The Arsenal Supporters’ Forum met via Zoom conference this evening and heard managing director Vinai Venkatesham and head of football Raúl Sanllehi give updates on the current situation.
They explained that in the eight weeks since Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19 we have all seen our lives turned upside down. It has of course been a difficult time but we had planned well, and with all staff set up in advance with software and hardware to work from home, the transition has been efficient.
They stressed that the thoughts of everyone at Arsenal are with those who have been directly impacted by the virus and expressed the club’s thanks to healthcare professionals and key workers worldwide.
Turning to the economic impact the pandemic is having on football, they explained it has been significant and concerning across all countries and leagues. Revenues from matchday, broadcasting and commercial are all under threat, for all clubs no matter their size.
They stressed that even the biggest clubs in the world are certainly not immune from the economic effects of COVID-19. They outlined the numerous measures taken so far at Arsenal to help contain costs. Vinai and Raúl said they were particularly proud of our players for stepping forward to support their club.
It was stressed that from the start of the pandemic our people have been our key priority. The focus is on protecting jobs and base salaries for our permanent staff, and there have been no redundancies with everyone on full pay. We also have more than 1,500 casual workers on our payroll who currently have no work with us, and we are paying them in full until at least the end of May.
They also outlined the work we have been doing in the community in response to the pandemic. This has included the following:
- Delivered 45 tonnes of essential supplies to local boroughs with our partners
- Made six figure donations to local charities and organisations
- Driven NHS staff to work who need our help
- Offered our stadium facilities to the NHS
- Supported schools with digital learning resources
- Called many of our most vulnerable fans
- Supported the participants we have in our programmes in Jordan and Indonesia
The meeting heard that at the current time players are going to Colney for individual exercise, much like they would do in a public park. They are not in training in any form we would recognise.
Looking ahead they explained that there is much focus on how and when the Government will ease the lockdown and signal a return to work for many.
Football needs to develop protocols for that return in the same way as all other industries are doing, and the first step on the journey back to playing matches will be returning to train in small groups.
Protocols for this first step are currently being created on a league wide basis through discussions with experts, players, managers and government. It will be a requirement to ensure no resources are taken from where they are most needed on the front-line. Protocols for further steps would be developed as we learn from this first step and based on the conditions at the time.
They closed by restating the club’s commitment to finish the Premier League season, if and when it is safe and appropriate to do so. It is our belief that the sporting outcomes for this season are best finalised on the pitch by players, even if in not in the way originally planned, if that is at all possible.
Please find the full meeting minutes below:
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