As we have now experienced several weeks of lockdown, the difficult times caused by Covid-19 continue.
Sadly, we have lost a number of our Killie family to the virus, and many more have been impacted, either by having contracted the virus or by self-isolating due to other health conditions.
To those of you who have lost loved ones, I send my condolences. To the many Killie fans who are frontline staff in NHS, care staff and other keyworkers, I send my thanks and gratitude.
Update on Covid-19 and the impact on Kilmarnock FC
Trust members may already be aware that the impact on the Club has been significant. With no football on the immediate horizon and the lockdown affecting commercial activities, Club Directors took the decision to use the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to furlough staff.
This scheme allows the Club to reclaim 80% of each furloughed staff member’s salary, up to a maximum of £2500 per month. This was not an easy decision to make, as it means those furloughed staff are not available to work for the club and therefore we had to decide on having some staff retained to work, at full cost to the club. To date we have topped up the wages so that staff received 100% of their salaries. For the playing side, this was done in consultation with PFA Scotland.
The Club can only furlough our contracted players – loan players require to be furloughed by their parent Clubs.
We have furloughed full-time staff till the end of May and are now in the process of working through arrangements for matchday staff to be furloughed.
Staff continuing to work are the Manager, Head of Football, Club Secretary, Head of Marketing and Commercial Operations, Head of Media, Head of Medical and Club Doctors, Head of Youth Academy and essential stadium and finance staff. Only the stadium staff are attending Rugby Park, with all others working from home. Salary costs for these staff are borne in full by the Club.
The UK Government has announced that the furlough scheme will be extended until the end of June, and Club Directors will need to review our position during May, taking account of any further announcements from Government on lockdown, and from football authorities on developments in relation to football resuming.
We are using online communications to the full, with weekly Board and Heads of Department calls taking place.
SPFL / SFA developments
Trust members will be aware from the media of ongoing debates at SPFL Board level. KFC Directors considered carefully the resolution which gave the power to SPFL to immediately end the lower league season and potentially to call time on SPFL Premiership. As well as participating in an online call with other clubs to hear about the proposal, we invited the SPFL CEO to participate in a call with KFC Directors, so that we could put questions to him, ahead of making our decision.
We ultimately decided to support the resolution, on the basis that this allowed funds to be released to clubs and created the ability to start discussions on league reconstruction. While in an ideal world we would want to play out the current season, we have taken the view that is highly unlikely to happen and that our focus should be on the season ahead, whenever that commences.
At this time, we have not taken a final view on league reconstruction, as we have not yet been presented with options from the SPFL Working Group, but we have informally fed in views on an expanded league, and preference for it not to be a “one season only” fix.
Members will also be aware of the further resolution submitted by Rangers FC, with support from Hearts and Stranraer. At the time of writing, we have not seen any of the evidence which Rangers FC has indicated will be submitted to all clubs to support their position.
Finance and Commercial
The priority for Club Directors continues to be focused on ensuring that we have a sustainable future and we are looking ahead to what financial implications there would be of, for example, a delayed start to new season, closed door matches and longer-term social distancing, should that be required.
The Club is once again very grateful to the Killie Trust for ‘Trust in Killie’ funding, and Billy and Phyllis have asked me to pass on their thanks to Trust members.
I appreciate that some fans have offered to buy season tickets now, with intention of helping Club receive funds. However, we have not yet changed our position on release of season tickets, as it still unclear when the current season will be brought to a close. As I reported last month, the media and commercial teams were already working on plans for this, and we are ready to go when required. We also hope to have some good news for season ticket holders who missed out on the latter matches of this season, due to coronavirus, should the season be ended without these being played.
We have had a good level of interest following the communication to current season ticket holders regarding share purchase. Around 70% of season ticket holders have read the offer email, with around 250 fans following up so far. It will take some time to work through share applications, so please bear with us while they are processed! There are specific regulations around share purchase so if anyone has any queries on this, please get in touch with me and I will ensure that answers are provided. I will provide a further update on this next month.
We are continuing to work on the transfer of the shop from Just Sport back to the Club, and with our new kit partner Hummel. Delivery of the full range of stock is posing challenges due to Covid-19, but we are still anticipating having a range of items in June. Meanwhile online orders are being taken for current stock at reduced prices. More information on this and delivery information is available on the Club website.
We are pleased that our Head of Marketing and Commercial Operations Gregg McEwan has been included as a member of the SPFL working group which is looking at Broadcasting as this will be crucial if closed door matches do become a reality.
The Manager and Head of Football are continuing to work on recruitment and renewing contracts for players they wish to keep for the season ahead. With players now furloughed, there are limitations on what they can do over and above their training regimes. The Football Department is also looking at what will be necessary for players returning, both in terms of training and any potential Covid-19 testing which may be put in place.
I appreciate that it is frustrating for fans when there has been no news on the recruitment side but any information will be shared as soon as we possibly can.
Media and Communications
The decision was taken to make Killie TV free for Season Ticket holders during the lockdown period, which has been well received. Two further “We Are Killie” podcasts have been recorded with Chris Burke and James Fowler.
James Fowler, Billy Bowie and I have also given interviews to media.
Social media activity has continued with our Killie Kit competition running throughout the month of April. This saw over 30,000 votes cast across the Twitter competition resulting in a close run play off for the all-time favourite strip!
To help celebrate the 55th anniversary of our League Championship win, the social media ‘Killie Kit Day’ organised by the Trust was hugely popular and saw #killiekit trending on Twitter! It was a fantastic response from Killie fans across the globe, and great to see the passion for our team from fans of all ages. A special highlight was the involvement of former players including Davie Sneddon and Bobby Ferguson from the league-winning side, as well as Mrs McIlroy with her late husband Brian’s strip.
This was a good example of the Trust and Club working together to maximize fan engagement. Special thanks go to Trust member Graham Orr, who first suggested the idea, and to Trust social media gurus Gordon Gillen and Claire Morrison and Club Head of Media Scott McClymont for their hard work.
As part of our passion to educate and entertain Killie fans of all generations, the Club is publishing John Livingston’s “Kilmarnock in History” series, which has been running in the official matchday programme since summer 2018, on the club website to add to our Club History section.
Future ‘On Board In Person’ and monthly updates
This month’s report is shorter than usual given the unique circumstances we are in. We are now actively looking at how we do our next ‘On Board in Person’ via an online Q and A, at end of May, when hopefully we will have a clearer idea of when we might see football returning.
Meantime, however frustrating the lockdown is, please stick with it to ensure that we all stay safe and get together as the Killie family once again!
As always, please get in touch if you have any queries and I will do my best to answer.