O'Neill: We’re Very Proud and Appreciative of What Fans Are Doing and Need Them Now More Than Ever
Wednesday, 8th Jul 2020 16:55
Town general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill says any help season ticket holders are able to give the Blues via the remuneration options offered earlier today will be greatly appreciated by the club. Three-quarters of last year's season ticket holders have renewed their seats for 2020/21 despite the uncertainty regarding the new campaign.
Five 2019/20 home games weren’t played due to the coronavirus crisis and Town outlined various compensation options for season ticket holders this morning. The plans have received a largely positive response.
“I don’t think you’ll ever please every single person because everyone is different has their own personal circumstances that have been affected or not been affected by this,” O’Neill said.
“What we’ve tried to do, [owner] Marcus [Evans] in particular, is look at everything and try and give them lots of choice on what they want to do with that extra money that was available from the season ticket refunds.
"And give them a choice whether they want to spend it in the club shop or on merchandise or on hospitality or to come to more games or whether they just want the refund off this year’s season ticket or they want to donate it, which is obviously something from the club’s point of view we would greatly appreciate.”
One criticism has been the lack of a full immediate refund with repayments instead made over the course of the season. O’Neill says that was done in order not to make too much of an impact on this season’s funds.
“I think people would understand that it can be a large amount of money, if you look at how many season ticket holders we have and when we haven’t got any money coming in at the moment,” he continued.
“It’s the same as any other business, the money that we’ve budgeted for is already being used for this season, so it’s a large amount of money that needs to go back in one stump and it would directly affect the cashflows of the club and that would put us in real operational difficulty.
“So the staggering of those payments makes it easier to manage both the day-to-day operational aspects and obviously we’ve still got the added elements of trying to look at the squad for this season, and that would obviously take a direct hit into that area as well.”
Town have projected a worst-case scenario of a loss of revenue of £10 million with owner Marcus Evans having to cover a significantly larger shortfall than in most seasons, and at a time when his other businesses have similarly been affected by the coronavirus crisis.
“There’s no secret around that,” O’Neill added. “Marcus’s businesses around the world are taking a hit because a large part of them are hospitality and events and there are not a lot of those going on due to what’s happened with Covid.
“We’re very fortunate to have his investment into that but it is only to an X amount and therefore we have to try and make it operate as best we possibly can.
“It’s well-publicised a Championship club has gone into administration [Wigan] and we want to make sure we have the club to operate for many years to come.”
But he says despite the crisis's impact on Evans's other businesses, there’s no question that he has the funds to support the club through the current issues.
“No, not at all, he’s made that public in the announcement today really, that he’s as committed as ever to making sure that the financial commitment to the football club is there,” O’Neill said.
“We always get this situation where fans ask what they can do to help, and I guess what we’re asking through the season ticket refund options is if they are able to help the club in any way, shape or form that it would be greatly appreciated.”
Fans have already shown that willingness to help this summer with three quarters of last season’s total of almost 12,000 season ticket holders opting to renew their seats for 2020/21 at a time when they’re unsure when they might be able to return to Portman Road.
“I don’t know the exact number off the top of my head as of today but the initial numbers that have come back have been absolutely brilliant,” O’Neill said.
“And that just shows you that through the good, the bad and the ugly really they stick by the football club and we’re very proud of and very appreciative of what the fans are doing and we need them now more than ever.”
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