Dave Cormack will preside over his first annual meeting as Aberdeen chairman tonight and it promises to be a shareholders’ gathering like no other.
Former chairman Stewart Milne must wonder if it was his own good fortune or Cormack’s dumb luck that the changing of the guard in the Pittodrie boardroom has brought a challenge neither man would have entertained 12 months ago.
But as we all know 2020 has been a year unlike any other for all of us. For the Dons, their deliberate strategy of implementing longer-term planning in terms of their playing squad was a sound one formulated on the club’s revenue streams being stable and secured.
But a global pandemic brought everything – football included – to a halt in March. Thanks to the wonders of science the first batches of a vaccine for Covid-19 have been administered. But we are all a long way from being out of the woods.
While Milne has taken a step back after more than two decades at the helm of his beloved Dons, Cormack has seen his love for the club tested in a way he never saw coming.
Normally the publishing of the club’s accounts for the period ended June 30 2020 showing an operating loss of £2.92 million would be the source of great debate among shareholders tonight.
But that seems highly unlikely.
The factors which have led to the Dons posting a loss are no secret. With no fans at games and no corporate hospitality to generate income, the club’s coffers have been propped up by the generosity of fans who bought season tickets for matches they cannot attend and by investment from the board.
Despite repeated pleas for help from the Scottish Government in developing a pathway to allow fans back to games safely the Dons, and other clubs in Scotland for that matter, have been left frustrated at their calls for action falling on deaf ears.
While Milne reserved his engagement to the fans, Cormack has been a consistent and vocal presence in Scottish football in 2020, so shareholders are unlikely to uncover much in the way of new information tonight when they gather around their laptops, PCs and phones for a Zoom call with the board.
Cormack has warned a tsunami of financial turmoil lies ahead unless the issue is addressed urgently.
Turnover is expected to drop to £10 million and an operating loss of £5 million has been projected due to the wages-to-turnover ratio at the club increasing from 68% to 90%.
The chairman has warned redundancies and challenges for youth academies lie ahead for many clubs without intervention, while, closer to home, the longer fans are locked out of Pittodrie the less likely it will become that the Dons will sell 8,000 season tickets for the 20-21 campaign.
It is why matters such as performances on the field pale into insignificance right now. There is no doubt someone will ask about Derek McInnes, the injury list or future transfer decisions tonight. That is their right, of course.
But, on the whole, Cormack will make no apologies for having other priorities on his mind. That is his right too.
He has a very real fear some clubs may struggle to survive this and he is trying to protect his club as best he can from the financial fallout of Covid.
The chairman is firmly of the belief that the next six months will be critical not just to his club’s ability to operate at its current level, but for Scottish football as a whole.