I trust you are all well.
I am sure some of you will be relieved that the flow of weekly notes from me has reduced a little while we have been in lockdown. I have to say that while silence from me may have been golden, the added bonus must have been the quality of the contributions, both in variety and in content, from others and I would congratulate Pete Cureton on all his efforts to keep people informed and entertained.
You have been updated by Dominic in relation to plans for the coming Season, as best he can, whenever that will be. Rest assured there is work going on looking at how we cover all the steps that are needed before we can open up the Club again. Summer, particularly late June and July, is often a quieter time for members visiting the Club. As Dominic has said we are principally a Rugby Club and it is the case that the main use of the Club is match days and for functions, neither of which are on the immediate horizon. Many of you will have seen the announcement this week of a relaxation of restrictions to allow licensed premises to operate in a limited fashion, we have to decide when that will work best for the Club.
As the Club has been empty for nearly three months, facilities unused by Government Order, there are a number of steps that need to the taken to make sure it is safe and then make it ready for use. In many ways we have not been as badly affected as might have been the case in the total absence of any revenue due to the grant support provided to licensed premises and the ability to furlough staff. This has provided something of a breathing space but there will be costs in opening up. I am sure all are heartened as I have been to see the number of positive responses to providing support to the Club both financially and in terms of assisting with works.
As Dominic has mentioned, Eddie Prendergast has helped us in relation to an initial risk assessment and from that we are looking to put in place procedures based on the guidance that the Government issued last week, with more to follow. There are aspects in respect of the building that we need to attend to, we need to check the fabric, we need to check that there are no issues in relation to the water system and the pumps, all buildings should be checked to ensure that there is no legionella present and everything needs to be thoroughly cleaned. This process has started.
At the same time, we need to work out how we can operate a guidance compliant system within the building to allow for social distancing between visitors. There will be areas where we might need to take advantage of the reduction to 1 metre plus mitigation, but how we can operate will be different to how we did when we closed. There remains a prohibition on any live entertainment as there is a need to keep noise levels down so that people do not have to raise their voices or shout to reduce the risk of aerosol contamination from the droplets that come out naturally when you raise your voice. We cannot hold functions and groups are limited to 30 save for undisclosed exceptions.
We need to make sure that our staff as well as members and guests are safe in the manner in which we look to operate. I hope that you will bear with us while we look to see what is working and what is not working for other full-time operators. I am sure the membership would not want us to spend a lot of money on something that was unnecessary.
It is nice to know people want to come back down to the Club and I am sure everybody wants to welcome each other back at the Club, although perhaps not to the extent that it creates liabilities that the Club cannot sustain. In the Club survey that 56 people responded to I noted that just under 90% indicated that they attended the Club either on match days or no more than once a week. We perhaps should gear the opening, particularly if rugby could be some way off, to times when people are likely to be able to come along and enjoy the facility, making any opening one that will help sustain the Club, both as a social meeting point in the community and financially. There may need to be a bit of patience, but we want to do things properly.
The website shows some good news stories in anticipation of the coming season. Teams are starting to look at their training options, it is great to see the players helping maintain the fabric of the premises and I think the opportunities for that will increase over the next couple of months for everyone. As I say, there is a lot of work to be done, the pitch looks great, the area around it is naturally overgrown although a start on the undergrowth was made at the weekend through the kind offers of John and Cally Wainwright and Steve Thompson. There is a lot more to do.
In the Women's Section, I am really pleased to welcome back Mike Smith who has taken over the role of coaching the women's team. There is quite a bit of reorganising and recruitment to be done there as a number of players have moved to Sale as they have been awarded the franchise in the Premier League. We wish all those players well and will always have an open door for them after all their efforts. However, Firwood Waterloo has had a long tradition of supporting women's rugby and we want to continue to do that so if there is anybody reading this who wants to join in or who knows of friends or relatives who are interested in taking up rugby, please let us know.
The Club is looking to be a base for the community; we want to continue to build and support all our sections. Now is a difficult time for everyone and it is important, as in society generally, that we try to find time to work together.
On the subject of how difficult things are I cannot finish, and possibly should have started, without saying how sorry I was to hear of the loss of Tony Cooper. Tony was an amazing servant and supporter of the Club throughout the time that I have been involved. He was one of the unassuming characters who was prepared to donate time and expertise to help the Club, giving great support to two generations of my family through his work for the Club. His work as Treasurer was an important factor in helping us survive in difficult times, his continued support as a director and then after stepping down helping with the International Tickets, gave great support to various Chairmen and support to the teams, really showing what being involved in a Club is all about. He will be sadly missed; the group that comes down to match days from Formby for lunch will be a quieter set without him.
I will stop now. I hope that this has given a little bit more help to supplement the information that we keep trying to pass through. If people have ways that they can assist, comments or information that would help us or just the time to spend at the Club all would be appreciated.
All the best and stay well,