United became the first club to stage a Covid-19 test game for a league fixture on Saturday and chief executive Nigel Clibbens today praised the staff and fans for their efforts in making it a hugely successful event.
He said: “Saturday was a landmark day for us, particularly with the early kick off. To be the first professional club in England to welcome fans back at a league match was a remarkable achievement for us all.
“The feedback we’ve had from fans has been really positive and helpful. We will now review everything and use those comments and observations to make adjustments for the next time we’re allowed to have fans in the stadium.
“There will also be a formal process to get feedback directly from fans, more details on this to be announced soon.
“It goes without saying that we all hope that fans will be with us again for the Barrow game, but we must await further guidance on whether or not that will be the case.”
“The comments and observations from the SGSA representative and chairman of our Safety Advisory Group [SAG] before and after the game were all positive and complimentary. We have started an internal review and debrief process here at the club to go along with that.
“To see so many familiar faces back, happy and looking forward to the game was very special. You could see and feel the joy of being back.
“For those fans who are still waiting to be able to come to games, I’m sure they will feel even more anticipation at being able to do so following Saturday’s game.”
On the work done to get the stadium ready for the fixture, he added: “The back-office administration and operations at a club rarely gets noticed unless something goes wrong, or somebody wants something.
“And yet the smooth running of this side of things is critical to a club. If you are fragile in those areas it means that when adversity comes the risk is very high and the damage can be great, and that is then felt by the whole club. You are constantly close to real harm and you may not know that until it emerges.
“Again, and as I have said many times, because of the uncertainty, volatility and complexity and large number of unknowns it’s not always easy to judge things in football. That’s why I am a strong believer that real knowledge, skills and attributes in football are best seen in adversity, when it is actions and not talk that matter.
“You can see in times like these that having good people who know what they are doing and who will make good decisions always pays off.
“I think that the manner in which Carlisle United has handled the whole Covid-19 crisis shows that even those clubs who are further down the football pyramid can set an example.”
“We had a very clear and thorough understanding of how we would organise the pilot game, and even how we would conduct games with much bigger socially distanced crowds, whenever we were given the go ahead for them to take place.
“Hence I was very confident we could stage it successfully because so much of the planning and preparatory work had already been done.
“Having said that, it certainly wasn’t envisaged that we would have to put it all into practice at such short notice. This was another example of how much the uncertainty around the countrywide situation can affect everything we do.
“The fact that we could implement our policies and procedures and do it smoothly, without any major issues, reflects the thought that went into it and how well the staff here know their jobs. It also demonstrates their flexibility and ability to do whatever is required, and shows that they can do their jobs well under pressure.”
“Something else I have said before, but it’s important to say it again, is that the make-up of the club behind the scenes, away from the football and academy, is often forgotten,” he told us.
“It’s a very small and very tight operation that only works because the people know their jobs inside-out, with good ways of working that lead to the correct decisions being made.
“Even then it’s inevitable with that model that problems can still happen, as we see from time to time. What we have here is a very level-headed group who do their best to resolve those issues as quickly as possible.
“In our ticket office, Louise [Banks] is our only full-time person and, with two part-time staff and a relatively simple IT, we knew that selling a thousand tickets in three days, at the same time as taking season ticket payments, was always going to be difficult.
“That meant that other staff from other departments had to step in to help the excellent work that small number of ticket staff were already doing.
“With the stadium to get ready for a most unique set of circumstances, We have Dave Mitchell cutting and preparing pitches full-time from dawn to dusk anyway, and our other stadium colleague is cleaning and repairing the stadium almost on a full-time basis.
“The reality of that means that there was significant additional work to be done, and that was a challenge.
“From a safety point of view, we have a part-time safety officer and two other part-time people who do all of the health and safety compliance work (but combined it’s not even equivalent to one full-time person).
“Fans will have seen me refer to the huge extra workload that Covid-19 compliance for both the EFL and the government has brought, in addition to the normal compliance requirements we have been dealing with.
“That means that the only way we can complete a task like getting the Southend game on is if the other half-dozen staff in the back office all step up and work together. That’s exactly what they did.”
“I wanted fans involved throughout, and honest engagement with CUSG and the wider fan base through ongoing communication and social media activity has been vital,” he said. “The success of our communications was a big factor in terms of making Saturday a success overall.
“The fans took on the information and were terrific, which makes things much more straightforward.”
“I would like also to thank Borderbrite for their cleaning support and the CUOSC volunteers who helped with signage,” he told us. “Thanks also goes to Carlisle Scaffolding for the dugouts and Carlisle Glass and Pioneer Food Distribution, who all played their part in helping us to get ready.
“We then had CUOSC board member Jack Oddie who helped us with a series of pre-recorded official Covid-19 announcements, which was backed up by Kyle Brown, our tannoy announcer, who also helped to reinforce the important messages we had.
“When you put all of that together, it has been a magnificent effort from everybody. I have explained about the importance of ‘working together’ and Saturday was a glowing example of what that approach can achieve.
“I am so proud of all involved and proud to have been part of it.”
We'll have more from the chief exec on the official website later this evening.