An update from Chief Executive David Bottomley.
Again, I am trusting that all Dale fans and their families, wherever you may be, are keeping safe and healthy. I trust you are following every guideline that will reduce the threat of this dreadful COVID-19 pandemic, and as you will see below, help return life to some form of normality. The part you are playing is greatly appreciated.
In my last update on Friday 3rd July I asked for patience. I am very aware that we have tested that to the limit, but sometimes, in a world where information changes by the day, or even the hour, then it is better to have some greater detail to communicate. An example of this was last Friday, when I was in an EFL meeting and the breaking news from Downing Street came in regard to crowds returning to stadia from 1st October. By 5pm on the same day, we received documentation from the EFL regarding the implementation of a COVID safe plan for stadia. As you would expect, from minute one of receiving that, we started to engage with a huge group of people, including:
Brian Slater, our excellent matchday safety officer;
Engaging Safety, our locally based COVID-safe consultants and the people who had already developed and introduced our COVID-safe office and inner stadium policy, which has been critical for staff returning to work and the safety of others using the stadium;
Our local Safety Advisory Group (SAG).
As a result, countless hours of work have already gone into planning and preparation for the October date.
What this does mean is that patience will be even more a spectator requirement, as we will be dealing with COVID-safe entrance and exits, a safe seating plan, safe catering plan, safe executive box plan, and so on. This is already an area that will require much expenditure by the Club, in order to quite rightly ensure we have a safe environment for all of our supporters to return to. However, it will, initially, mean a vastly reduced capacity, likely to be under that of our average attendance (including away fans). So, we will have a plan that will try to be fair to all our supporters, especially our loyal and wonderful Season Ticket holders.
I can also make the comment that I believe within a few hours of you reading this, the EFL will have announced that our season will recommence on Saturday 12th September. Initially, it will be for three weeks behind closed doors and then from 1st October with crowds present. It will be an exciting season in League One, as we line up against eight teams that have played in the Premier League and ten that have played at the top level of English football, as well as multiple winners of both the FA Cup and League Cup, so there are good times ahead. The start date will also mean that our playing and coaching staff will return to training week commencing 3rd August, again in strange circumstances amidst COVID-safe procedures.
We also hope to be launching our 2020/21 Season Tickets, new kit and a number of other new schemes on Saturday 15th August. The Club Shop, which is only awaiting a new till system, will open imminently with a huge clearance sale, and we will also be having the traditional “Jack the Kitman” sale via the shop after opening. Rochdale AFC facemasks will be available to purchase in-store as well as online thanks to our friends at ICON Sports.
With regards to last year’s Season Tickets, the Club were approached by the Supporters Trust with a scheme that was unanimously approved by the Board and all at the Club. This will be announced later today (Friday) and I trust it meets approval with all, as it delivers a strong community message.
In a normal world, this weekend would have seen our last pre-season friendly ahead of the new season start on 2nd August. But whilst the norm has gone for now, it does seem for the first time since we locked down at the Crown Oil Arena on 24th March, that we do have some positive news and something to be excited about.
Thank you to all for your patience in the last few months and please continue that, as try to plan for the future in a world that can still change on a daily basis.
Finally, I want to say a big thank you to all the staff at the Club, some who have been working throughout lockdown, some recently returning to work, and the majority who are still furloughed. Your patience has been amazing and when the supporters see our new ticket, ground entry and retail systems, they will know how much hard work has been done.
Have a good weekend and very best to Dale fans everywhere.
Up The Dale!