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Club News

FEATURE: Behind the Scenes

A look at how the coronavirus is affecting the U's

17 March 2020

Communications Manager Chris Williams writes

I tend to only write longer articles on the website during the close season, partly because of time restraints, partly because I use the match programme for ‘features’ because not many people bother reading on the internet any more. But I figured that some people might like more information on what the club is doing during these extraordinary times, rather than just the daily news updates which we have been bringing you. This won’t be for everyone, but just stop reading when you get bored.

Oh. Bit rude. But at least some of you have carried on. So, let’s start with the basics. As far as I know, nobody at Oxford United is showing the symptoms of coronavirus. But last Friday the Heads of Department met and a decision was made to send the players and staff home from the Training Ground. That’s essentially the first team, the support staff and the Academy.

Over the weekend the same decision was made around those based at the stadium - ticket office, commercial, admin staff and club shop. Then last night the Women’s team also joined us. Currently the Community team are continuing to deliver their courses but they operate in a sllightly different world and if schools are open then they also need to be working with them. They are waiting for the EFL Trust for any further advice.

Can a football club operate in this way? Well clearly it’s not ideal, but then so what? This is a national crisis and unprecedented scenes are happening. We will play our part and do what we need to do.

On a practical level we are perhaps in a slightly better position than many football clubs because our Board are largely based overseas and over the last two years we have developed better ways of communicating. Tiger has a firm grasp of modern communication tools even if his grasp of time differences is less impressive; I have become accustomed to 6am Whatsapp conversations!

We talk daily and will continue to do so. Yesterday I spoke with or communicated with Tiger, Niall, Zaki, Karl, Dan Harris, Amy, Alex Gorrin, Elliott Moore (no baby yet), Liam Gilbert and the women’s team, Chris Lowes and the Community team, Rosie, Mick Brown, plus the media team had a video conference in which we discussed how we can work our way through this situation. I spoke with the BBC, the Oxford Mail, SKY and with Kash Siddiqi in Kashmir so we HAVE the communications tools wherever people are and life goes on behind the scenes.

Each department has new challenges:

From a communications point of view, we will do our best to balance being informative with being entertaining across all of our channels but even writing an article about Rob Dickie this morning I feel odd- football seems so trivial, should I even be doing stories right now? Does the nation want entertaining? Would they rather have a blank screen than Mrs Brown's Boys replacing Match of the Day? We ALL know the answer to that. I like it when clubs try and fill the gap with new ideas but let me assure you that we aren’t going to be playing online Connect 4: why would we when we already have seven in a row?

The first team players have a programme to follow and are keeping fit for their return - I’ll try and go into that in more detail over the next couple of days.

The Academy has also taken measures - there is now a Google classroom for all the U16s/U17s and U18s to complete through daily assignments remotely and the scholars can therefore continue their BTEC/FA Coaching and NVQ work. There are online challenges every two days for all theFDP and YDP players - these will be shown on the OUFC Academy Youtube page and shared via Twitter, so keep an eye on them to see what is happening. There is also an online conditioning playlist for players to follow and analysis tools have been shared online so all players can look at their performances this season and continue to strive to improve.

Those are just the Academy measures: each department of the club has equally detailed and well thought-through plans.

What the nation is experiencing is stressful and as a club we have been making enormous strides in terms of mental health, but taking away training every day can represent challenges for players at all ages, so Academy and senior players have the relevant ways of communicating with the right people within the club if they need to talk. Perhaps the key message in all of this article is that as a club we are talking and we are supporting each other.

The one question we can’t answer is when will we be back together and doing the best bit of the job: preparing for and playing matches? I’m afraid we simply don’t know and I suspect we won’t know for a while. The EFL are dong a top job of keeping us informed but an update scheduled for last night was postponed because the government moved the goalposts slightly with their suggestions for pubs and restaurants. Nobody seems to have the answers yet, but that’s because the questions change each day!

Will we be back soon? Will the league resume or be suspended? Will I run out of generic pictures to illustrate coronavirus stories? (Seriously, there are only so many images of corner flags for clubs to use.) Once we have answers for you we’ll do our best to get them out ASAP.

In the meantime, follow our lead. Work at home, talk to each other and check everyone is OK.

Most importantly, stay safe.


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