The lack of fans and matchday hospitality, combined with other off-field activities being curtailed and the end of the UK Government’s job retention scheme, are the reasons for 29 part-time and occasional Peterhead staff being made redundant.
The Blue Toon announced the move with the furlough scheme ending on Saturday, and the new government job retention initiative starting next month not providing for their part-time and occasional employees.
With the Buchan outfit and the rest of Scottish football playing behind closed doors, clubs have been without revenue from fans coming into stadiums and hosting matchday hospitality since March.
At Balmoor, Peterhead’s coffee shop is continuing to operate with a skeleton staff and reduced hours, but – because of restrictions on hospitality – the club’s bar remains shut.
Prior to the pandemic, meetings rooms at the stadium were booked out on a near daily basis, while they would regularly host events such as funeral teas.
Most of this income has dried up because of Covid-19 restrictions and has impacted Peterhead’s finances.
Blue Toon general manager Martin Johnston said: “Peterhead Football Club is a well-run, organised business.
“We know better than most the impact on the community of job losses and that has to be a very last resort.
“That it has only happened this week as the furlough scheme comes to an end underlines how long the club has left it.
“If you have a member of the bar staff who works eight hours on a Saturday pulling pints at hospitality or at an event the club is hosting, that opportunity is taken away, but how do we retrain that member of staff? And, for what? There is nothing for them to do.
“We’re not hiding from the fact and we have kept our staff up to speed and almost all of them have said they saw this coming.
“The club has looked at every other option. We’d hoped there might be some respite with the job retention scheme.
“We were told there may be some kind of financial aid from the government (to football clubs) and that hasn’t happened and then we thought the tiered system might allow things to open up a bit more.
“But that hasn’t happened yet either and we had to let people know before the end of this week.
“The club is a well-organised machine because of the work everybody does at the club and we have to do things properly and that’s why it would be foolhardy to continue to pay people who we do not have work for.
“We have to do everything within our power to ensure there will be a Peterhead Football Club at the start of season 2021-22.
“It’s really unfortunate that it’s reached this stage. When things do improve, we will be contacting the staff to give them the opportunity to return.
“We’ve left this as long as we could and hopefully we’ll get some respite in the next four to six weeks which will allow us to bring staff back.”
While the furlough scheme has been a vital lifeline for clubs, other support like the grant of £50,000 from philanthropist James Anderson via the SPFL Trust has been ring-fenced solely for community-based projects meaning it couldn’t be used to help retain staff.
Peterhead have made it clear that on-pitch activity will not be affected, however, they hope the blanket ban on fans will be lifted soon.
Johnston added: “One size doesn’t fit all, but we are of the opinion that, if we can demonstrate that we have the protocol and procedure in place to safeguard fans and follow the stringent protocol required, then we fee we shouldn’t be stopped from opening our stadium.
“We’re not talking about 1000 people coming, it would probably be 300 or less initially and that would be a good start point, but right now it’s a blanket ban and we don’t think that’s right.”