Stewart Donald explains decision to furlough staff and players and has this message for Sunderland fans

Stewart Donald has this morning issued an open letter to Sunderland supporters, explaining his decision to furlough a large number of staff at the club, as well as the first-team squad and contracted academy players.

Thursday, 9th April 2020, 9:52 am
Updated Thursday, 9th April 2020, 9:53 am

A small number of staff at the club, including the manager Phil Parkinson, are continuing to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those who are not will have 80% of their wages covered under the terms of the Governments’ Job Retention Scheme, with the club topping up the rest.

This is also the case of the club’s playing staff, who have also been placed on furlough leave.

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Sunderland chairman Stewart Donald

The government scheme will contribute £2,500 a month to player wages.

Donald has said that at this time, he will not be seeking deferrals or pay cuts from the playing staff.

He said in ‘years gone by’, it would have been right to ask for a contribution, but says the current group will also suffer from the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak.

A number of other League One clubs, including Portsmouth, Doncaster Rovers, Coventry City and Accrington Stanley, have taken a similar approach.

Donald said the club was looking at ‘many different ways’ to support the wider community during this period.

The Chairman has urged supporters to follow government advice during the outbreak and said he looks forward to welcoming them back to the Stadium of Light.

The letter reads: “I would like to start my sending my best wishes to everyone associated with our club. This awful pandemic has had an incredibly challenging impact on all of our lives, but together, we will come through it.

“At the club, that impact is being felt by management, players, staff and supporters alike. Our priority remains the health and welfare of all associated with Sunderland AFC. We are continuing to work hard behind the scenes, with a focus on trying to reduce the financial impact and ensure jobs remain secure. We are also looking at many different ways to support the wider community.

“On Tuesday, we announced that our players and backroom staff had been furloughed. They join a number of other members of our non-playing staff, who we had already furloughed, in using the Governments’ Job Retention Scheme. We believe it is the best course of action for the club at this time. We will also continue to look at the suitability of all options being made available to businesses during this unprecedented period. We are not alone in this process, and this is an extremely challenging time for every club outside the Premier League. We wish them all the best of luck.

“It is no secret that our non-playing staff have been through an incredible amount over the last few years. Despite countless redundancies and minimal job security, they have worked tirelessly for the good of the club and each other. They have made a huge difference in turning around the club’s finances, so it is only right that we have taken the decision to ensure all staff affected by the furlough process will receive full pay. Their hard work, dedication and understanding continues to drive the club forward.

“Likewise, our players have also been through a lot. Promotion was our aim last year and we ultimately fell short, but they gave everything. Last season’s heartbreak has only strengthened their desire to bring success to our club. Had they been on the wages of years gone by, it would have been right of me to ask them to contribute, but they are not. They will also be affected by the pandemic. We had two unbudgeted Wembley appearances last season and we will use these funds to ensure that like their colleagues, they do not suffer at this time.

“I hope our fans can see that the conclusions we have drawn are fair and in line with where our club finds itself today. These decisions have all been made with the best intentions.

“As we continue to support our fans, we are looking into what we can do to help the wider community, while also ensuring that the club can meet all its obligations despite the absence of football. If this awful virus and lockdown persists, we are well placed financially, but we will continue to evaluate all options to ensure the club remains in the strongest position possible.

“We look forward to games resuming when it is safe and appropriate to do so, but for now, we have delayed our season card deadlines. This cashflow impact can be absorbed and we will review the deadlines set as time progresses.

“I would like to conclude by thanking everyone for their understanding and support in these unprecedented times.

“I look forward to the day I can welcome you all back to the Stadium of Light, but for now, remember to follow government advice and support each other.

“Together, we will come through this.”

Donald has also this morning dicussed the ongoing talks to sell the club.

In an interview with talkSPORT’s GameDay podcast, he has said that the current crisis has slowed the process.

Shareholder Charlie Methven, who stepped down from the club’s board in December, has previously said that he expects the club to be under new ownership by the end of May.