Last week Chairman Sumrith 'Tiger' Thanakarnjanasuth gave us an update with a view to how Oxford United are planning for the return of fans as the government’s roadmap to the end of Lockdown begins to come into effect.
This week we asked him the question that every Oxford fan will want to know: how much has the Covid-19 pandemic actually cost the club and what are the implications of that?
As usual, Tiger was very open in his reply:
“We have nothing to hide and I think fans deserve to know how much this whole situation has cost the club. But there are a couple of things I need to stress as well.
“The first is that as a club our response to the pandemic has been amazing. From the Board level right through the commercial side of the club, community, and to Karl and the playing staff the entire club has risen to this challenge and been so strong together.
“I saw an interview with Dan Harris this week about the Academy and he said ‘given the right thing or the easy thing we have always chosen the thing we believed to be right’ and that has been everyone’s attitude.
"It may be that some of those decisions cost us more money in the short term but in the long term we are doing what we believe is best for the sustainable future of the football club.
“Even so, the bottom line is that we believe the pandemic has cost the club just over £2.3 million. That is a huge figure and I don’t want to go in to the finer details but it does need breaking down a little. I must also stress that the final figure will be much lower than that because it does not take into account money that has come the other way.
“Over half that figure is in lost gate receipts and remember that it is not just 2020/21 that was affected. The team was in great form at the end of last season and there were still some very big home games to play in the league. We estimate it cost us close to £400,000 when those games disappeared. Of course that does not include a home play-off against Portsmouth, which would have been sold out, or the final at Wembley where we would have taken maybe 35,000 people for a showcase game and who knows what difference that sort of support might have made?
“This season we estimate we will lose around £1.4 million from lost ticket sales. Our season ticket holders have been amazing and their support has made a massive difference but ‘matchday sales’ have gone from a being a major source of revenue to zero.
“All clubs in the EFL need that matchday spend and then you also have to factor in the loss of hospitality revenue, executive box sales, and secondary spend: the Club Shop’s biggest days are always matchdays and then you add in things like programme sales, matchday lottery and so on.
“So a conservative estimate is that the pandemic has cost us around £2.3 million. Maybe we are too open in telling people that but it is always better to tell people the real situation and the reality is that we always knew the cost would be around that figure and the Board always knew they would have to support that.
“But before people panic, the accounts for the year will actually show a profit. Which is remarkable and shows the resilience of this football club. We have been helped massively by the Premier League grant and are so grateful to all of the fans who have supported us by not asking for refunds or by helping us with retail online. iFollow has been a great boost for us and I want to thank fans for supporting us in that way.
“You also have to consider the sale of players like Gavin Whyte, Tariqe Fosu, Shandon Baptiste and Rob Dickie. Those were not because of the pandemic: only Rob left us after the covid lockdown happened. We have invested that back in to the playing budget and continue to build a side we believe can end this season strongly and go from strength to strength.
“We are not putting that figure out there looking for sympathy. Nor are we looking to scare anyone. Football clubs lose money, whatever the circumstances, but the club is in good hands, we will cover that loss of income, have been inventive in finding other ways of bringing money in to the club and nobody needs to be alarmed or start to panic.
“We have been asked the question so many times and we believe fans will respect our honesty and transparency.
"Like everyone else we believe the worst is now behind us. We look forward to a bright future and we will continue to make plans for the emotional day when we can welcome fans back and we can all be together once again.”