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CHIEF EXECUTIVE: We're a very lean ship

Nigel Clibbens on the furlough scheme and on protecting jobs

25 February 2021

The extended periods of lockdown and behind closed doors fixtures have left many of the club’s staff working from home, with the government furlough scheme providing a welcome financial lift for the club through what have been some very tough times.

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Chief executive Nigel Clibbens explained this week how the scheme had been utilised.

“If we look back to when the pandemic started, and through that first period leading up to November, we paid everybody in full, on time, and nobody has left the club for cost reasons,” he explained. “We’re a very lean ship, as you know, so that kind of option of cutting costs by losing staff is just not there, we’re right down to the bone as it is.

“When we got to November and it looked like we needed to have a rethink for the rest of the year, that was quickly followed by another lockdown in January. We reviewed things and we knew that we could no longer give everybody a 100% amount of their wage.

“We had to reduce that to 80%, so some people have been getting that during the furlough period. That was a really tough decision to make but it’s continuing at the moment. It is difficult with things like that, but we think we can get through this, we’re reasonably comfortable and we’re just going to keep going.”

On the football side of the business, he added: “What we decided right from the start with that side of things was that to ensure we were competitive on the field, and remembering that we are a football club that’s trying to progress, we acknowledged that we needed to absorb as much pain as we could away from that area.

“That’s just the reality of running a football club. We did that, so in terms of our spending there’s been no coronavirus impact on our normal spending plans. It’s been known for a long time that we’ve had to cut back and be cautious, and that has stood us in good stead.

“We’ve managed to keep the pain away from the football side as much as possible, and we’ve even been able to do new deals for players. We’ve also done extensions for other players, staff and Chris [Beech], so that kind of spending is not going down.”

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And on when the use of the furlough scheme might end, he commented: “We kind of look at it every week. The driving factor behind furlough has been the lockdown of the club’s activities more than the need to maximise claims.

“Obviously you want to claim everything that you’re due and not a penny more. The fact of the matter is we’re closed for retail, simply because we’re non-essential retail, so we need to fund the people who would normally work in that department.

“Similarly commercial, that’s locked down because people haven’t got much to spend. In the academy, ages under-9 to under-15, that got closed down, so it’s right that they’re furloughed because they’ve got no work to do.

“When people have no work to do, they continue to do things and work very hard in difficult circumstances. People like the media team probably have more pressure on them this time because of the squeezed games.

“It’s different for individuals, which makes the situation even more difficult as a whole, because what you end up with is some people who are having to go the extra mile, and then some people might be sat at home wondering about the future.

“Then two weeks later the rules change and we’re saying come back, we now want to open the shop and let’s get ready for another kit, so give us everything you’ve got. It’s really difficult and hard on the staff, and we just try and be as supportive as we can, and protect jobs.” 

“And with that protection, the way the club is structured is that we are a very lean operation,” he concluded. “We have a very flexible workforce who will turn their hands to many things, as well as their core job.

“We haven’t got a raft of people to reorganise around here. We run a very lean ship. If we want to continue to prosper as a football club we need to be retaining our people and investing in them, and investing in the club for the longer-term.

“That means riding out the short-term, so we’re not getting longer-term damage by making short-term decisions.”

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