Having looked at the impact and implications of the Covid-19 pandemic in a wider sense, co-owner John Nixon focused with us on Tuesday afternoon on where Carlisle United Football Club is as we currently face up to six more months without fans inside Brunton Park.
“We’re in the same position as any other League Two club, we need cash,” he said. “Our situation, because of the fact we kicked that can down the road, is as good as any other, and we’re on the back of one of the best financial years we’ve had in the last eight or nine years.
“I haven’t seen the audited figures yet, but I think it’s going to be a reasonable year because of things that happened before Covid. Once in a while you do get lucky.”
And on the commercial agreement with EWM, he told us: “EWM have been good to us, they’ve invested money when we needed it three or four years ago, and they’ve been there ever since.
“If anything was to change on that I’ve got an assurance, and I fully trust them, that we would get to hear of anything that might have an impact on us first, so we can be prepared.
“It’s a difficult world in retail, but it’s a difficult world for a lot of people, especially owners in League One and Two.
“With EWM, they’ve never withdrawn any support or said to us ‘look, this is getting difficult’. They’re on full circulation and have asked for our cash flows, just in the last week of us saying that we need to assume nobody is coming back into the ground until March.
“They’re right on the ball and that information is being put together now. They’re getting the worst-case scenario, they’ve asked for that. By implication that indicates that they’re saying – ‘let us know how bad it’s going to be’. Once they’ve got that I think the conversations will take place. We’re doing that at present.
“The process of succession is still where it was. It hasn’t advanced, but it hasn’t gone back. What Covid has done is it’s closed offices in Castle Street, and documentation, whatever we were trying to do, was all locked at that point in time.
“I would suggest they’ve got bigger issues to deal with than this. It’s just gone onto ice. But nobody’s said let’s withdraw, or change it, or let’s have a rethink. We’re all in exactly the same position. It sounds a bit woolly, but we’re in the no-news-is-good-news game here.
“I appreciate that their business at this point in time, and retail, and I have read the reports in the Times, they’re perfectly right – the clientele, 60+, tourism, they must be really hurting.
“But they’re no different to a lot of businesses in a lot of other clubs. You’re looking at people and they don’t have the same money coming in, so the clubs are suffering.”
When United signed new players over the summer, there was talk of ‘Covid protection clauses’ being introduced to cover the possibility of a return to lockdown and another shutdown for all major sporting events.
“I think the club included something like that, but I can’t speak for Nigel [Clibbens],” he said. “But at the end of every footballer’s contract, all clubs were told in the summer months, you can put variations into the terms and conditions.
“You’ve got to stick to the standard contract, but you can put in terms and conditions that if you have to stop because of Covid, then your salary will go down by 50%.
“There are things you can add on, and it’s been put to the PFA, they are aware of it and their legal people are. I’m pretty certain that some of ours have got terms and conditions in.
“If we’re not playing because of Covid, your wage is that, and if we are, your wage is that. But you’d need to ask Nigel to confirm that.”
And looking once more at the wider game, he spoke again about the need for action as the clock begins to tick ever louder.
“I think we’ve got a window in October to do something, which is the last window, that’s my honest opinion,” he said. “October is the critical month. That’s when the second part of the Premier League money comes in.
“That will get everyone through October. Those who are at the edge are going to fall off if they have nothing at the end of October. That’s the way I see it and why I think it’s imperative that a solution is found quickly.
“I can only say that I am absolutely involved and aware that the Football League are looking at different ways of trying to get finance in, and actively working on it – not just thinking about it. So that’s good.
“And I know we will have a solution. Have I got confidence - if you are to ask me will we have something, I think the answer is going to be yes, because we all want to see English football survive and the pyramid survive.
“Is it going to be the best solution and the right solution - because of the timescale the answer to that is probably no. And the nearer you get to the edge, the worse you get in terms of solutions you dare to take. But I’m pretty certain there will be a solution of some kind.
“Football is a key sport in this country, it’s a key community sport. If you start to break up communities, and the focus on things local, it’s the thing that gets them through - listening on a Saturday or whatever it is, following the results, reading the paper, that’s their focus, it gives them something. It’s absolutely vital.
“I think Oliver Dowden recognises that. Can Government help us out? I think they could. I don’t think they would put in loans, I’ve got to be honest. I just don’t think you can help out every industry. We’re not like an industry that’s making product to sell that’s vital.
“But there might be other ways in which they help, maybe they can guarantee loans, 0% and things like that, I don’t know. I don’t see them giving us a simple handout at all.
“I do share the view that the season must continue and be completed, but I think we need to remain relevant. I think if we had to go into lockdown and shut down again, I fear that the Armageddon I spoke about - some of the clubs near the edge wouldn’t come back again.
“Then you really are looking at the 72 and how many are left. We just need to keep playing football and emerge from this crisis stronger. It then comes back to the question, are we going to get some cash?
“The answer is we have to get some cash. If we want to stop that fear becoming reality, we have to get cash.”