President’s Message to Members and Supporters – April 2020
Well, it’s incredible to think back just a few weeks ago to when we were anticipating the start of the 2020 season, and to ponder how quickly things have changed since the COVID-19 disaster first struck. It was difficult enough to digest the idea that footy wouldn’t be played for the foreseeable future, but when we were forced to close the venue things really hit us hard.
With the prospect of absolutely no income for several months, the immediate focus of the club has been to strip costs out of the operations and to retain as much cash as possible. Some outgoings simply don’t go away overnight. Fixed costs like rates and taxes, light and power, rentals and so on still need to be paid. So difficult decisions have had to be made.
The hardest decision was to ensure that we cut wages and salaries. Where possible, we asked staff to take annual leave. But most were stood down, which has been the path of action taken by SANFL and the individual clubs themselves. This has resulted in a period of real stress for all concerned.
However, it’s important to understand that those staff who have been stood down are still employees of the club. They do not lose their leave entitlements, and they will be resuming their normal duties as soon as the all clear is given for the club to re-open. In the meantime, the Federal Government is providing enormous levels of funding to assist people who have been stood down as they await a return to work. I want to say a huge “thank-you” to all staff who have been so understanding of what has happened, and who have expressed their unwavering support for the club. I also want to thank our players. This week Derek Bonner, our Football Director, had a conversation with our captain Tom Keough about how he and the senior playing group are holding up under the current COVID-19 restrictions. Tom said whilst they were frustrated about not being able to play, the group were all healthy and keeping active. Head of fitness, Todd Carr has given the players a conditioning program to maintain their fitness levels during the break and the senior leadership group are in regular contact with all the players to make sure they are safe and well.
Our job now is to ensure that Westies survives this enormous challenge. Our financial position was getting stronger every day before the club shut down, and it’s distressing to see those gains now being worn away. However, in my role as League Director I see the efforts that SANFL are making to secure the financial future of all clubs. The SANFL, of course, have their own challenges. They are facing those challenges with not just their own organisation in mind but with the interests of the clubs as well. As they plan their approach to external funding bodies for extra loan facilities, SANFL are fighting for our combined futures.
Nobody knows for how long Westies will be inoperative. But I can assure you that the Board of Directors is not sitting idle. We are, along with our CEO, continuing to uncover and explore more ways of keeping the club alive. The energy and dedication on display at the Board meeting held by video hook-up on Monday 30th March was an inspiration. The CEO and each member of the Board is playing their part to ensure we survive this difficult period. Even though the club is in a state of hibernation, we intend emerging stronger and more resilient than ever.
Every member, past and present, has a role to play in this. The club needs you now. I want to thank each one of you who has renewed your membership for 2020. But renewals are behind where they were at the same point last year. I understand why some people are thinking that there is no purpose in renewing, but we need your support. Please stay on board. And any readers of this who may have let their membership lapse over the past few years, now is the time to get back on board. We need a strong member base, bigger than ever before, to get us through. And if you can, please ensure you give generously to our “Keep the Pack Running” fundraising campaign by going to: https://asf.org.au/projects/west-adelaide-football-club/keep-the-pack-running/ and making a donation.
When we come out the other side of this threat to the club, I am supremely confident that we will be fighting fit and ready to go. We need to stay together and make sure we’re around to celebrate the future of our great club.