A belated Happy New Year from me and everyone at the football club.
I say happy but 2021 has started where 2020 left off and we find ourselves in a third national lockdown from tomorrow.
I have to say when Boris appeared on the television last night in the same room as where he delivered that infamous address last March, you knew what was coming.
As it stands, the first team will continue to train and play during this lockdown, as we did during October’s.
Fixtures allowing, this will at least give us all a welcome distraction for 90 minutes or so and there are plenty of games coming up in the next couple of months.
Mr Tucker is working on five rearrangements, which will see us play Saturday/Tuesday from now till the end of February at least.
It is going to be a busy time and made all the more frustrating when you think that by the time we play Hungerford on Saturday, we’ll have only played two games in 48 days.
One of the postponements in that time was for floodlights but the rest have been due to coronavirus.
Our team have isolated on two occasions and three of our opponents were isolating at the time we should have played them.
This new variant – known wonderfully as the Kent variant – is said to be 50 to 70% more transmissible than the original virus which came to prominence nearly a year ago.
With that in mind and after two spells of self-isolation, our medical team have organised two sets of rapid testing this week.
We started with what’s known as a rapid lateral flow test, which indicates if the individual has Covid here and now. We’ve also carried out a rapid antibody test to find out who might have had the virus previously and been asymptomatic during that period.
Can we prevent coronavirus cases in the future? Sadly not. With the best will in the world it’s not just the 30 or so within our first team set-up. Add in other halves, family, other work colleagues etc and we’re looking at 100+ ways of Covid coming into our set-up.
But through the rapid testing programme and minimal indoor contact time, we’re hoping to have a better handle on the virus and lessen its impact across our playing and management staff.
Can I thank Antonio, Beth, Helen and Luke for their help with this testing programme. Unfortunately the weather gods weren’t on our side yesterday and today and they took a soaking for their efforts.
I know of some other clubs who’ve been rapid testing and we’re more than happy to share our findings if it would help others to implement a similar scheme, which will hopefully see the season completed and not compromised.
While we’ve seen a record number of cases across the UK today – some 60,000 – there is hope on the horizon. More than a million vaccines have been administered and plans are in place for some 13 million to receive their initial jab by mid-February.
I understand I will be among those to be offered the vaccine during the next six weeks. I am ready and waiting for the call.
Our hope and one that will be shared by you all, is that once the most vulnerable are vaccinated, it will allow government to reduce the lockdown back into the tier system. Once in tier 3 or below, we can begin to welcome back our fans.
We are preparing for that day and have submitted plans to the local authorities for a reduced ‘Covid capacity’.
Several clubs in our league and the one above were able to welcome back supporters in the autumn and we will contact some of our neighbouring clubs to find out what worked and what didn’t. One of good things to come from this is the close co-operation between clubs. We maybe rivals on the pitch but are in the same boat when it comes to weathering the Coronavirus storm.
Funding is a major cause for concern. The National Lottery package finished in December and there is nothing in place as yet for this month and beyond.
You’ll have seen the coverage recently about the allocation of the lottery funds by the National League Board. Oliver and Terry were fierce campaigners for an independent review.
That has happened but the report is still to be published, much to the disgust of the independent panel’s chairman and several clubs. The dither and delay only raises more questions about the process that led to the original allocations. I would urge all those involved to finally be transparent, release the report and their feedback to it.
Let me end by talking about the football. We’ll get as many of you back as soon as we’re allowed. In the meantime, our excellent Stones TV Box Office service will continue.
Season ticket holders will receive an update shortly and we will advertise the next set of matches very soon.
Your continued support of the streaming service will be vital to helping us get through the next few months, so I hope I can count on you for that.
I am acutely aware that our contact with you is all through a screen at the moment. I can’t wait for the day we can all get back together in person. Until then, if you’ve got any questions or suggestions, my email is open to you all.
Best wishes to you and your family.