch of the Northern Union in 1895 was important to our survival as the Rugby Football Union had closed Parkside because of alleged problems involving some occasionally over-enthusiastic supporters, many of whom had helped build the Parkside stadium some seven years earlier.
Hunslet’s fans remain as vocal and supportive as ever, while showing more self-restraint than some of their forebears did 125 years ago. That the club is in existence at all is largely because of that unwavering backing, stretching back nearly a century-and-a-half.
We are confident that support will continue, on and off the field, in the testing days ahead. It’s important that collectively we do everything we can to ensure that our great club survives and lives up to our motto “And so we shall again”.
Chairman Kenny Sykes and the board of directors