Like most clubs in the lower reaches of the Scottish leagues, Stenhousemuir have been hit pretty hard by the coronavirus crisis.
But even with a colossal hole punched in the League Two club’s annual budget, they have still been trying to do good work in their local community.
They launched a community helpline soon after their games were called off last weekend, and quick scan down the club’s Twitter feed will show the club offering to collect and deliver meals, helping NHS staff and helping elderly people who are either self-isolating or can’t get up and about.
“Every time someone has said “it’s been two weeks” – it feels like two months,” Warriors chairman Ian McMenemy told the Totally Scottish Football Show this week.
“It feels like a long time since we’ve kicked a ball, and it’s been a strange experience. It sometimes feels like it’s happening to someone else, not to us. We’d all heard about the virus but it hadn’t impacted us, but now it is starting to hit home a bit more with some cases nearby, it’s becoming very real.
“We set out to try and do something for our community. There are far greater things at play here than just football. That became our focus: trying to do some good for the community.
“We all knew that things were all gathering pace, it still came as a surprise when we literally found out on the Friday to say the game on the Saturday wasn’t taking place. It seemed to be that the league just reacted to the Premier League and the EFL postponing our games.
“After that, we were all on a call looking at what we could do in the local community, and we set up a helpline number that afternoon, and got going that weekend.
“We’ve spent the last week and a bit trying to get that community number out there, and try to help people – those that can’t or don’t want to get out and about, connecting with other agencies, social care departments and really anyone else that could do with a bit of help.
“There’s been a remarkable community spirit locally, which has been fantastic, and I hope in the fullness of time we’ll be able to keep that spirit alive.”
On Monday Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack outlined the financial pressure that the crisis will put on clubs towards the top of the pyramid in Scotland. He thinks this will cost his club around £5million, which you can apply, albeit on a smaller scale, to clubs further down the leagues.
“The statement from Aberdeen today – which because they’re one of the bigger clubs so people will hear about that probably before the plight of the lower league clubs – but you can take what they said and apply it to any other club in Scotland.
“He was talking about £5million – we had a board meeting last week and we worked out we’re probably facing a £60,000 loss over the next three months. You compare those two numbers, and you might think we’ve got nothing to worry about, but it’s all relative: £60,000 to us, will make as much of a difference as £5million will to them.
“It could put us under. We’ve got to make some savings and keep some revenue streams open. I’m concerned about it, I absolutely am, but people are starting to rally round, with ideas about how to keep things going.
“That’s based on a potential three months [without football]: if it goes on longer than that, which we’re all coming round to the fact that it probably will, it’s going to be tough for a lot of clubs, including ourselves.”
What about the role of the authorities in all of this? Did McMenemy expect more guidance and help from the Scottish Football League and SPFL?
“I’m disappointed in the leadership we’ve had so far. We are a members’ association, but it doesn’t always operate that way, but at times like this organisations should really focus on the fact they’re here for their members. I don’t think we’ve had enough.
“A couple of examples: in terms of the government grants, I think we need someone to go away and see what football is eligible for, come back and report that to the clubs, who can then take that forwards and do any applications. In terms of talking to players about potential wage reductions, that should be done at the league level and with the PFA at a senior level, start to find some common ground before clubs start talking to players.”
If you wanted to help Stenhousemuir in any way, click here. Their community helpline is 01324 466563
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