A Festive Message from the CEO:

23rd December 2020

On behalf of the Board at London Skolars we hope that you, your friends and your families have kept well and safe during these unprecedented times and would like to thank you for your continued support.

During this challenging period the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been, and continue to be felt throughout the world. All sports have been severely hit, with professional teams in premier sports leagues playing in empty stadiums and many second and lower tier teams not being able to take to the field at all. I think I speak for everyone when I say that we will be glad to see the back of this year !

Due to the close physical nature of the game, rugby (league and union) has struggled, with only the top tier of Super League resuming their season. After long and hard deliberations, the 2020 Betfred Championship and League 1 seasons were written off after the first lockdown, due in part to the extreme costs of complying with COVID regulations around travel, testing and facility preparation. An end of season tournament was proposed by the RFL and considered by all Championship and League 1 clubs, but was eventually decided against in order to ensure the safety of players, staff and supporters. From our perspective we concluded that we would be unable to provide the required level of safety without enormous financial outlay, which in turn would jeopardise our participation in the 2021 campaign.

For a club of our size, balancing the books is an annual trial, and raising funds for the 2021 season is a challenge that the Board and the staff are rising to. As a club we have endeavoured to respond to the challenging and ever changing situation in a timely and fair manner. We have done our utmost to secure the best possible furlough for all of our eligible staff and players since the scheme was introduced back in the Spring, and we hope this will have gone some way to easing the financial burden placed upon them by this pandemic.

The club itself has faced some monumental financial challenges this year in preparation for the season ahead. As I am sure you are aware, back in March, due to personal reasons, our long serving Chairman, Terry Browne, and CEO, Hector McNeil, decided to step back from their respective roles. Not only were they the driving force behind the day to day decisions, they were also our largest financial benefactors and between them invested many tens of thousands of pounds each year to ensure the clubs survival. Prior to their departure we had initiated a global search for an investor to try and take the club to the next level,  So far this effort has proved fruitless, but we will continue trying.

The timing of the pandemic meant that we had already spent a large proportion of our annual playing budget in preparation for the 2020 season. The subsequent cancellation of the season had obvious financial implications for us both on and off the field. Revenue from gate receipts was gone. Secondary income from bar and merchandise sales was non-existent. Additionally we lost the ability to secure further income from sponsorship, facility hire and events that would have been held throughout the year. Essentially our regular income was slashed to practically zero. 

There is now light at the end of the tunnel. Recent advances in the vaccine and testing protocols mean that it is likely that our season will get underway in March 2021. At what point we will be allowed spectators remains to be seen, but we are hopeful that this will be sooner rather than later. It is also still unclear what the testing protocols will be for our division, however in order for us to be completely Covid compliant will require significant financial outlay and Charlie and his team have been working hard applying for grants and awards to aid us and ensure that we can meet these projected costs.

Moving on to the upcoming season, we have some major hurdles to overcome in order to compete, but we are confident that we will overcome these and build for the future.  The squad is coming together nicely and we hope to start pre season training in January, dependant on government guidelines around professional sport. We also aim to play a couple of pre season friendlies, however it does seem as though these will sadly need to be behind closed doors.

Unfortunately, due to the continued state of the pandemic, our ever popular match against Wigan Warriors, the Capital Challenge, has had to be postponed. It remains to be seen if we can hold a similar event later in the year or whether we just reschedule for 2022. However, we do hope to be able to organise some events later in the year to celebrate our 25th anniversary and to be able to re-engage with our loyal fans. We also plan to host the annual City Touch tournament as well as our pre Challenge Cup Final event, Friday Night Lights.

As ever, our thoughts remain with all of you who have been directly affected by COVID-19. In the meantime, we ask you to continue being patient and understanding in these most unusual of times and please rest assured that we continue to work tirelessly to ensure the survival and future prospects of our beloved club.

Keep safe, keep well, and we hope you have a relaxing and enjoyable festive season, and look forward to a better 2021.

Colin Browne
CEO London Skolars


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