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CHIEF EXECUTIVE: So much is still up in the air

A further update from chief executive Nigel Clibbens

27 June 2020

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens explained once again the difficulty facing the club when it comes to planning ahead with so much remaining unclear about how and when the new season will kick off.

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“It is a really strange situation, we can’t get away from that,” he said. “The reality for us is that you can do a certain amount of general planning, but you can’t round any of it off with the detail it needs.

“The risk is that you spend a lot of time doing things that ultimately prove to be a waste of time. We’ve been very cautious about that, because not only do we not know what the fixtures look like, there’s also still a chance that we’ll end up with 25 teams in our division.

“We don’t know for certain who the 24 teams are or, if the National League takes place or not next season, whether Stevenage come back on that condition.

“So much is up in the air and there have been no new developments on any of it since my last update. That means we still don’t know when the transfer window will open, or how long it will last, we don’t know the revised fixture release date and we don’t know when the season will start, or how many teams we’ll face.”

“Also to be factored in is that we don’t know when the rules on SCMP will be clarified, or if there’ll be a cap on the number of players you can have in your squad,” he continued. “That means you can’t work out how much you can spend, or when you can spend it, so you can imagine how difficult that makes things for the manager and the director of football.

“With all of this continued uncertainty we can’t even really apply a best-guess scenario. Just 24-hours before doing this interview we had a 2-metre rule, now it’s a 1-metre plus 1 rule. Who knows how long that will last? Will it change before we play our first game?

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“An example of how much things can change is that everybody is currently looking at what the practicalities are of having spectators in the stadium, whilst social distancing. As more and more restrictions are lifted it causes more confusion, and people are starting to ask questions about the levels of consistency in the rules.

“People are making jokes about the fact that one interpretation of a rule is that they can’t hug their gran at home, but they can sit beside her on a rollercoaster at Alton Towers. It’s that inconsistency which is coming under scrutiny. Another example is that you can sit inside a pub from 4 July, but you can’t stand outside at Brunton Park and watch a game.

“Clearly, at our ground, with such a massive terrace capacity, we’ve got scope to have fans in and socially distance them at the same time. We can be quite creative with how we do it, and if you put masks with that you see that we can realistically provide a decent environment with a much lower risk than a lot of the places which are about to be allowed to open.

“I’m sure discussions around these issues will mean that by the time we get to playing our first game things will look a lot different again.”

“The games which have been on TV have shown us that different clubs right now are seeing things differently,” he commented. “I saw one clip where a director of football was sat on his own, a good 20-yards away from the next person, and he had a mask on.

“The very next live game showed a director in the stand who was sat within 2-metres of somebody else and there was no mask in sight. Which one is it to be? The very first directive that came our way talked about social distancing on the pitch side benches, but with the number of subs and staff that would have meant a bench that went the length of both halves of the pitch, so that both sides could accommodate everybody.

“All of a sudden we’re seeing people elbow tapping and even hugging after goals, and at the final whistle, and that shows how difficult it is to put a rule in place and to write a rulebook based on how people behave in highly charged sporting situations such as these.”

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One of the 24 or 25 clubs the Blues will face is Barrow, with the prospect of a local derby already causing excitement following the confirmation of their National League title-winning season.

“We celebrated their success and everyone I’ve spoken to within the club right through the season has been genuinely excited about the prospect of Barrow coming up,” he said. “It’s great for them and for their community, and we’re looking forward to the games against them.

“A lot of people who don’t know Cumbria have mentioned how pleased we must be at the prospect of a short journey, and they’re actually surprised when you explain how long it takes to get there.

“Having said that, it is a relatively short trip and it’s going to be good to play them. They were the best team in that division and any other outcome would have been wrong, so congratulations to them.”

And his final word was for the #SaveOurStan campaign, which has captured the imagination of the Cumbrian public with a £500,000 target set to help Stan to get the lifesaving treatment he needs.

“I got an email and a text asking if we could help, and things have snowballed pretty quickly from there,” he told us. “The whole community has got behind this little lad’s cause and it’s been good to see our players doing their videos and giving their support.

“They’re almost at the point where they’ve raised £200,000, and that’s excellent progress in such a short space of time. Our message from the club is clear, if you can help with a donation, however big or small, please do.

“When you see something like this you always look at your own family, and you can’t imagine what it would be like to be fighting something like this. Stan needs our help and if we at the club can give that, even in the small way we are at the moment, that can only be good for him.

“The aim for us has to be to see Stan fit and well and here with us at Brunton Park to give a wave to everybody at some point in the very near future. How great would that be!”


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