Penrith Rugby Club officials issued a rallying call at Wednesday’s annual meeting, urging players, supporters and committee members to work together to make sure the club survives the coronavirus pandemic.
Presenting the club’s accounts for the period ending 30th June, chairman Geoff Matthews said they showed an operating profit of £32,053 — but £31,690 of that was from government COVID-19 grants, which are taxable.
“The result is that in practical terms we virtually broke even and the grants in essence replaced, or partially replaced, the profit we would have made had the COVID lockdown not occurred.
“This significantly affected our club business use, bar and sponsorship revenue due to lost games, as well as a number of planned fundraising events.
“It is difficult to predict accurately the exact degree of loss of turnover but it is estimated, based on last year’s figures that our loss in overall gross income was in excess of £40,000 to £50,000 — consisting mainly of loss of bar turnover, business use, fund-raising and sponsorship.
“At the present time the bank balance is relatively positive, but, with minimal income at the moment that is being eroded quite significantly.”
Mr Matthews pointed out that the club still had to pay fixed costs in terms of things like salaries, repairs and maintenance and rates, which are in the region of £150,000 a year.
He added that contributions from the RFU are likely to be non-existent or minimal going forward, and there is no guarantee that its contribution to the operation of the artificial grass pitch (AGP) will continue at the same level.
With this in mind, he said subscriptions, which brought in £47,000 last year, were vital, even allowing for the reduction in players’ subs to take into account the absence of games.
“It is imperative, if members have any regard for the club and its facilities, then they (subs) are paid ASAP,” he said.
Mr Matthews added: “The board have fundamentally agreed that going forward we will only spend what we receive, we cannot afford to sanction any expenditure that is not essential.
“We need to be in a position when, and if, we exit from this present crisis, we can press a start button and get back to normal. We are all in it together — it is our club, only we can manage it, nobody else will help us.”
In his role as club chairman — a post from which he is standing down after 10 years — he also produced a chairman’s report, in which he said he felt that, overall, Penrith was a successful club and was solvent, but he thought some clubs would “go to the wall”.
He said: “RFU funding has been cut and is not likely to recover for at lest five years with a result that, on the rugby development side, we have to stand on our own feet.
“I think it inevitable though that some clubs unfortunately may go to the wall the longer the pandemic continues. I’m confident we are not going to be one of them.”
Club secretary Ian Davidson had opened the well attended meeting by saying: “Everything has been overshadowed by the devastating effect of COVID-19.
“There is no prospect of what we know and love getting back to normality for some time to come.”
The game is now at stage D of the the RFU’s Return to Community Rugby Roadmap, with stage F being the start of competitive matches. “That seems a long way off,” said Mr Davidson.
“No doubt there is a difficult 12 months ahead and if there was ever a time we needed to move together as a club, then this is it.”
Chris Ryder was made a life member of the club at Wednesday’s meeting. New club president Charles Graves said Mr Ryder had contributed to Penrith Rugby Club over 30 years, taking on many roles.
However, he said his greatest contribution was as a “professional ad-viser” over many years.
“He is very much at home in the background but is always there to help if his assistance is required,” said Mr Graves.