Coronavirus Crisis: The reality is that no business can continue forever without an income, at some stage the money is going to run out, warns Glebe owner Rocky McMillan

Tuesday 17th March 2020

GLEBE chairman Rocky McMillan says he feels sad and devasted and feels like he’s had his right arm cut off after the football season was suspended by The Prime Minster Boris Johnson and The Football Association last night.

The Chislehurst-based club were due to play league leaders Beckenham Town in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division tonight, which would have brought in a crowd of at least 150 people, but doors to the Foxbury Avenue club have been slammed shut and club’s up and down the country at all levels of the game now face financial ruin due to the crippling evil coronavirus.

The Premier League, English Football League and Isthmian League announced that they were suspending their seasons on Friday but the National League, Southern Counties East Football League and Kent County League continued for one further game before a total shutdown was announced last night after the Prime Minister addressed the nation.

First Division side Rusthall attracted their largest crowd of the season when 296 watched their 2-2 draw against Forest Hill Park at Jockey Farm Stadium last Saturday.

But Monday 16 March 2020 will go down as the darkest and saddest ever day in English football as this unprecedented situation has put the heartbeat of the game at huge financial risk.

“I thought it was inevitable,” said McMillan, the founder and owner of Glebe.

“I thought it was coming. We prepared for it all along, if you look at the government warnings.

“I can’t understand for the life of me why the suspension wasn’t done at the end of the week, this has been coming for several weeks.

“I think the time scale until the end of March or April is just to give people a bit of time.

“At Glebe, we think this is the end of the season. When you talk about the government, it’s (coronavirus outbreak) going to last weeks or months, nothing’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks.

“I think at our level of football, I think the season is going to be cancelled. We’re gearing up that we’re not going to be back until pre-season.”

Glebe are a club with non-contracted footballers but McMillan has had to tell his staff off-the-pitch that there is no work for them during this crisis.

“Immediately last night I had to release seven staff that work in and around the club,” he said.

“Obviously we’re not getting people through the doors so the bar staff, kitchen staff and cleaning staff, if you’re not no revenue coming in, we’ve still got bills to pay, we’ve still got rent on the property, utilities.

“There is cash flow within the club for a rainy day account but that’s not to stretch for three or four months!

“I think the most prudent thing to do now is to cut our costs as much and quickly as we can and work on a basis that there’s no revenue.

“At Glebe we’re a little bit lucky that we’ve got flats at the club and we are a prosperous club but it’s not going to last forever so it is a very, very serious situation.”

McMillan claims the Southern Counties East Football League – which is not run by full-time staff - were hung out to dry by The Football Association.

“To be fair to the Sothern Counties East Football League, I think the League’s were really hung out to dry by The FA,” said McMillan.

“I had a situation with the League whereby when we asked them to extend the league before this happened and when they asked The FA, they came back with a big blunt NO!

“The FA have really hung our volunteers out to dry. These guys are giving their time to clubs and it put them in a difficult situation.

“I think The FA have now began to take hold of the directive with no football down to grassroots but I’ll be sending an email out to all of my members today saying the club is in lockdown until further notice.

“I’ve got no problem saying our costs are eight or nine thousand pounds a month to run, that’s just on basics.

“Our players are only on expenses so unfortunately they will suffer from day one as expenses will be stopped from day one.

“We’ll be getting the players in one-on-one just to speaking to the players and telling them we’ll get them back as soon as possible but we have to follow the government health guidelines and tell players we think that’s the end of the season and we’d like you to come back at pre-season, or you’re not going to be invited back to pre-season.

“I cannot see how our level can get going again!”

Glebe and every other club up and down the country at every level from League One right down to the tenth-tier of English football need financial support from the Premier League and the Television companies.

McMillian said: “I think yes is the answer but I think the first thing the Premier League and the EFL, they’re going to be so pre-occupied with their own competitions and resolving their own competitions, I’m not too sure in the short-term if they’re going to be interested in grassroots football.

“It will, of course, be very, very helpful if the government give us help in freezing business rates and utility bills or giving us some kind of cash incentive.

“Here at Glebe we’re on top of our affairs as a Chartered Standard Community Club. We’ve got 300-350 kids here every week and we want to continue after 25 years.

“The reality is that no business can continue forever without an income. At some stage the money is going to run out!

“If you listen to the Prime Minister yesterday, although it’s not a rule, the Prime Minister has turned round in front of the chief medical offer and said ‘look please stay away from pubs, clubs, theatres and anywhere where there’s a close social gathering,’

“Of course, we would like the revenue to come into the club but I think it will be totally wrong for me as the owner of the club to bring people into the club and there is a health risk going against medical advice.

“We’re in unchartered waters here. I’m down the ground now and we’ve been waiting for the last two months for the rains to stop. We’ve got an absolute beautiful day and the pitch is looking wonderful for our game against Beckenham tonight, which has been postponed.  The forecast is great for the next few days. It is enough to make you cry to be perfectly honest mate.  It’s been the worst winters for rain and just as we come out of that we go into this!

“Where it takes us, I’m not too sure. It is going to be tough and what is factual there’s bound to be business fatalities. I think there’s going to be football fatalities because I’m sure there’s club’s worse off than us.

“I’ve already agreed a webcam conference call with six of my executive committee members today where we’ll be going through sums and the first thing is to cut unnecessary spending, which sounds simple.  Will it be £300-400 per month for cleaning, put in a new boiler? We wanted to put a new a new stand in the summer, that’s going to be put on hold until next summer now.

“Anything that is absolutely necessary has been stopped and there’s no one taking a wage from the club but of course we’ve got a 20-year lease left on here and it costs a lot of money.

“We’ve got one of the most beautiful club’s in the league in my opinion and a lot of other people say that and that needs to be maintained and our groundsman will have to be put on restricted hours as well to correspond with less play as well.

“It hurts me, it really hurts me when you turn round to staff that have been with me for four or five years’ and I tell them ‘I can’t give you any work at the moment!’

“But what can I do? What can Glebe do? What can any club do? Every club up and down the country will be in the same situation.

“If it’s not coming in one end, it cannot come out the other end.

“We’ve literally been told overnight we’ve got to close, maybe not legally, but as a community club I’d rather…I’ve been on Twitter last night and a lot of people are complaining about the government not compulsory closing clubs as they can claim a loss of revenue and claim on insurance.

“The Prime Minister being flanked by the brightest scientists in the country saying you can’t go to clubs, pubs and theatres. That’s a pretty firm warning so in theory I can open up the doors but I think it will be socially and morally wrong but I don’t think I’ll get any customers.

“We are closed, we are literally closed. I’ve got thousands and thousands pounds of beer down the back that will go to waste.

“It hits you from day one, it absolutely hits you from day one!

“If you look at the scientists they are looking at six to 12 weeks so we have to reach a situation whereby everyone understands that this is the end of the season, that’s my view, it just depends on when the authorities catch up with it.

“At our level and every other level in the nation you’ve got to work out if you have promotion and relegation and how you administer them.  I think they’ve got a big decision on their hands.

“In our own league you’ve got Beckenham that have been at the top of the league since it started and you’ve got Corinthian on a better points-per-game basis in second-place.

“Corinthian benefit by losing one point when Greenwich Borough pulled out whereas Beckenham lost three points and Glebe lost six points but we can’t go up and we can’t go down so now you’ve got Corinthian on a better points-per-game basis.

“If they do it on a points-per-game basis then Corinthian will automatically go up and that would be extremely harsh on Beckenham but likewise if you do it on a points basis where Beckenham are in charge at the moment but Corinthian have every right to turn round and say ‘we’ve been penalised for having a spectacular good run in the FA’s third competition in the FA Vase’ where they’ve lost six or so Saturday’s for having a FA Vase run so why be penalised in doing well in your pristine competition?

“It’s extremely sad, I really feel devastated, I feel sad. I think were in a situation where we’ve never been so I’m not too sure what thoughts to have but like everything else in life we have to sit down and face everything that’s being thrown at us.

“One thing I will guarantee is Glebe Football Club will be here next year whether it’s on a reduced budget or no budget, the first team will be here. The Football Club will be here, whether we’ll be in the same shape or form, I’m not sure.

“Who knows when the turnstiles will be open and revenue coming back into the club but I think one thing for sure is we cannot underestimate the complete seriousness that we find ourselves at the moment.

“I put on Twitter last night club’s have to bound together and if someone finds a fundraising idea I’d pretty much like to hear about it! I don’t want to nick their ideas but if we find something that we can get some revenue through, I’m not talking about opening the bars but using the grounds. 

“I’ll be making 20-25 phone calls to garages and franchises asking them if they’ve got any cars and they can use the grounds to store their cars.

“There are ways but we have to create income that’s not people-based.”

There is a scene of total devastation around football circles  –it feels like something has been taken away from you, like a loss of a family member.

McMillan agreed, saying: “Absolutely, absolutely, if that’s been taken away from you, it’s like having your right arm cut off!

“As chairman and owner of the club I can’t continue to feel sorry for myself or the football club.

“I have to look immediately how I can bring a revenue stream into my football club. I thought about it overnight and we have to use the facilities that we’ve got – car parking for garages that have overspill. We’ve been asked a few times and I’ve always turned it down but I’ve got 10 acres of land here and it’s not being used!

“You have to come up with ideas that don’t involve club members coming to the club or coming through the turnstiles. This is where the business side of clubs come in.

“I’m extremely lucky on my executive committee that people have been picked from their success in business and we’ve got a variety of businesses that are represented on the executive committee so I’ll be looking at them and putting my experience of business and put my ideas into the hat and try to get them off the ground asap!”